San Antonio date night: Smokey Joe's Cafe at The Woodlawn Theatre

Today San Antonio Mom Blogs welcomes guest contributor Roger Pence (Yep, my husband!). He received complimentary tickets to a performance of Smokey Joe’s Cafe at The Woodlawn Theatre for the purposes of this review but no other compensation was received.

My 9-year-old daughter, Delaney, and I went on a father-daughter date last Sunday. We went to The Woodlawn Theatre to see the musical revue Smokey Joe’s Café. This revue features the songs of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, who were 50s/60s musical pioneers who wrote many early rock and roll chestnuts. If you don’t know who these guys are, you surely know their songs. They’ve been recorded by artists such as Big Mama Thornton, The Clovers, The Coasters, Dion, Elvis, and Jay and the Americans and their songs include Jailhouse Rock, Love Potion #9, There Goes My Baby, Ruby, Stand by Me, Jailhouse Rock, and She Cried. Together Lieber and Stoller wrote more than 70 chart hits.

San Antonio date night at The Woodlawn Theatre: Smokey Joe's Cafe

The Woodlawn Theatre opened in 1946. In 1960 John Wayne hosted the world premiere of the movie The Alamo (one of John’s few movies where his character suffered an on-screen death). The good times lasted for the Woodlawn through the 70s, but hard times ultimately hit and the theatre was forced to close. In 2012, Woodlawn Theatre, Inc. was formed to refurbish the theatre and use it to promote high-quality, entertaining, community theatre. Today, the Woodlawn is nicely finished inside and out with a bit of a retro feel. It has very clean, comfortable seating and, I’m guessing here, seats about 500 or so. Beer, wine, and sodas are served. Secure parking is just a short walk away.

I was born in the early 50s and spent most of my formative years with AM radio being piped into my head about 16 hours a day. Many of the songs burned onto the ongoing soundtrack that plays in my head are Lieber and Stoller songs. As the main cook at home, I maintain that the cook gets to pick the radio station so my young kids are quite familiar with 50s and 60s songs. My proudest parenting moment is when my kids identify James Brown’s voice on the radio. Delaney knew what she was in for as we headed to the theatre.

We had great seats three rows from the stage. These seats were certainly better than those behind us, but I’m pretty sure there isn’t a bad seat in the Woodlawn. It’s small without being cramped. Delaney, like her mother, has a little theatre blood in her and was very excited. The stage was interesting and we were ready for the show!

For nearly two hours (with one intermission) ten performers sang and danced through a string of Lieber and Stoller hits accompanied by a six-piece band. The band featured very good musicians and its sound was well-served by modern electronics. There we many times during the show when, had I not known better, I would’ve sworn the band was twice its size. The sound system was crisp and clear. The playlist for the revue was lifted in its entirety from the original Broadway production.

San Antonio date night: Smokey Joe's Cafe at The Woodlawn Theatre

The performers were outstanding. The singing was always very good, and often amazing, and the dancing and choreography added energy and vitality. I’ve been to several community theatre events and one of the things that really impressed me at this show was how much fun it looked like the performers were having. They didn’t have plastic, painted-on smiles—they were beaming genuine, heart-warming smiles. They even made a grumpy guy like me smile. And they made Delaney smile. The level of skill and professionalism, from the performers and the band, was a pleasant surprise. It was a very polished show superbly presented.

Delaney and I went to the Sunday matinee at 3pm. Delaney is 9 and I’m, well, I’m old enough. Maybe it was the time of day, but I am nearly certain that she and I were the youngest two people attending. The theatre hung heavy with grandma-esque perfume and there were several wolf-whistles from old men that seemed a little out of place, but hey, these guys are old, what are you gonna do? Despite the older demographic (or perhaps because of it), we all knew the songs and had a great time. Delaney loved it, too. She knows these are “old people” songs but she always gives me a break and just smiles and sings along. Regardless of how many years stand between you and your sweetie, I strongly recommend the two of you spend an afternoon or evening at the Woodlawn Theatre. You’ll leave smiling, too.

It makes me feel good to know that Delaney will always remember the Sunday afternoon that she and her ol’ man spent at Smokey Joe’s Café.

Performance dates:

Friday, September 5, 7:30 p.m.
(no performances on Saturday, September 6)
Sunday, September 7, 3:00 p.m.
Friday, September 12, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, September 13, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, September 14, 3:00 p.m.

For more info and to purchase tickets, visit The Woodlawn Theatre’s website.

More posts by Roger Pence on San Antonio Mom Blogs:

Low-fat Living: Thai green curry chicken

Low-fat Living: Spicy Summer Tuna Salad

San Antonio date night: Smokey Joe's Cafe at The Woodlawn Theatre