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Woodlawn Tries Something New By Going Retro With 'Smokey Joe's Cafe'

A new production at the Woodlawn Theatre is like nothing they’ve ever done before. First off, the production has no real plot line. But it does have lots and lots of music.

“Yeah, music wall-to-wall; there’s definitely a small story basically reminiscing about the past," said Christopher Rodriguez, who directs and choreographs "Smokey Joe's Cafe."

“ 'Smokey Joe’s Café' is a 1950s and 60s musical revue," he said. "And it’s dedicated to and celebrating the songs of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller.”

You may not know the names Lieber and Stoller, but I suspect you know their music.

“We have songs like "Love Portion #9," "Yakety-Yak," "Hound Dog" (and) "Jailhouse Rock," said Rodriguez. "And they wrote for several famous performers: Elvis Presley,  The Drifters, The Coasters, Big Momma Thornton."

I asked him if this the first time the Woodlawn has done this kind of thing?

“It definitely is. It’s our first musical review," Rodriguez said. "We wanted to change it up a bit and give our audiences a wider variety of what musical theater has to offer.”

I asked him how the music is produced for "Smokey Joe."

“It’s a cast of ten people, singers and dancers. We have a live band that’s featured on stage," he said. "There’s dance numbers, singing numbers, big group numbers. So, a lot of variety in the show.”

As to the production’s specifics:

"We open this Friday and we run through September 15," Rodriguez said. "We have shows Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m.”

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii