Friday, September 9, 2016

REVIEW: Gritty Urban Charm And Powerhouse Vocals Make Smokey Joe’s Cafe Shine

Drury Lane Theatre Presents
Smokey Joe’s Cafe
Directed and Choreographed by Tony Award Nominee Marcia Milgrom Dodge

September 1 – October 23, 2016

Recommended for ages 5 and up. 

 All Photos by Brett Beiner
Justin KeyesSean BlakeWill Skrip, Tyrone Robinson

We're under the el tracks and over the moon about Drury Lane's latest, Smokey Joe’s Cafe. This musical is a true crowd pleaser that had the audience woo hooing and clapping along. The tunes are familiar, early era rock and roll classics like "Yakety Yak," "Jailhouse Rock," and "Stand By Me" and the complete lack of dialogue makes for a fast paced show with more of a concert or musical review vibe. This show is a stellar pick for all ages and a great multigenerational choice. Highly recommended.

The original Maxwell Street Market was always one of our favorite Chi, IL places to take visiting friends and relatives. It captures the unique spirit of Chicago so much better than most of the tourist hot spots. We're excited Drury Lane has chosen this spot for the setting of this production. The excellent set design does a phenomenal job depicting the essence of the Maxwell Street of old, from the rusting el train trusses to the street corner performers, homeless hovels, and stalls hawking wares.

DONICA LYNN (Willie Mae)

Smokey Joe’s Cafe includes top talent with powerhouse vocals, serious dance moves, and creative character depictions. We were completely blown away by the vocal chops and charm of DONICA LYNN (Willie Mae). Statuesque MEGHAN MURPHY (Ruth) also had an impressive vocal range and commanding presence. 


There's not a weak link in the bunch. We were thoroughly impressed and entertained by all. Kudos to Justin KeyesCarrie Abernathy, Sean BlakeDonica LynnMeghan MurphyAmy OrmanTyrone RobinsonChris Sams and Will Skrip for an impressive performance.

The cast of Smokey Joe’s Cafe includes Will Skrip, Amy OrmanJustin KeyesDonica LynnSean BlakeMeghan MurphyChris Sams, Carrie Abernathy, Tyrone Robinson

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:

Drury Lane Theatre presents Smokey Joe’s Cafe, the musical revue celebrating the renowned musical duo Jerry Leiber and Mike StollerSmokey Joe’s Cafe is directed and choreographed by internationally-acclaimed director Marcia Milgrom Dodge and runs September 1 – October 23, 2016 at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane in Oakbrook Terrace. 

  • In a nod to the Windy City, Drury Lane’s production of Smokey Joe’s Cafe takes place in Chicago’s historic Maxwell Street Market. The 100-year-old market still brings Chicagoans from all walks of life together every Sunday. 
The longest running musical revue in Broadway history, Smokey Joe's Cafe is making its Drury Lane debut this season. Showcasing 39 pop standards, including rock’n’roll and blues anthems written by legendary duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Smokey Joe's Cafe is guaranteed to keep you humming old favorites all night long. Smokey Joe's Cafe features jukebox hits such as "Yakety Yak," "Jailhouse Rock," and "Stand By Me," and is recommended for ages 5 and up. Smokey Joe’s Cafe premiered in 1995 and received seven Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical, as well as a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album. 

  • Holding the record as longest-running musical revue in Broadway history, Smokey Joe’s Cafe opened on Broadway in 1995 and played 2,036 performances before closing in 2000.

Sean BlakeJustin KeyesChris Sams, Tyrone Robinson

Schedule: Wednesdays: 1:30 p.m.
Thursdays: 1:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
Fridays: 8:00 p.m.
Saturdays: 5:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. 
Sundays: 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

Location: Drury Lane Theatre at 100 Drury Lane in Oakbrook Terrace

Tickets: Previews: $43 - $58
Single Tickets: $45 - $60
Wednesday and Thursday matinees are priced at $45, Thursday and Sunday evenings at $55, and Friday, Saturday and Sunday matinee performances at $60
Student group tickets start at $30 
Senior Citizens start at $40 for matinees 
Dinner and show packages available 

Box Office: 100 Drury Lane in Oakbrook Terrace
630.530.0111, TicketMaster at 800.745.3000

  • In 2002, Smokey Joe’s Cafe was produced as a television special with seven of the show’s original cast members returning to reprise their roles. 
The cast of Smokey Joe’s Cafe includes Justin KeyesCarrie Abernathy, Sean BlakeDonica LynnMeghan MurphyAmy OrmanTyrone RobinsonChris Sams and Will Skrip.

