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‘Smokey Joe’s Cafe’ brings rock ‘n roll back to the UDT stage

Courtesy of the UTEP Dinner Theatre

The production, directed by UTEP Dinner Theatre Director Greg Taylor, of “Smokey Joe’s Café” at the Utep Dinner Theater was very entertaining. The play is based on the songs of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The production is also part of the University’s centennial celebration.  Even though the show does not have a story line, it was cohesive and the transition between the songs was pretty smooth.

The musical contains music from the American culture’s golden age. The songs reflect the impact of the era when rock ‘n roll was in full swing. Some of the themes in the songs are love, the empowerment of women and deception, among others.

The ensemble of the actors performing the songs was pretty amazing. The male cast consisting of Jaime Carrasco, William Gilbert, Antonio Motta, Gorge Ollivier and Ricardo Parra made a great contribution to the overall harmonization during the production. Some of them individually gave spectacular demonstrations of their talent. Parra, for example, sang, “There Goes My Baby” and his voice was outstanding.

On the same level, the ladies did not disappoint. Tanisha Lewis, Marissa McElroy, Amanda Mena, Arazelia Perez and Doris Velez did a great job too. All of them contributed with their beautiful voices, making the show flow with ease. Some of them did a phenomenal job on their solos. Lewis did an excellent job when she sang “Hound Dog.” She has a powerful voice, but she was also great at adding humor to her performance.

The set was simple, but practical. In the first act, the singers were on a platform on top of a set of stairs, which they have to descend as they sing. The scenery changed in the second act when Smokey Joe’s café is presented. The singers performed in the café setting for a while, which gave the audience the illusion of an intimate live concert from the 1950s!

The band, led by Patricia Ann Provencio, did an excellent job. The music was performed live, giving the performance an energetic tone. In one of the songs, the saxophonist came out and played a solo on stage, which made the audience respond instantly.

The appropriateness of the costumes added realism to the acting in the performance. The dresses and suits were a representation of the culture of the 1950s.  Also, the hair and makeup added a good element that complemented the whole image of the actors.

The repertoire of songs was also well developed. The show started slow and the feeling and emotions grew as the show progressed. The pacing of the songs kept the audience engaged with the evolution of the show. The acting in the performance of the songs helped the audience remain interested in the performance of each song until the end.

Overall, my impression of the musical “Smokey Joe’s Café” was excellent and I would recommend people to go see it. This show is good for people who like musicals, but also is a great opportunity for those who are skeptical about theater, especially musical theater, to have a great experience.



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‘Smokey Joe’s Cafe’ brings rock ‘n roll back to the UDT stage