Whitireia Performance Centre, 25-27 Vivian Street, Wellington

15/09/2016 - 24/09/2016

Production Details

The songs of legendary songwriting partners Jerry Lieber & Mike Stroller come together in this musical revue, a celebration of life, love and Rock’n’Roll, from the 1950’s & 60’s.

Full of unforgettable numbers such as ‘Stand by me’, Love Potion #9′, ‘On Broadway’, and ‘Jailhouse Rock’, SMOKEY JOE’S CAFE is the longest-running Broadway revue in history – and the Whitireia Musical Theatre Class of 2016 is proud to present it to you!

The class are thrilled to be joined by a professional six-piece band, and along with musical direction from Kate Marshall & choreography by Leigh Evans, this show is shaping up to be an outstanding and exciting mix of song and dance!

SMOKEY JOE’S CAFE is presented through special arrangement with ORiGiN TM Theatrical, on behalf of R&H Theatricals,

Whitireia Theatre 
Thursday 15, Friday 16 & Saturday 17 September;
Thursday 22, Friday 23 & Saturday 24 September 2o16
at 7:30pm 


Mia Alonso-Green, Erebuka Bwauro, Frankie Curd, Juliane Estella, Rhian Forster, Jonathan Harris, Gemma Hughes, Eden Kavanagh, India Loveday, Konrad Makisi, Damon Manning, Hannah McMillan, Ella Monnery, Taylor Salton, Tinei Sauni, Andrea Skelly, Georgie Sullivan, Rebecca Tate, Charlotte Tausilia, Wiremu Waretini


Lighting and Sound Vernon J. Prime, Shaun Martin, Chris Hayward

Programme Order:


Neighborhood                                  (Ensemble)

Young Blood                                       (Konrad & Ensemble)

Falling                                                   (Erebuka & Tinei)

Ruby Baby                                           (Jonathan, Konrad & Ensemble)

Dance With Me                                 (Wiremu & Ensemble)

Neighborhood (Reprise)               (Ensemble)

Keep On Rollin’                                 (Ensemble)

Searchin’                                             (Mia & Ensemble)

Kansas City                                         (Hannah, Charlotte & Georgie)

Trouble                                                (Rebecca & Juliane)

Love Me / Don’t                               (Konrad & Ella)

Fools Fall in Love                              (Taylor)

Poison Ivy                                           (Wiremu & Ensemble)

Don Juan                                             (Georgie)

I Keep Forgettin’                              (Juliane)

On Broadway                                     (Ensemble)

D.W. Washburn                                (Tinei & Ensemble)

Saved                                                    (Charlotte & Ensemble)



Baby, That is Rock & Roll               (Ensemble)

Yakety Yak                                          (Ensemble)

Charlie Brown                                    (Ensemble)

Pearl’s a Singer                                 (Mia)

Teach Me How to Shimmy           (Jonathan & Ensemble)

Loving You                                          (Konrad & Ensemble)

Treat Me Nice                                   (Wiremu)

Hound Dog                                         (Juliane)

I’m a Woman                                     (Eden, Charlotte, Ella & Juliane)

There Goes My Baby                      (Konrad & Ensemble)

Love Potion #9                                  (Konrad & Ensemble)

Some Cats Know                              (Frankie & Hannah)

Jailhouse Rock                                   (Jonathan & Ensemble)

Fools Fall in Love (Reprise)           (Ella)

Spanish Harlem                                 (Wiremu)

I (Who Have Nothing)                    (Eden)

Neighborhood (Reprise #2)         (Frankie)

Stand By Me                                      (Ensemble)

Theatre , Musical ,

Thu, Fri, Sat only

Tight ensemble singing and several standout performances

Review by Jo Hodgson 16th Sep 2016

If you think you don’t know the song writing team Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, think again, as there is every probability you will have heard their music. Hits such as ‘Stand by Me’, ‘On Broadway’, and ‘Jailhouse Rock’ are all penned by these musical masters who have a long list of familiar songs and a partnership of song writing spanning 60 years.

