THEATER REVIEW Oldies make 'Caf &amp; eacute;' a goodie
A musical coming to The Youngstown Playhouse has the recipe for a good time.
By L. CROW
The Youngstown Playhouse is gettin' it together with music of the '50s and '60s. "Smokey Joe's Caf & eacute;," Broadway's longest-running musical revue, is based on the music of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. It opened March 2, 1995, at the Virginia Theatre, and ran for five years.
Never heard of Leiber and Stoller? You can bet you've heard their music, even if you weren't around in the 1950s and '60s.
The show will feature favorites such as "Hound Dog" and "Jailhouse Rock," made popular by Elvis Presley. And what about "Young Blood?" Beatle-maniacs will recognize this one from their outtakes, as well as "Searchin'" and "Kansas City." How about "D.W. Washburn?" Hey didn't the Monkees do that? And "Love Potion #9"? Remember that hit by The Searchers? "Smokey Joe's Caf & eacute;" is a great opportunity to take a walk down memory lane and enjoy all those oldies and many more.
"This show represents the popular genres of the period," says David Jendre, director and choreographer. "There's the handsome, white, Elvis-type guy, the four black guys doing R & amp;B, the belting jazz black woman, and the dark-voiced white woman. They don't portray any particular star. It is in a neighborhood setting, and doesn't really go anywhere. It becomes a caf & eacute; atmosphere, but is almost like a concert. It is my job as the director to bring theatricality to the piece so it is more than just a concert."
Jendre has a long history with the area. A Youngstown native, he studied music at YSU. He started working with Kenley Players while in school, then got some opportunities to go on the road as a singer and dancer.
He performed in "Man of La Mancha" with John Raitt, then later with Ed Ames, and also was a member of the national company of a "West Side Story" revival that toured the country. He was a member of The Cleveland Playhouse for two years and won the Cleveland Critic's Circle Award for his role as the piano player in "Billy Bishop Goes to War."
Jendre began working with The Youngstown Playhouse in 1964, first as a performer with the Youth Theatre in 1964, then soon after, with the main stage and musicals. He then later began directing and choreographing.
During Bentley Lenhoff's first tenure, Jendre directed such musicals as "Grease," "A Chorus Line" and "Camelot." He worked with the Playhouse in his spare time when he wasn't on the road, but he has since moved back to the area. He also is a performer with Easy Street Productions, now in its 17th year.
Jendre brings attention to something he feels will be an exciting aspect of this production. The performers will be wearing the garments from the original Broadway production.
"One of the Broadway associate producers used to be a Playhouse member as a kid," he says. "His name is Mark Routh. Bentley called and asked him if we could use the costumes and he agreed." Jendre says they are gorgeous, and thinks the public will enjoy seeing them.
The music director of "Smokey Joe's Caf & eacute;" is Mark Plegge. Four women and five men will perform 41 songs during the show.
XThe show will run May 13-29. For more information, call the Playhouse at (330) 788-8739.