The creative team for Smokey Joe’s Cafe includes Kevin Depinet (Scenic Design), Sully Ratke (Costume Design), Paul Miller (Lighting Design) and Ryan Hickey (Sound Design). Michael Baxter is the Associate Director/Choreographer and Lucia Lombardi is the Production Stage Manager.

  • In 2010, Director and Choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical and a Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Director of a Musical and Outstanding Choreography for Ragtime. The show also received both a Tony Award nomination and a Drama Desk Award nomination for Best Revival of a Musical. 
Justin KeyesChris Sams, Tyrone Robinson, Sean Blake

About the Artists
MARCIA MILGROM DODGE (Director & Choreographer) Her celebrated work as a director and choreographer has been seen throughout the United States, Canada, Great Britain, South Korea, Denmark and the Middle East.  Broadway:  Ragtime (2010 Tony Award nomination for Best Director of a Musical.) New York: Venus Flytrap (Active Theater), Cookin’ (Minetta Lane), Radio Gals (Houseman), Maltby & Shire’s Closer Than Ever (original production) and William Finn's Romance In Hard Times (The Public). National Tours: Ragtime (Phoenix Entertainment), Seussical and Curious George (Theatreworks USA.) Regional: Pioneer Theatre, The Muny, Ford’s Theatre, The Kennedy Center, Maltz Jupiter Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse, Center Stage, Denver Center, Pittsburgh Public, St. Louis Rep, Bay Street Theatre, Music Circus, Goodman Theatre, Lyric Stage, Goodspeed, Huntington Theatre, Flat Rock Playhouse, Arena Stage. Opera: Glimmerglass Festival, 92nd Street Y.  Abroad: The Nanta Theatre (Seoul, S. Korea); Fredericia Theater (Denmark); Royal Opera House (Muskat, Oman) and the Wintergardens Theatre (Blackpool, England). Exciting collaborations with Ahrens & Flaherty & Terrence McNally; Julie Andrews; Stephen Sondheim & George Furth; Rupert Holmes; Robert Falls & John Logan; Frank Wildhorn & Jack Murphy. Television: Sesame Street; AMC’S Remember Wenn Awards: Her work has won the Helen Hayes, Carbonell, Los Angeles Drama Critics, Backstage Garland, Dora Mavor, Outer Critics Circle and Daytime Emmy Awards and she has been nominated for the Drama Desk, Astaire, Drama League, Barrymore and Edgar.  Marcia is also a teacher, a wife, a mother, a proud executive board member of the Stage Directors & Choreographers Society and a published and produced playwright.

JUSTIN KEYES (Little Walter) Theatre – Broadway: How To Succeed..., The Apple Tree, Mary Poppins. Tour: The 25th Annual Putman County Spelling Bee; Regional: Walnut Street Theatre, Riverside Theatre, The Guthrie, Two River Theatre Company, San Francisco Symphony, Dallas Theatre Center, Kansas City Starlight, Great Lakes Theatre Festival, MUNY, Pittsburgh CLO. Television – Power; I Love You, But I Lied; Gossip Girl. Education – University of Michigan.


CARRIE ABERNATHY (Pearl) is making her debut at Drury Lane. Carrie has appeared in Queenie Pie (Chicago Opera Theatre); The Color Purple (Mercury Theatre); My Heart is Crying: The Jackie Wilson Story, and Dionne #2 in A Tribute to Dionne Warwick (Black Ensemble Theatre). Carrie received her BA from Columbia College in music composition. Carrie is a proud member of AEA. 

