Smokey Joe’s Café brings the 50s and 60s back to life
Brittney Bomnin//Photo Editor Trent Saunders and Alexa Hujik sing a duet during the final dress rehearsal of Smokey Joe's Cafe.

“Hound Dog.” “Jailhouse Rock.” “On Broadway.” “Stand By Me.”

These are songs that shaped a generation and laid the foundation for all pop and rock songs that followed.

Now, thanks to the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre, students, faculty and guests can relive some of the greatest songs ever written or experience some of them for the very first time.

The show is Smokey Joe’s Café, and all of the numbers were written by the great song-writing duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, the men who virtually invented rock and roll. Regarded as the first independent music producers, Leiber and Stoller created the sound that still affects everything heard in popular music.

“The show is all fifties and sixties music. It’s all about sex, soul and rock and roll. Letting go, drinking booze, dancing, jazz music and having the most fun,” said Shanna Ossi, a junior theatre arts major. “In the original, the characters were their own [the actor’s] names, so according to the Broadway version, I play a mix between ‘Delee’ and ‘Brenda,’ recreated as Shanna, the ‘sexy ethnic chick.’”

Director Lynn McNutt wants everyone to come see this show, no matter what people think about traditional musical theatre.

“These songs are iconic to our culture in America, and the musical review format of the show is perfect for people who don’t usually like musical theater,” she said. “It’s like a vintage rock and roll jam session.”

J.J. Flores, a senior theatre arts and public relations major who plays the bartender in the club where the musical is set, agrees.

“It’s just a feel-good show. Great dancing, great singing. It’s just a good time,” he said. “It flies by too. Its a quickie. I equate it to a jukebox of really good songs stuck permanently on fast forward.”

Smokey Joe’s Café takes you on a journey of love both won and lost, and will leave you with a wonderful sense of friendship, romance and joy.

“Students need to see this show. It’s all about the time that we’re creating right now in college, and looking back on it,” Ossi said. “It’s set in a bar where we all met and became really good friends. It’s like reminiscing about those times at the Rat or a Grove night, that kick-ass time in South Beach, that homecoming game, that boy or girl you fell in love with and those great nights in where you just ate popcorn and chatted with your best friends.”

Audience members will laugh, cry (from laughing so hard) and are guaranteed to walk out humming songs that will be stuck in their heads for days. Join the Ring Theatre in celebrating an era of rock and roll music that will forever be regarded as one of the greatest times in musical history.