If you ever see me at an opening night, be careful because I may be eavesdropping.
"I didn't know there wasn't a plot?" said one husband at "Smokey Joe's Cafe."
His wife replied, "I know, but it's so much fun!"
A revue is a concert with costumes, a set and choreography, and "Smokey Joe's" has plenty of just that. The ProArts production is a slow starter and there were a few technical mishaps on opening night, but it is a highly enjoyable evening of song.
The revue about young love and all those painful, yet inevitable, mistakes that occur along the way hits its stride about 20 minutes in with "Teach Me How To Shimmy." Maybe it was the dress (worn by Katerina B. Dominguez) or Aly Cardinalli's comical mimicry, but either way, the number works and it gets the audience laughing and involved.
If "Smokey Joe's" didn't get its audience clapping, laughing and wishing they could sing along, it could have been a disaster. It is quite the opposite, and will have you singing the classic Leiber and Stoller tunes on the car ride home.
Another first act standout moment was Felicia Chernicki's "Don Juan." Chernicki is a constant highlight and her conversations with the audience are priceless. I'm not sure how much is improv, but I would encourage her to go even bigger and add more commentary, because it not only works, it's one of the best elements of the entire production.
The finest moment of the first act, however, was director/choreographer Cardinalli in "DW Washburn," which morphs into the ensemble number "Saved" with Kate Comstock on lead vocals. "Saved" is so good that even if the production faces a first act meltdown one random night, this song will surely save the performance.
Counting the reprises, there are 42 production numbers in "Smokey Joe's." A highlight is "Spanish Harlem," which allow the youthful Dominguez and Coren Paschoal-Yamauchi to shine. I would ask the audience to forgive their inexperience and appreciate these diamonds in the rough. Both are on the verge of something special vocally, and like Eric and Amy Gilliom's rise to fame, who doesn't like to say "I saw them when."
Cardinalli dazzles again in a very clever and funny piece, "Shopping For Clothes." Moments later, Paschoal-Yamauchi, Justin House and Trevor Natividad have the crowd in hysterics with "Little Egypt." With revues, everyone will have a personal favorite song, but in my mind, the best was saved for last. "I (Who Have Nothing)," also performed by Cardinalli, is perfect, powerful and of Broadway quality. When immediately followed with Julie Kawamura's touching "The Neighborhood (Reprise)," as well as the entire ensemble joining in, this one-two punch is all the drama and plot that "Smokey Joe's" needs.
"Smokey Joe's" keeps going with House's "Stand By Me." House posses the one true rhythm and blues voice of the cast, and his rendition of the classic had the audience on its feet clapping along. It would be unfair to describe "Smokey Joe's" as mindless entertainment, but between the shopping, the traffic, and the stress that goes with Christmas, a little mindless entertainment might be just what the doctor ordered.
* "Smokey Joe's Cafe," directed and choreographed by Aly Cardinalli continues through Dec. 23 at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. Reserved seat tickets are $25 for adults; $22.50 kamaaina discount nights (with valid Hawaii ID) tonight and Dec. 20. For reservations or more information, call 463-6550 or visit www.proartspacific.com.