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Smokey Joe's Cafe

Smokey Joe's Cafe serves up a musical theatrical experience akin to mac ’n’ cheese: warm and agreeable but not enriching. On Broadway, this musical revue of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller classics like “Yakety Yak,” “Poison Ivy,” and “Jailhouse Rock” — thickened with other doo-wop hits like “Fools Fall in Love” and “Dance With Me” — ran for 2,036 performances, no small feat for a jukebox musical. Here, director Jeffrey Polk continues in the tradition of assembling nine very different singers and 39 songs about love into a show that avoids even a faint narrative thread. The effect is capable but constrained. Musical director Darryl Archibald has hammered most of the numbers into a template: They start normally, maybe even a little hushed, then burst into loud to-the-rafters blues rock. Paradoxically, the reason the second act holds together better than the first is because the four female singers are finally allowed to distinguish their own personalities. Dionne Figgins is a steely sex kitten; DeLee Lively is a burlesque sprite; Sharon Catherine Blank is soulful and warm; and Jackie Seiden in “Pearl’s a Singer” reveals that she’s a throaty country diva — it’s one of the evening’s best moments before, like all the others, she’s pressed to go as big and obvious as an American Idol contestant. Male singers Niles River, Robert Torti, Maceo Oliver, T.C. Carson and deep bass John Woodward III are also quite fine in this inessential show, which measures success by the number of people clapping along to “Stand by Me.” El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Wed.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; through January 4. (818) 508-0281.
Sat., Dec. 13, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Wednesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m. Starts: Dec. 13. Continues through Jan. 4, 2008

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