SEAN BLAKE (Sonny) returns to Drury Lane Oakbrook where he was last seen as Terpiscore, Hermes, and Cupid in Xanadu. Broadway/National Tours: Showboat 1st National (Dance Captain/Swing), Showboat Australia (Assoc. Choreographer). Regional Credits: Animal Crackers (Baltimore Centerstage), The Story, Purlie, Ain’t Misbehavin, The Rose Tattoo, Bounce (The Goodman Theatre); Grey Gardens, Everything's Ducky, A Civil War Christmas (Northlight Theatre); Porgy and Bess (Sportin’ Life; Jeff Nomination Best Supporting Actor); and Raisin (The Court Theatre); Carousel (The Court Theatre and Long Wharf Theatre); Birdie Blue (Seattle Rep. Theatre); and Hot Mikado (The Fulton Opera) to name a few. Sean can be heard on the original cast recording of Stephen Sondheim and Hal Prince’s Bounce. Sean just completed a very successful run of Why Not Me? A Sammy Davis Jr. Story in Chicago at the Fleetwood Jourdain Theatre, where he received a Black Theatre Alliance Award nomination for Best Actor in a Play. He is a three-time Jeff Award nominee and two-time Black Theatre Alliance Award nominee in Chicago. Sean is also a member of Actors’ Equity. 

DONICA LYNN (Willie Mae) returns to Drury Lane (Hairspray, Aida, Thoroughly Modern Millie)   THEATRE: Victory Gardens (Confessions of a P.I.M.P. w/Tony Nominee André de Shields) Porchlight Music Theater (Dreamgirls BTAA & Time Out Chicago Magazine nominee Best Actress, Chicago Sings- Disney, Motown & Beatles) Off the Porch (Gatecrashers) Chicago Theatre Company (Train Is Comin)  Mercury Theater (Color Purple, Barnum) About Face Theater (When Last We Flew) Chicago Opera Theater (Queenie Pie) Barn Theatre-MI (Hair) Goodman Theatre (Lady In Denmark, Crowns-us, Ain’t Misbehavin-us) Chicago Dramatist (Vee Jay Records) Marriott Lincolnshire (Once on This Island, Suessical) Northlight (Saturday Night/Sunday Morning) Theatre at the Center-IND (Footloose, Winnie the Pooh Christmas) Paramount (Hair, Broadway Holidays) Court Theatre (Caroline or Change) Timeline (Fiorello, Step Into Time 1893 & 1939) Congo Square (Black Nativity, Sanctified) ETA Creative Arts (This Far By Faith- BTAA nom, Runaway Home-AAAA nom,  Don’t Get Around Much Anymore, Good Black) Bailiwick Rep (Georgia Tom) Fleetwood Jourdain (Black Nativity) FILM/TELEVISION: (Chicago Fire NBC Season 4:1- Let It Burn)  VOCAL PERFORMANCE: Cabernet Cabaret (Arranmore Arts) Chicago Humanities Festival, Sarah Siddons Foundation. RECORDINGS: Ramsey Lewis (Dance of the Soul CD) Two #1 solo dance club singles UK (Shout, Keep Rockin) Justin Roberts (Lullaby CD) Calvin Bridges (So Easy To Love CD) Cory Goodrich (W.O.M.A.N. ep) Female Lead Vocalist Ascendant Music Inc (Illuminate: Blue, Green) BACKGROUNDS:  Rahsaan Patterson, Natalie Cole, New Kids on the Block, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder ALUMNA: Walt Whitman & the Soul Children of Chicago, All-City Youth Choir. 3x brain tumor (cancer) survivor, proud AEA & AGMA member represented by Stewart Talent. Winner- Perseverance Award from Bibo (Beauty In Beauty Out) C.H.A.M.P. Community Project. 

