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Release: Immediate

National tour of hit Broadway revue 'Smokey Joe's Cafe' opens in Hancher Sept. 18-20

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The new national tour of the hit Broadway musical revue "Smokey Joe's Cafe -- The Songs of Leiber and Stoller" will open with three performances in the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 18-19, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 20. The cast will assemble in Iowa City for the final three days of rehearsals on the Hancher stage before the opening.

Although Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller are members of both the Songwriters' Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, most of the public does not know their names. But everyone knows their hit songs from the '50s and '60s -- "Hound Dog," "Jailhouse Rock," "Yakety Yak," "Charlie Brown," "Poison Ivy," "Spanish Harlem," "Stand By Me," "On Broadway," "Love Potion #9," "Kansas City," "Ruby Baby," "I'm A Woman," "Is That All There Is?" and "Fools Fall in Love," to mention just a few.

Among the artists whose careers were established on Leiber and Stoller songs were Elvis Presley, the Coasters and the Drifters. Leiber and Stoller songs have been recorded by an array of pop, rock, blues and soul artists including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, Peggy Lee, Jay and the Americans, James Brown, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, the Everly Brothers, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Mathis, John Mellencamp, Lou Rawls, Tom Jones, Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross, Otis Redding and B.B. King.

"Smokey Joe's Cafe" showcases the energy, innovation and humor of many of the most popular Leiber and Stoller hits, including the title tune. But the non-stop singing-and-dancing party at "Smokey Joe's Cafe" also captures the spirit of an American era -- the days of first kisses and last dances, sidewalk struts and sideways glances, blaring car radios and quiet moonlight strolls.

For it's run on Broadway, where the show is now in its fourth year, "Smokey Joe's Cafe" won a Grammy Award and was nominated for seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The London production that opened in 1997 is still going strong.

It's a show that the Minneapolis Star Tribune called, "bouyantly tuneful, exhaustingly energetic . . . a dynamite evening of entertainment," and Time magazine hailed as "an exuberant, colorful celebration."

Leiber and Stoller, who met as teenagers just after World War II, were part of a generation of white youth who defied the racial segregation of American music, embracing blues and other forms of African-American music. Their music was a central part of the bridge that eventually connected American popular music in the mass appeal of R and B, rock and Motown music.

Their early music was recorded by Jimmy Witherspoon, Charles Brown and other black artists. The series of Leiber and Stoller hits began with Big Mama Thornton's recording of "Hound Dog" in 1953. Soon they became the songwriting team behind the success of the Coasters, composing "Searchin'," "Yakety Yak," "Charlie Brown" and "Poison Ivy." Other hits were recorded by Ben E. King ("Stand By Me," "Spanish Harlem" and "I Who Have Nothing") and the Drifters ("On Broadway," "Dance With Me" and "Drip Drop").

When Elvis Presley released his version of "Hound Dog," with Leiber and Stoller's "Don't Be Cruel" on the flip side, he topped the pop charts for 11 straight weeks and established his stardom. Elvis went on to record more than 20 Leiber and Stoller songs, including "Love Me," "Loving You," "Jailhouse Rock," "Treat Me Nice," "I Don't Care," "Bossa Nova Baby," "Santa Claus is Back in Town," "She's Not You" and "Trouble."

The touring production of "Smokey Joe's Cafe" is directed by Jerry Zaks, whose New York productions including "Guys and Dolls," "Laughter on the 23rd Floor" and "Six Degrees of Separation" have won him four Tony Awards, for Drama Desk Awards and an Obie. Musical staging is by Joey McNeely, whose work can be seen in the Meg Ryan/Tim Robbins film "IQ."

The creative team also includes Tony Award-winning scenic designer Heidi Ettinger ("The Secret Garden" and "Big River"); costume designer William Ivey Long, who won a Tony Award for "Crazy for You" and has also designed for the Rolling Stones Steel Wheels tour; and veteran Broadway and off-Broadway lighting designer Paul Gallo, winner of the 1986 Obie Award for Sustained Excellence in Lighting Design.

The corporate sponsor of "Smokey Joe's Cafe" at Hancher is Telegroup Inc., with media support by KDAT-FM, through the University of Iowa Foundation.

Tickets for "Smokey Joe's Cafe" are $38, $35 and $33. UI students and senior citizens qualify for a 20-percent discount, and tickets for audience members 17 and younger are half price.

Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Audio description, for audience members with visual impairment, will be available at the Sept. 20 performance.