Come on down and kick back at ‘Smokey Joe’s Café’

Celebrate the holiday season with your hands clappin’ and your toes tappin’ at a rockin’ party performance. Hillbarn Theatre in Foster City presents “Smokey Joe’s Café,” opening Dec. 6 and running through Dec. 31.

The dazzling, captivating musical revue features 40 songs by written by the great team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Produced between 1952 and 1974, many of the tunes were instant hits for Elvis (“Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock”) as well as other pop classics (“Stand by Me,” “Spanish Harlem”).

“Smokey Joe’s Café,” which opened on Broadway in March 1995, is the longest-running musical revue in history; it also won a Grammy for best musical show album.

“This music is infectious. You feel like you are inside of a jukebox,” says Joe Duffy, director and choreographer of the Hillbarn show. There are eight cast members who are on a very fast pace and barely catch their breath before the next number. It is like being a part of a Swiss clock on the conveyer belt that keeps moving. We want to stay true to the music, costumes and design so you feel like you are part of this era.”

Cast members include David Martin and brothers Kevin and Gary Stanford Jr. who have performed in many Peninsula shows.

Also appearing are Erin Sjostrom, recently returned to the Bay Area, as well as three newcomers: Courtney Iventosch, Cassie Blake and Justin D. Torres, recent performers at Cabrillo Stage. Hillbarn Conservatory faculty member Victoria Morgan is also featured.

Gary and Kevin Stanford remember hearing Lieber and Stoller when they were very young, thanks to their grandmother, who was a lead singer with her brother’s orchestra and toured up and down the East Coast in the 1950s and ’60s. Many years later, she would sing the tunes to her grandsons.

“Usually in shows you learn maybe 10 songs. It is a big challenge to master 30 selections, along with the choreography,” Gary says. “This director gives us a framework, and then allows a lot of improvising on our part, letting us be creative.”

For Morgan, the show represents a dream come true. “I love this style of music, the bluesy jazz throughout different decades,” she says. “This musical is very uplifting about good times, memories, friends and love. And I find that these talented people in the cast live that way every day, not just in musical theater.”

The six-piece band directed by Greg Sudmeier features award-winning musicians.

Production staff includes assistant director Veronika Olah, associate choreographer BethAnne Wells, stage manager Roland Mangan and assistant stage manager Adria Dito.

Hillbarn Theatre is at 1285 E. Hillsdale Blvd., Foster City. Tickets are $26 to $34. There will be a special New Year’s Eve gala with drinks, buffet dinner and dancing for $110. For information, call (650) 349-6411; e-mail boxoffice@

hillbarntheatre.org; visit www.hillbarntheatre.org  . Box office hours at the theater are Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and one hour before show time.

jgross@examiner.com

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