Musical revue 'Smokey Joe's Cafe' coming to Centre

October 05, 2004|JENNIFER BRUMMETT

(Editor's Note: Smokey Joe's Cafe will be performed at 8 p.m. Thursday in Newlin Hall at Centre College. For tickets, call 859-236-4692.)

Tiffany Janene Howard is having a swinging good time touring with "Smokey Joe's Cafe" - quite literally. The Portsmouth, Va., native is "swinging" two roles in the production: Brenda, an aggressive, knowing type, and DeLee, who Howard said is a "little more fun and outgoing and bubbly.

"They're both very sexy, sophisticated roles," Howard said in a telephone interview as the show was getting ready to preview in Indianapolis.

Howard, who has toured nationally with "Fame" and worked extensively in regional theater, described "Smokey Joe's Cafe" as a revue of music by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, lyricists for hits such as "Fools Fall In Love," "Charlie Brown," "Yakety Yak" and "Stand By Me."


"There also is a story that circles around a (group) of friends and how they grow up and the things they go through," she added. "The show is appealing to any audience member.

"A lot of people that have heard of 'Smokey Joe's Cafe' place it in the category of revue ... but it also has a story line - a through story line and a story line in each individual number. It's more than a revue, in that sense."

The appeal for her of "Smokey Joe's Cafe" is working on a show that is all music and dance.

"It's the first show I've done that doesn't have dialogue. It's interesting doing a show that is all music and dance. It's a lot of fun, but it is tiring."

A touring show makes a lot of demands on its performers, Howard added.

"The biggest challenge is being away from home and family for long periods of time," she explained. "I see them at holidays.

"And also, there's the schedule. You're waking up early in the morning, and there are bus calls. Then you are arriving (at a new venue). It sometimes kinda gets to you. We're usually only off one day per week. But it's definitely well worth it."

Howard said her biggest influences as a singer and dancer have been people from her hometown and her family.

"They are people who have made their careers not about money and fame but sharing the gift God has given them ... and being appreciative of the gift they have."

Howard seems appreciative of her own gifts. She started taking dance classes and vocal lessons when she was 9 and 10, and moved on to community theater in her area. She pursued a bachelor of fine arts degree in theater, and started touring.

A sentence in her program bio grabs attention: "In memory of my father." Was he an arts supporter? A performer? Or an all-around great dad.

"He was an all-around great dad," Howard said. "He passed when I was on tour with the same company last year.

"I was debating whether to come home to be with him before he passed. He assured me that I needed to do something with my gift, and to stay on the road and keep doing what I was doing. I'm happy I did stay on tour. If he was still here, that is what he would want me to be doing."

As for "Smokey Joe's Cafe," it's a show with wide appeal, Howard noted.

"It is a great show for any person of any age," she said. "The older crowd can sing along - and the younger, maybe, too. But if not, it is very entertaining - the set and lights, the songs. Anything (about the show) can be appealing to anyone."

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