Smokey Joe's Caf?

If you grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, you and rock 'n' roll grew up together. And you probably didn't know it then, but the two people largely responsible for creating that musical genre were a couple of Jewish-American white guys from the East coast: Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller &

one from Baltimore and the other from New York.

Someone got the bright idea to create a musical revue featuring the songs of these two musical pioneers. It's called "Smokey Joe's Caf&

233;" and it opened on Broadway in 1995. The longest-running musical revue ever to play Broadway, it garnered seven Tony nominations, including Best Musical, and won a Grammy as 1995's Best Musical Show Album.

Oregon Cabaret Theatre on First and Hargadine streets, Ashland will be staging a production of the high-energy song and dance revue as its summer show.

"It's a real art to put a revue together, to figure out what the progression is" said OCT artistic director Jim Giancarlo.

Leiber and Stoller both grew up in immigrant neighborhoods bordering African-American communities and they developed an affinity for the Rhythm Blues music they heard there. At 14, Stoller, the composer of the two, went to an integrated music camp where he was exposed to a lot of blues music.

The two later met in Los Angeles when they were barely out of their teens and began writing songs together. In 1953 they wrote a song called "Hound Dog," which was recorded by rhythm blues artist Big Mama Thornton. That song was soon picked up by a young Memphis singer named Elvis Presley who changed some of Leiber's words, recorded the song, thereby launching his famous career and introducing a new sound to white audiences.

"Leiber and Stoller were pretty pivotal in crossing over what had been rhythm blues, exclusively black, into mainstream which became rock 'n' roll," Giancarlo pointed out. "The way the culture was set up it took two white boys to be midwives; to be present at the birth of rock 'n' roll."

Leiber and Stoller went on to write hit after hit throughout the '50s and '60s. They wrote many of Elvis' chart-toppers like "Treat Me Nice," "Love Me," "Jailhouse Rock," and "Loving You." But, perhaps for the first time in popular music history, a white song-writing team created songs that established the sound for black groups like the Coasters and the Drifters with songs like "Poison Ivy," "Charlie Brown," "Yakety-Yak," "Searchin,'" "On Broadway," "Rose in Spanish Harlem," and "Stand By Me."

"They were major producers with Atlantic Records," said the show's musical director, Darcy Danielson said. "Producing was songwriting in those days. They had a lot to do with the sound."

Danielson was actually involved in the first production of the show in 1990 at the Empty Space Theatre in Seattle. She came to work at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre immediately after the run and has been there ever since. "The show has great vocal harmonies," Danielson said. "and our cast members are all great singers and dancers. And Michael Vannice brings so much authentic knowledge and musicianship to this project." Vannice joins Jim Malachai and Danielson as the house band for the show.

The cast includes Jessica Blaszak and Marc Swan who have appeared in a number of Cabaret shows, including "Tapestry" and last season's "Cindy Rella." Patterson and Dante Maurice Sterling from last summer's "5 Guys Named Moe" also will be returning. Making their Cabaret debuts will be Shelese Franklin, Jamaal Clark-Turpin and Bryn Elizan Harris.

"Because Leiber and Stoller wrote for the Coasters and the Drifters, there's a lot of four-guy choreography," said Giancarlo, who is co-choreographing the show with Christopher George Patterson who also appears in the cast. "The guys work really hard in this show," Giancarlo said, "There are nearly 40 songs and two-thirds of them are choreographed." Giancarlo also will be directing.

"Smokey Joe's Caf&

233;" opens at 8 p.m. Friday, June 15 with low-priced previews on Wednesday and Thursday, June 13 and 14. The show runs at 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Mondays; with — p.m. brunch matinees Sundays, through Sept. 2

Tickets are $19 for previews and Sunday evenings; $23 for Sunday brunch matinees; $24 and $26 for Wednesday, Thursday and Monday evenings; and $28 and $30 for Friday and Saturday evenings. Gourmet dining and brunch are available with advance reservations. Appetizers, desserts and beverages are also available without reservations.

See or call 488-2902.

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