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Toby’s Dinner Theater Smokey Joe’s Cafe

By • Feb 7th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
Smokey Joe’s Cafe
Toby’s Dinner Theater
Toby’s Dinner Theater-Baltimore, Baltimore, MD
Through March 18th
2:30 with intermission
$51-$56/$37 Children
Reviewed January 29th, 2012

There could be a novel written about every element that works beautiful and seamlessly in Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Baltimore’s production of Smokey Joe’s Café. This production proves once again that Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Baltimore is one of the, if not the, best place around to see professional-quality productions. Yet again, any amazing cast is brought together under creative direction, ingenious musical direction, stunning costumes, effectively simple sets, impeccable lighting and sound, in a comfortable, relaxed, and friendly environment.

Smokey Joe’s Café is, on service, a simple musical review of the classic songs of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. These are songs that most people know and love to sing along with: “Kansas City,” “Poison Ivy,” “On Broadway,” “Charlie Brown,” “Hound Dog,” “Love Potion #9,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Stand by Me” to name a few. There is no dialogue or through-script to connect the songs, but Director Kevin McAllister finds creative ways to give each song a back story and to connect the songs by creating characters and stories that recur throughout the songs. He expertly leads his cast in creating a storyline out of their nonverbal actions and reactions. McAllister was also able to select a cast that blended extremely well together. There were lots great mixes of chemistry, and each cast member knew when to take a back seat and support another actor in a leading moment and when to break out and really steal a moment to make his/her own. Each performer in the show had at least one of those moments to show the audience just how incredible he/she could be.

For Kelli Blackwell, her first moment came in “Dance With Me,” when she was able to highlight both her incredible comedic energy and her powerful, soulful voice. Kelli continued to dominate in many featured moments, especially her stunning duet of “Fools Fall in Love” with Mary Searcy.

For Deb Buonaccorsi, her defining moment was in her subtly sexy vocal performance in “Some Cats Know.” For Coby Kay Callahan, it was “Pearl’s A Singer,” when she got to show the full range of her powerful voice and her ability to tell a story in a song. For Mary, in addition to the duet with Kelli, she also stole the number “Trouble” with her wickedly beautiful vocals and her sensual energy. All three of these ladies also combined to do a fabulous job on the number “Don Juan.”

Bryan Daniels, David Little, Jonathon David Randle, and Marquise White were magic together. Anytime that these four men shared the stage, most notably in “Keep On Rollin’,” there was an incredible blend of energy and the most amazing four-part harmonies. Each man also had a chance to show off on his own as well. Bryan Daniels glorious comedic portrayals brought life to many numbers, notably “D.W. Washburn.” Jonathon David Randle really got to show off the glorious part of his range in his solo in “I (Who Have Nothing).” Marquise White has a beautiful baritone that added a warm bottom to many of the harmonies and was lovely on its own as well. He sizzled in his duet with Kelli on “You’re the Boss.” If any of those gentleman stood out just a little more than the others, it would have to be David Little. His smile was infectious, his dance moves seemed natural and precise, and his voice just melted the room. He came across genuine and effortless in everything he did. There was no one better to carry the song “Stand By Me.”

Derek Tatum was obviously the dancer of the group, and he sizzled in the tango during “Don Juan.” Derek also had a chance to show his vocal chops as he channeled his inner Elvis for the number “Jailhouse Rock.” Nick Lehan got have his moment in the number “There Goes My Baby,” bringing a sweet vocal together with a laugh-out-loud comedic performance.

Tremendous kudos have to go to Musical Director Cedric Lyles. For anyone who has heard the Broadway soundtrack, the show is a pleasant recording of all of these songs without a large amount of innovation. Lyles innovated. With the powerful and trained voices he had to work with, he was able to create new harmonies and arrangements that gave incredible new life to the score. Lyles’ work on this production was nothing short of excellence.

Janine Sunday’s colorful and ever-changing costumes brought beautiful life to the show. The set was very simple, but it was effective when combined with the excellent use of lighting. The end result of this focus on quality in every aspect of the production is just a plain, old amazing time at the theatre. Every moment is carefully constructed and well-executed. This is a perfect example of what every production should be striving for, even when, or maybe especially when, the material seems simple.

Cast

  • Kelli Blackwell
  • Deb Buonaccorsi
  • Coby Kay Callahan
  • Bryan Daniels
  • Nick Lehan
  • David Little
  • Jonathon David Randle
  • Mary Searcy
  • Derek Tatum
  • Marquise White

Production Staff

  • Director: Kevin McAllister
  • Musical Director: Cedric Lyles
  • Choreographers: Asheigh King and Anwar Thomas
  • Costume Design: Janine Sunday

Disclaimer: Toby’s Dinner Theater provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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has been involved in theatre in the state of Maryland and DC for most of her life. She has acted, directed, choreographed, stage managed, and held a million other odd jobs. She has a B.S. in English from Towson University, and is currently pursuing her Master's Degree to become a Reading Specialist. She is a Maryland State Certified English, Theatre, Elementary, and Mathematics Educator. After teaching English and Drama for many years, she now teaches 6th grade Language Arts at Magnolia Middle School in Harford County, Maryland. She wrote the curriculum currently used in Prince George’s County Public Schools for Drama I and Drama II. She now writes and directs plays and musicals for use in church.

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