'Smokey Joe’s Café'

Heading up the complicated movements in HCLT’s “Smokey Joe’s Café” is a group of enthusiastic dancers including (clockwise from top) Kirk Compton, Sharonda Claiborne, Minjune Kim, Christian Dixon, Dawn Bushley, Whitney Davis, Kassi Dyer and Michelle Duffer Crenshaw. The show runs April 25 through May 5 at The Prizery.

Since Halifax County Little Theatre moved its productions to The Prizery 13 years ago, “Smokey Joe’s Café” stands out as one of the biggest hits.

What do you do when a production is so big it sticks in people’s minds so well they constantly ask for it to return? HCLT’s answer is to revive it even bigger and better than last time.

Director Victoria Thomasson and Musical Director Bob Thomasson are back, bringing the music of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. That iconic team created the songs that many considered America’s soundtrack of the 50s and 60s, writing hits for stars from Elvis to Johnny Cash as well as almost every Motown group.

To make the era come alive, the Thomassons have assembled a super talented group of singers, dancers and musicians.

One group that will be featured throughout the performance is the dancers.

Thomasson said, “The dancers don’t just dance here; they also have to sing and act to bring the musical scenes alive on stage.”

Even with a stage full of performers, these players will stand out for their moves.

Two of the dancers are returning for their second round of “Smokey Joe’s Café.”

Kirk Compton and Whitney Davis were both featured dancers in the original show and couldn’t wait to repeat the experience.

Compton said, “Whenever Vicky is at the helm, the vision will be big, the songs loud and the fun unparalleled.”

Compton also said, “There is something special about the camaraderie that being on stage brings to all those involved.”

He reminds everyone he meets the music is “catchy, classic and timeless. Audiences should be prepared to leave the theatre humming one of their favorite tunes.”

Davis was one of the choreographers for the last production and is enjoying just dancing this time.

She said, “When I heard they were doing the show again, I knew I did not want to miss being part of it.”

She says the hardest part now is waiting for opening night, as she is anxious to share the remake with an audience.

Joining the returning players is a trio of experienced performers from other HCLT productions.

Michelle Duffer Crenshaw, Dawn Bushley and Sharonda Claiborne bring previous musical experience to the group. Crenshaw returns to the stage following her performance in “Chicago.”

She said, “I fell in love with being on stage, and I have always had a passion for dance.”

In addition to her role in the show, she has been working with choreographer Pat Crew on creating dance moves.

Also returning from the “Chicago” cast is Dawn Bushley.

She credits working with the Thomassons as a reason to return to the stage.

She said, “Anything Vicky and Bob do is always over the top. I love being part of their shows.”

She says it has been hard learning all the steps, but the group is meshing together well.

The last member of the group, Claiborne, is appearing in her first musical but was in HCLT’s fall comedy “Christmas Belles.”

She said, “I heard about ‘Smokey Joe’s Café’ and wanted to be a part of a musical.”

She is very experienced with performing and sings with her church choir.

Filling out the group are three local high school performers, Minjune Kim, Kassi Dyer and Christian Dixon. Although young, they all have experience performing before an audience.

Kim has a long history on stage with productions at school and on The Prizery stage.

He says he loves being on stage but must coordinate rehearsals around a busy school schedule that includes being on the tennis team.

“I enjoy the dances and learning new songs and working with a great cast,” he added.

Dyer comes with a family package as her mother is a singer in the show, and her sister plays with the band.

While this is her first full HCLT show, she did have a brief featured dance moment with the divas in “Beehive” several years ago, and she is having a great time, saying, “I love old time music, and I love to dance, so why not.”

The final member of the cast is Dixon. He is new to theatre performances but brings a lot of experience with various dance groups.

He is a cheerleader at school and has been part of several dance and step teams.

“I really like the singing; I love to sing,” he added.

The music will roll again starting at 7:30 on Thursday night, April 25, to warm everyone up to a hot weekend, and the show will continue at 7:30 Friday and Saturday nights and at 3 on Sunday afternoon.

Then, the show continues Tuesday, April 30, and that Thursday and Friday nights.

Then, there will be a special Saturday afternoon matinee at 2 p.m., followed by the show that night at 7:30 and a final Sunday afternoon show at 3.

Tickets are currently on sale at The Prizery at 434-572-8339 or prizery.com.

Tickets also are on sale for all Prizery events at the Visitor Center.

For all evening performances, Little Theatre will be hosting a Smokey Joe’s Cocktail Hour starting at 6:30, including a special signature drink, with all profits going to support the purchase of a special modern imagery projector The Prizery needs for summer shows.

“Please help HCLT to support The Prizery because the Arts in Halifax County are alive,” said Greg Donner.