‘Smokey Joe’s Cafe’

Performers rehearse for the upcoming CAST production of the musical revue ‘Smokey Joe’s Cafe.’

Submitted photo

Characters in the upcoming CAST production of “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” are taking a trip back in time. The journey is proving to be as valuable as the destination.

Talk to musical director Tony Ivey and you’ll understand why, especially in this particular CAST musical.

“I’m really seeing a spirit of family in the cast and production team,” Ivey said. “When you sing with others, you find out we’re all alike, not different. We are enjoying one another and learning from one another. Everyone brings something different to the table.”

The musical was written for vocalists, and those on the CAST stage come from five counties.

In singing songs from the 1950s, ’60s and a few from the ’70s, the performers and audience share the theme that becomes something like a class reunion, Ivey said.

“They don’t write songs like this anymore,” Ivey added. “And the talent we have here is phenomenal.”

The musical revue will be performed Aug. 3-12. It will be at a new venue for CAST: the Fellowship Hall at Anniston’s First Presbyterian Church. Evening performances will be at 7:30 p.m., and the Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.

“We wanted a café atmosphere,” said Mike Stedham, director. “There will be tables for six, close to the performers, and some audience interaction.”

The series of 39 hits were written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The two wrote material for Elvis, The Coasters, The Cadillacs, The Drifters and many more groups.

The original Broadway cast recording won a Grammy in 1996. The show opened on Broadway in 1995, and when it closed in 1999 it was one of the longest-running musical revues in Broadway history, with 2,036 performances, according to “Playbill.”

There is no definite storyline, but an underlying motif of remembering the neighborhood of our youth and its adventures, when people were more closely connected and looked after one another. (And finally, you conclude, wouldn’t it be great if we lived in one big worldwide neighborhood?)

“If people miss this production, they will miss something very special,” Ivey said. “I think of it as the excitement generated by ‘Oklahoma’ when CAST presented it for the first time. We’ll be hearing about ‘Smokey Joe’s’ for years to come.”     

“Smokey Joe’s” is a hit parade that deserves a new generation of viewers.

The cast includes Stephonn Ammons, Megan Brightwell, Steve Campbell, Juli Christensen, Lillian Cole, Danielle Daly, Amy Drinkwater, Alli Hartley, Dylan Hurst, Georgia Johnson, Linda Lee, LaCindra McGowan, Keith Owens, Steven Shafer, Mary Stell, Connie Suttle, Shannon Tucker and Jade Wagner. There will be a special appearance by Howard Johnson.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students. Tickets may be purchased at castalabama.com. Ivey recommends buying them now in order to attend the performance you prefer. The CAST office number is 256-820-2278.

CAST’s new season

“Smokey Joe’s Cafe” is the season opener for 2017-18. “We started the line-up early because we have a five-show season,” Mike Stedham explained. Following the August show, the selections are:

“Young Frankenstein,” a musical comedy,  Sept. 28-Oct. 1.

“Annie,” a musical for December.

“Arsenic and Old Lace,” a classic comedy.

“The Wiz,” for spring.

Berman Vintage Bazaar coming in July

The Berman Museum’s Vintage Bazaar will be  July 22-29 this year.  Look through your possessions to see if there are upscale items you would be willing to sell. For more information, call Lynne Isom at 256-238-1619.

Hervey Folsom writes about the local arts scene every Sunday. Contact her at herveyfolsom@yahoo.com.