Friday September 22nd 2017

“Smoky Joe’s Cafe”

One of the reasons I enjoy seeing productions at The No Exit Cafe, produced by TheoUbique , is the intimacy that we the audience get with the performers. Not just on the stage in this quaint little storefront located in Rogers Park, but the fact that the performers are also our hosts and waitstaff for the  evening. Whether you have the dinner, a drink, coffee or a home-made desert, you get to speak with the performers who grace their stage. It is called “Cabaret Theatre” partly because of the intimacy, but in many cases, they opt to do non-scripted shows where they focus on bringing familiar songs to us with some dance and movement. Entertainment at its best. They do take on entire plays, major shows such as “Chess”,”Evita”,”Cats” and many more in scaled down productions, but never lacking in the quality they put before us. Always special and always a worthwhile theatrical experience. This said, their current production is called “Smoky Joe’s Cafe” which is in fact, a solid “songbook” of some of our favorite “Rock N’ Roll” hits , written by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller.

If these names do not seem familiar, that is okay. I didn’t recognize them either, but here is a partial list of the songs contained in this production; “Dance With Me”,”Searchin'”,”Kansas City”, “Fools Fall In Love”,”On Broadway”, “Yakety Yak”,”Charlie Brown” and much much more. Well over 30 songs that fill the two hours with hand clapping foot tapping music that will bring back fond memories for “kids of all ages”. Directed and choreographed by the talented Brenda Didier, who accepts the challenge of creating dance on the tiny stage with full throttle open, each song takes on a new meaning. She is a wizard! Jeremy Ramey handles the music direction and along with his two musicians allows us to hear the lyrics along with his music. Not an easy task in a small “cafe” atmosphere.

The set(Adam Veness) is a small stage that fits with the furniture pieces and glitz items and the lighting( Michael M. Nardulli) works to perfection. Bill Morey’s costuming is far better in the second half when the cast truly hits the big time. All of the elements being in place, we now turn to what truly makes TheoUbique special, the talent! Over the years, many of the performers who started at this tiny Cabaret have gone on to larger roles in major productions, but artistic Director Fred Anzevino and his staff continue to find talent to fill their shoes. Justin Adair ( who recently did “The Light In The Piazza” at TheoUbique), Kasey Alfonso,Sydney Charles, TJ Crawford, Robin Dasilva, James Osborne, Steven Perkins,Britt-Marie Siverston and Vasily Dris , who provides a great “Elvis” set. Yes, these writers wrote some of “the King’s” big hits! A powerful and energetic cast that sings and dances and even does a little “Shimmy” ( Britt-Marie will knock your sox off with this number). TheoUbique once again proves through the talent of Didier that there is no such thing as a small stage, but it takes a little creativity to make one work. She does it with style!

If you are seeking a fun evening of “Cabaret” and hearing some sterling voices sing some wonderful and nostalic music, TheoUbique’s “Smoky Joe’s Cafe” is the place to be and you have until November 11th to do so. The performance schedule is:

Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.,Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m.

Tickets range from $34 to $39 and for an extra $25 you can get dinner, a themed dinner.

To order your tickets and make reservations go to www.theo-u.org or call 1-800-595-4849

Information line  773-347-1109

No Exit Cafe is located at 6970 N. Glenwood in Rogers Park

Parking is limited on the street

To see other reviews, go to my home page, link on to theatrein chicago, go to review round-up and click on “Smoky Joe’s Cafe

 

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