“Intergenerational” gets real at Thomas Edison High School these days as students and their teachers work tirelessly to breathe 21st Century energy into a 1995 revue with songs their parents and grandparents remember well. Smokey Joe’s Café, this fall’s theater production at Edison is not a “play” but a fast-paced evening of music by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.
Performances of Smokey Joe’s Café will be Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, December 14-16, 7:00 p.m. at Thomas Edison High School, 700 22nd Avenue Northeast. Tickets are just $6 and $8 for adults.
Leiber and Stoller, who wrote for the Drifters and the Coasters – not to mention Elvis – transcended racial and cultural boundaries of the mid 20th Century. Max Athorn, theater teacher at Edison, observes that “it’s a great choice for Edison because we have a wonderfully diverse population and the diversity of music of Leiber and Stoller is a reflection of the many different types of artists for whom they originally wrote.” This cast, Athorn adds, “embraces the challenge to capture the many different styles represented in the show.”
Audiences should expect music – and more music! Thirty-nine popular standards including rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and a host of perennials such as “Stand by Me”, “Jailhouse Rock,” “I’m a Woman” and “Fools Fall in Love”.
Smokey Joe’s Café, which opened on Broadway in 1995, won a Grammy in 1996 and ran for over 2000 performances off and on Broadway and in London. For more background on “Smokey Joe’s Café” check the Wikipedia notes where there’s a full list of the songs included in the original production.
Smokey Joe’s is directed by Max Athorn in his second year of teaching at Thomas Edison. Athorn is a graduate of Minneapolis South High and holds degrees in music and theater arts from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and teaching certification and additional graduate work in education at Hamline University.
Working with Max is Music Director Stacey Kilton, Edison’s choir teacher in her fifth year. Kilton and Athorn were classmates at South High School before she studied music education at Ithaca College in New York.
The choreographer for the production is Skye Horton, an Edison sophomore who volunteered to choreograph the entire show. Horton worked during the summer to compose a variety of dances for her peers to perform in the show and, according to Athorn, “has been the embodiment of the type of student leadership that we are trying to foster at Edison.
Director Athorn reflects with enthusiasm on the production and on the theater program at Thomas Edison High School. “We are lucky to be in a school that is extremely supportive of arts education, from the principal and assistant principals to the other classroom teachers. Edison supports young artists of all kinds — painters and photographers, singers and dancers, hair stylists and violinists. It’s a school that is celebrating and reflecting its greater community by striving to create at a high level using many different mediums.”
With obvious pride Athorn adds that “Smokey Joe’s Cafe is a big undertaking for the theater artists — we are excited to share it as we work as a whole school to establish ourselves as a leader in arts education in Minnesota.”
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