American Idol Finalist Heads Studio Tenn’s ‘Smokey Joe’s Cafe’

Melinda DoolittleFRANKLIN, Tenn. – American Idol finalist Melinda Doolittle will lead a standout cast of powerhouse vocalists in Studio Tenn Theatre Company’s Smokey Joe’s Cafe, the first musical production of its 2012-2013 season, according to a news release.

The show runs Sept. 20-Oct. 7 at the historic Franklin Theatre. Individual and Season Tickets are now on sale at FranklinTheatre.com and at the Franklin Theatre Box Office at (615) 538-2076.

“I could not be more excited to be a part of Studio Tenn’s Smokey Joe’s Cafe with such an amazing cast from all over the country,” said Doolittle, pictured above, who was launched to international fame as a season six contestant of American Idol. “Studio Tenn is best known in this region for putting on flawless and exciting professional theater, and this show in particular has the musical and historical significance to further that trend.”

A Grammy Award-winning rock-and-roll revue, Smokey Joe’s Cafe celebrates songwriters Leiber and Stoller’s beloved catalog of classics from the 1950s and ’60s, including hits made famous by Elvis Presley, Peggy Lee, Tom Jones, Bobby Darin and more.

JOHNNYSWIMStarring with Doolittle in Studio Tenn’s production are husband and wife pop duo Abner and Amanda Ramirez, known together as JOHNNYSWIM. Amanda is the daughter of the late great first lady of disco, Donna Summer. While the duo is based in Los Angeles, they have roots in Nashville.

The cast also includes top-notch local performers Libby Hodges, Ryan Greenawalt and Laura Matula (whom Studio Tenn fans will recognize for her unforgettable performance as the flamboyant Miss Adelaide in last year’s debut musical Guys and Dolls). Joining Nashville’s finest are Kansas City’s Harvey Hubert and Birmingham’s John-Mark McGaha.

“This cast of singers is, in a word, ‘unreal’,” said Jake Speck, Managing Director of Studio Tenn and a veteran Broadway performer. “I know this may sound blasphemous, but vocally, this cast blows the original Broadway cast out of the water. These are eight of the best singers I’ve ever heard  period. We are just beside ourselves to have landed such an extraordinary concentration of vocal talent for this show,” which Speck describes as “a nonstop avalanche” of 39 rock and roll and R&B standards, including “Jailhouse Rock”, “Hound Dog”, “Stand By Me”, “Kansas City”, “I’m a Woman”, and many more.

“Our concept and take on the show is to strip away a lot of the Broadway and Vegas feel of it and focus more on the unbelievable Leiber & Stoller music catalog,” said Speck. “For inspiration, we went back to the original recordings of all these great songs. We are taking the show back to its roots.”

Speck will serve as Executive Producer for Smokey Joe’s Cafe while Studio Tenn’s other principle Matt Logan is Director and Designer. Joining them are Choreographer Emily Tello and Musical Director and Conductor Steve Kummer.

Season ticket holders receive a 20% discount on admission to each of the five shows in Studio Tenn’s expanded 2012-2013 season: Smokey Joe’s Cafe, Twelve Angry Men (staged at the historic Williamson County Courthouse), Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Big River, and My Fair Lady. For more information, visit StudioTenn.com.

*Photos of Melinda Doolittle and JOHNNYSWIM courtesy Studio Tenn Theatre Company.

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