Entertainment critic Jim Ruocco reviews the ACT of Connecticut’s Smokey Joe’s coffee



Given the artistry, vibe, and musical vocabulary of Leiber and Stoller and how they got twists and strong emotions, moody, especially whimsical and lively, music director John Bronston (“Ain’t Misbehavin ‘”” Five Guys Named Moe “,” Hair “) is the perfect fit for” Smokey Joe’s Cafe “, He gets Leiber and Stoller. It includes Leiber and Stoller. He appreciates Leiber and Stoller. He loves Leiber and Stoller. He is excited by Leiber and Stoller. He connects with Leiber and Stoller. He feels at home with Leiber and Stoller.

A talented first-class musician, he knows exactly how to make every pop, R&B and rock ‘n roll song associated with “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” resonate and fascinate with that intimate supper club magic that prevailed in the 1950s and 1960s. and as the production evolves, its approach to music is swift, detailed, grounded and adventurous. There is a freshness to it too, complemented by choice orchestral ingredients that identify different notes, styles, rhythms, rhythms, combinations and collisions. Here you get more than the sound pastiche of Broadway. You get smart, smart, real reinvention.

At ACT of Connecticut, Bronston (on piano, doubling as conductor) surrounds himself with the very talented orchestral team of Tom Cuffari (keyboard 2), Russ Nyberg (drums / percussion), Gary Blu (tenor saxophone / baritone) , Al Orio (electric guitar), Kevin W. Callaghan (electric bass) and Dennis J. Arcano (musical entrepreneur / synthesizer programmer). Under his tutelage, the group approaches and plays the popular musical score with just the right amount of enthusiasm, emotion and effortless humor that the production calls for.

Nothing is rushed or rushed. Instead, the message is clear and beautifully contoured with addicting and dynamic accounts, observed variations, projected buzz, and carefully calibrated tonal stability. Things, of course, sizzle and pop as the cast of eight raises their voices to song, never missing a single beat, intention, harmony or rhythm associated with the series’ collection of tangy musical songs. Everything is very, very beautiful, lively, engaged and always enthusiastic.

“Smokey Joe’s Cafe” stars Courtney Long, Avionce Hoyles, Albert Guerzon, Keyonna Knight, Arnold Harper II, Jordan Fife Hunt, Kelly MacMillan and Juson Williams. As dictated by its creators, the show remains a breathtaking and exhilarating ensemble piece where each performer secures their place in the spotlight while embracing the music of Leiber and Stoller and illuminating the vocal brilliance and individuality of the musical score. with beauty, style, class, compassion, humor and dignity.

There are towers of stars. There are pitfalls. There are laughs. There are tears. There are playful and sexy pieces that will make your heart beat faster. Song by song and scene by scene, the cast is in a full, fine voice that reflects and complements the vanity of the material, the arc of musical history and its conjuring questions and answers. What’s wonderful about this particular group of performers – stars in their own right – is the depth and versatility they bring to every song they perform, their incredible reach and control, their individual harmonization, their continuity and the way they wrap their voice around a lyrics they want you to enjoy and understand. There is so much electricity here that the heat could easily cause a power outage or two.

An energetic and wise homage to one of America’s most famous songwriter duets, “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” gigawatts of super-fast ripples of mood, voice, pulse and excitement with a nostalgic spectacle and an exciting momentum. It jumps. It jumps. It sparkles. It sings. It dances.
Each of the musical numbers show Leiber and Stoller at their best and the cast – all eight – go all out as singers and dancers – under the inspired direction of Stephanie Pope Lofgren and emotionally changing choreography. John Bronston’s musical direction is both daring and savvy, and the band – absolutely sensational in themselves – never misses a beat, which in a musical of this caliber goes a long way.

Now that the Regional Equity Theater is back with protocols in place that include mandatory registration of vaccinated cards, wearing of masks and social distancing, ACT of Connecticut remains a true source of inspiration and professionalism using the best. actors, directors, choreographers and design teams.

With exceptional productions ranging from “Evita” and “Little Shop of Horrors” to “Working” and “The 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee”, this Ridgefield-based venue, under the artistic direction of Daniel C. Levine (artistic director) and Katie Diamond (Executive Director) maintains a creative vision like no other. The staff – front desk, internal and volunteers – not only make everyone feel welcome, but are particularly accommodating in these very different and troubled times. A standing ovation for all.


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