Ann Arbor has a wonderful diversity of entertainment locations but sometimes my spouse and I like to get out of town and check out some of the smaller venues. One of our favorites is the Encore Theater in Dexter, Michigan (less than 20 minutes from the Lamp Post Inn). Small, less that 100 seats, the theater specializes in musical comedies and frankly they are unbelievably good. How a small theater can put on Sweeney Todd, Light in Piazza, Oklahoma and a couple of dozen other ones with full choreography and song is beyond me but they do it. The theater combines seasoned Broadway performers with local standouts and the results are amazing. And the price is right as well. Never a performance over $30.00 and most of the time you can find a seat well below that level.

This week I had the chance to see their newest show – Smokey Joe’s Cafe. While certainly not their highest profile musical it is a throw back to the rock and roll days and features nearly 40 different songs, primarily Leiber and Stoller. The Encore has certainly done glitzier productions but this one is pure enjoyment and the choreography is particularly dramatic since so many numbers are involved. Not much of a story line, but pure musical entertainment. I had never seen Smokey Joe’s Cafe’ and I am glad I caught the performance.

Below is a clip from the Encore Theater’s website that summarizes the show. If you want a simple entertainment evening, take the short drive to Dexter, have dinner at one of a handful of restaurants within several hundred feet of the theater, enjoy the free parking, and have a great night out.

Leiber and Stoller, as much as anyone, virtually invented rock ‘n’ roll, and now their songs provide the basis for an electrifying entertainment that illuminates a golden age of American culture. In an idealized 1950’s setting, the classic themes of love won, lost and imagined blend with hilarious set-pieces and slice-of-life emotions. Featuring nearly 40 of the greatest songs ever recorded (On Broadway, Love Potion #9, Jailhouse Rock, and more), Smokey Joe’s Café isn’t just great music – it’s compelling musical theatre.

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