Sometimes I think we forget the famous singers who perform these often didn’t write their own music and there is the unseen and unsung talent behind them. Tonight is all about celebrating these two prolific writers. 

Smokey Joe’s Cafe, conceived by Stephen Helper, Jack Viertel and Otis Sallid, is a musical revue of nearly 40 songs with no unifying theme or dialogue, which opened on Broadway in 1995. It features many of these unforgettable hits from the 1950s and 60s and it has us toe-tapping and wanting to sing along in no time! 

Originally performed as a nine hander, tonight’s rendition is performed by twenty year 1, 2 and 3 students from Whitireia performance centre. The buzz is high in the audience of friends and whanau. 

Musical director Kate Marshall leads the excellent band of six professional musicians to support these young singers. It’s nice to see them stationed at the back of the stage, grooving along and being part of the scene rather than hidden, and after the slower opening ‘Neighbourhood’, they crank it up and it keeps cranking till the end.

The staging is kept simple with just a few risers and platforms to the sides and the back to give added height and dimension, particularly effective for the ensemble to sit stylistically during the smaller numbers, adding harmony and moral support but also staging colour in their 50s pastels. The lighting is sometimes a little stark in its white brightness but the softer colour washes in the more intimate numbers gives them depth and warmth.

The stage is fully in use in the energetic dance numbers choreographed by Leigh Evans (assisted by Emily Down). Her signature attention to detail is on display in the strong thoroughly-drilled unison and excellent canon sections, with slick clean lines and precision head work.

Gemma Hughes shows her eloquent dancing while Wiremu Waretini sensitively sings about her in ‘Spanish Harlem’.  The dramatic choreography in many of the songs is executed well and often has a fun comic element to it. This is evident in songs like ‘Searchin’, sung by Mia Alonso-Green backed by a smooth male quartet, and the melodramatic ‘There Goes my Baby’ sung by Konrad Makisi.

The beauty of having a larger ensemble is the variation that can be achieved: duets that were originally solos, and males performing previously female songs and vice versa. I particularly enjoy ‘Falling’ as a duet, and it is well sung with lovely harmonies and coyly acted by first years Erebuka Bwauro and Tinei Sauni.

These students are all at different stages of honing their craft so although the level of confidence and vocal skill isn’t always even throughout, they show off their passion and commitment to their training path and performance with aplomb, particularly in the power (occasionally a bit over-blown) and precision of the ensemble singing whether that is the whole cast or different smaller groupings. The male quartets are excellent especially tapping into this by gone era.

The characterisation and dramatic take in every piece has been considered carefully with guidance from director Alan Palmer and the performers make the songs their own delivering them with humour, sass and heart.

Smokey Joe’s Cafe showcases this rock n roll era with nostalgia but it also doesn’t date (aside from maybe the very hetero portrayal of love). This next generation of performers honour the original genre but in turn use and add in vocal interpretations and techniques of a more recent year to link the now and then.

This production is fantastic fun throughout with tight ensemble singing. There are a few moments of first night tech issues with mic’s, a very loud breathy opening sound in Neighbourhood’ and some ‘over-zealous’ singing with notes being overshot where focus isn’t quite in check but this settles down to reveal several standout performances.

Notably Juliane Estella’s ‘Hound Dog’ has excellent vocal colour, focus and attitude, while Eden Kavanagh’s ‘I (who have nothing)’ is raw and spine tingling. Charlotte Tausilia rocks out ‘Saved’ in full gospel style and Georgie Sullivan tells us about ‘Don Juan’ with sauciness and excellent vocals.

Jonathan Harris busts out his best Elvis for ‘Jailhouse Rock’and shows his diversity throughout, bringing a fun take to ‘Teach me How to Shimmy’ with dancers Gemma Hughes and Rebecca Tate (who also sing very strongly in ‘Trouble’). 

A beautiful duet between Konrad Makisi and Ella Monnery shows two performers totally in the moment vocally and the poignancy of connection showing that X factor needed in this cut-throat musical theatre world.  

This showcase of music from this rock n roll era is a perfect vehicle for these students to put their training into practise and they have certainly succeeded with this tonight. 


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