PLAYBILL PLAYLIST: Original Smokey Joe's Café Cast Members Pick Favorite Songs by Leiber and Stoller
By Michael Gioia
Cast members from the Tony Award-nominated musical revue Smokey Joe's Café will reunite exactly 19 years following its first performance on Feb. 9, 1995, for On Broadway at 54 Below. In anticipation of the concert, Frederick Owens, Adrian Bailey, Deb Lyons and DeLee Lively pick their favorite songs by Leiber and Stoller as part of this week's Playbill Playlist.
Directed by original cast member Brenda Braxton with musical direction by Louis St. Louis, concerts — as part of the venue's new 54 Sings series — will be offered Feb. 9 at 7 PM and 9:30 PM.
The evening will feature original cast members Bailey, Braxton, DeLee Lively, Ken Ard, Owens and Michael Park as well as Lyons, Darryl Williams and Ramona Keller.
Here's how 54 Below bills the evening: "Yakety Yak! On March 2, 1995, a musical phenomenon opened on Broadway. Smokey Joe's Cafe: The Songs of Leiber & Stoller would go on to run 2,036 performances & continue to electrify audiences around the world. 54 Below is delighted to present a one night only reunion featuring members of the original Broadway company of this swingin' hit show, including Adrian Bailey, Brenda Braxton, DeLee Lively, Deb Lyons, Frederick Owens & Darryl Williams (more to be announced!). Expect hit tunes including Stand by Me, Hound Dog, Charlie Brown & more! Directed by Brenda Braxton, with Musical Direction by Louis St. Louis, this will be one night you won't soon forget because Baby, That’s Rock & Roll!"
Owens, Bailey, Lyons and Lively, four members of the closing-night cast, pick their favorite songs by Leiber and Stoller and tell us why they made the list.
The revue, featuring the music of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, was nominated for seven 1995 Tony Awards, including Best Choreography (Joey McKneely), Best Direction (Jerry Zaks), Best Featured Actor (Victor Trent Cook), Best Featured Actress (Lively, Braxton and B.J. Crosby) and Best Musical.
54 Below is located at 254 W. 54th Street. There is a $50-60 cover charge plus a $25 food and beverage minimum. For more information and tickets, visit 54Below.com.
Frederick Owens: "Neighborhood." Anyone who was ever raised in a town as small as where I come from can instantly relate to this song. It speaks of memories past, simple things and love for the people you were raised around. On the closing night of the show, there wasn't a dry eye onstage — it was all we could do to get through that one number.
Frederick Owens: "Youngblood" was the song that I also related well with because, on almost every corner growing up — and even now — you will forever find men, who see that cutie walking by, and won't say nothing. I was once one of those guys, and no, I didn't come from a place where men could openly say things to girls when they walked by. But I assure you, we wanted to! This song, for five years, gave me the chance to say, "Look a there!" and "What's your name?" And I relished it, for five straight years!
Frederick Owens: "You're the Boss." …For obvious reasons. I got to sing a duet with one of the most beautiful women on the Broadway stage, Brenda Braxton. You must understand how much fun we had singing to each other. Brenda is a very funny woman, and she was genuine with every word, yet, played to all of the puns. My job was simple. I just did what the BOSS told me to do!
Adrian Bailey: "Love Me." They cover all kinds of love with songs like "Love Me," where the lyric starts with the statement, "Treat me like a fool, treat me mean and cruel, but love me…" It goes on to describe many other actions that one will endure as long as you…just love me.
Adrian Bailey: "There Goes My Baby." Then there is "There Goes My Baby," which can be the result of not keeping a loved one happy and the age old question of "Why did you leave me?"
Adrian Bailey: "Stand By Me." My favorite one is "Stand by Me," which is the ultimate friendship and love song repeating over and over for you to stand by me. I mean, can you really ask for more than that?
Deb Lyons: "Love Potion #9." I don't know why, but this song has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid. The little story it told always intrigued me. The Clovers' record was what I remember hearing on the radio, but I read that the song was originally written for the Coasters, and this is the version I really love. So hip!
Deb Lyons: "On Broadway." This song, and especially the Drifters production, evoked such a haunting picture of New York City. When I was a kid, there was a commercial for Radio Free Europe that depicted a disc jockey broadcasting to countries behind the Iron Curtain, and the song he played was "On Broadway." So, in spite of the contrasting picture of NYC described in the lyrics, it set up a longing for a cooler place and following a dream.
Deb Lyons: "I'm a Woman." I can't tell you how much I love this song! When all the women in the cast of SJC sing it together, it brings down the house! However, the way I learned it was from Maria Muldaur's recording. I love this swampy "bluesiana" version!
DeLee Lively: "Teach Me How to Shimmy." The obvious favorite song for me — I didn't even sing, but I did dance to it…! "Teach Me How to Shimmy" truly changed my life! I LOVE the story line in the song, and I love the "twist" toward the end of the song, where the "guy" learns to shimmy!
DeLee Lively: "Ruby Baby." "Ruby Baby" brings me joy every time I hear it. Before taking the show to Broadway, we tried it out in Los Angeles. Robert Torti was the guy who sang the song in L.A. Robert and I later married, have been married 15 years, and we have two little girls. I also named my Yorkie puppy Ruby!
DeLee Lively: "Bossa Nova Baby." "Bossa Nova Baby" was a song I got to sing while we were in Chicago with the show. It didn't make it to Broadway, but it sure was a fun song to perform. Adrian Bailey and Ken Ard were also an important part of this number!
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