MEGHAN MURPHY (Ruth) is back after making her Drury Lane debut as Airman Fillmore in the Pre-Broadway World Premiere of Hazel The Musical: A Musical Maid in America last spring. Previous credits include: City of Angels (Jeff nomination for Oolie/Donna, Marriott Theater), Tommy (Acid Queen, Paramount Theater), Rent (Joanne, Paramount Theater), American Mixtape (The Second City), 50 Shades! The Musical (Pam, World Premiere Original Cast, NYC, Chicago, Canada), The First Wives Club (World Premiere, Broadway in Chicago), and countless concerts throughout Chicago, New York, LA and Canada. You also may have seen her in her one-woman show, The Big Red Show, most recently running at the Uptown Underground, in Drury Lane’s own cabaret series Leading Ladies, or her original holiday show Big Red & The Boys with About Face Theater at Theater Wit. Meghan is the lead singer of her soul/blues band Everybody Says Yes. 

AMY ORMAN (Annette, Dance Captain)

AMY ORMAN (Annette, Dance Captain) returns to the Drury Lane stage! Chicago theatre: White ChristmasSpelling BeeSunset BoulevardHairspray, A Christmas Carol at Drury Lane Oakbrook; The Who's Tommy, 42nd Street, Annie at The Paramount; 42nd Street, Guys and Dolls, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at Theatre at the Center; Merrily We Roll Along at The Music Theatre Company. TV: Betrayal on ABC. Love and special thanks to Michael.

TYRONE L. ROBINSON (Doc) is making his Drury Lane debut. Broadway Tours: The Book of Mormon and Disney’s The Lion King. Favorite regional credits: Ragtime (Arvada Center – Denver Henry Award nominee, Best Actor in a Musical); Big River (Goodspeed Opera House); Katonga (Busch Entertainment); Oedipus Plays (The Shakespeare Theatre, D.C.); and Disney’s Aida (Ogunquit Playhouse). Also an ASCAP award-winning composer and comedy writer, Tyrone wrote music and lyrics for the musical Show Way, which ran to critical acclaim at The Vital Theatre in New York and was nominated for an Off-Broadway Alliance Award (Best Family Musical). He also worked with writing teams at The Daily Show and The Colbert Report

CHRIS SAMS (Cornelius) Favorite National Touring productions include: Ragtime (Coalhouse Walker Jr.), Rock of Ages (Mayor/Ja’Keith), Fifty Shades: Musical Parody (Taylor), and Will Rogers’ Follies (Soloist / Wrangler). Chris received his Bachelor's degree in Speech Communication from West Texas A&M University and the bulk of his training from participation in competitive forensics. 

WILL SKRIP (Rod) returns to Drury Lane! Recent credits include West Side Story (Tony) at Paramount Theatre, Murder Ballad (Tom) at Cardinal Stage Company, The Little Mermaid (Prince Eric) at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, in addition to appearances here at Drury Lane, Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Marriott, and FWD Theatre Project. Proud Northwestern Alum. Next up: The Little Mermaid and Sweeney Todd at the Paramount. 

2016 – 2017 Season and Subscription Information
The remainder of Drury Lane's 2016 - 2017 season includes the feel-good Gershwin musical Crazy For You, November 3, 2016 - January 8, 2017 and a revised version of Saturday Night Fever, based on the popular ‘70s film with music by The Bee Gees, January 19, 2017 - March 19, 2017.

Subscriptions for the 2016 - 2017 Season are priced from $144.60 to $175.80.  Subscribers receive special offers on dining, flexible ticket exchanges and early notification and priority seating for added events and concerts. For more information, visit

Justin KeyesChris Sams, Tyrone Robinson, Will Skrip, Sean Blake

About Drury Lane Theatre 
Under the leadership of President Kyle DeSantis and Artistic Director William Osetek, Drury Lane Theatre is a major force in the Chicagoland theatre scene, presenting world-class productions in collaboration with some of the nation’s leading actors, artists, writers and directors. Over the past 30 years, Drury Lane has staged more than 2,000 productions and has been nominated for more than 350 Joseph Jefferson Awards. Drury Lane is committed to breathing new life into beloved classics and introducing audiences to exciting new works. 

Throughout its 30-year history, Drury Lane has employed more than 7,500 actors and 10,000 musicians, designers and crewmembers to entertain upwards of nine million audience members. Originally founded by Anthony DeSantis, Drury Lane Theatre remains a family-run organization known for producing breathtaking Broadway classics, top-rated musicals, bold new works, hilarious comedies and unforgettable concert events. 

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