Broadway Show Comes to FAMU

Broadway is coming to the Charles Winter Wood Theatre on April 4. “Smokey Joe’s Café,” a “songbook musical” made famous after more than 2,000 performances on Broadway, will feature players from Florida A&M’s Essential Theatre.

“Smokey Joe’s Café” functions as a jukebox. Multiple storylines develop throughout the course of each song played, but there is no overall plot.

The play is a “songbird musical” set in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Era of the 1950s and ‘60s. It features famous tunes including “Jailhouse Rock,” “Hound Dog,” “Yakety Yak” and “On Broadway.”

Michelle Robinson, the director and choreographer of the show, revamped the play for Essential Theatre. Robinson starred in Broadway’s “Chicago” for more than 13 years and is a former New York City Rockette. She’s no stranger to musical theatre or dance.

Robinson said she kept most of the show’s original choreography and tunes.

“This show is going to be a real walk down memory lane for those people familiar with this time period,” Robinson said. “For those not familiar, I think it’ll be a really nice introduction to this style of music.”

The audience can expect romance, relationships and heartaches throughout the show.

Lisa Lauray, the production’s stage manager and a senior theatre student from Tallahassee, called the play a feel-good experience that will have audience members tapping their toes.

Lauray also said she expects the visual elements to impress the viewers.

“The set is nice and there are great costumes,” Lauray said. “The guys look great in their tuxedos and the ladies look so nice in their evening wear. Even the casual looks are great.”

Lauray said working with Robinson has been an amazing, challenging and a refreshing learning experience.

Robinson said she sought to challenge the students with this production and saw it as an opportunity to educate them on the industry using the same standards used on Broadway.

The play will feature high-energy dance numbers, fun songs and colorful lighting, cosmetics and props.

Johnny Williams Jr. provided the show’s musical direction.

The show will run from April 4-April 8. The weekday performances are at 8 p.m. and a Saturday matinee is scheduled for 2 p.m., followed by an evening performance at 8 p.m. The musical will wrap with Sunday’s 3 p.m. showing.

Admission is free to Florida A&M students with valid student ID. For ticket information, call 850-561-2425.