In Part Three of our series of interviews with the cast of Arena Stage’s Café, meet Jay Adriel.
Joel: Why did you want to be a part of the cast of Smokey Joe’s Café at Arena Stage?
Jay: I knew it would be a great learning experience as an artist to work with Randy Johnson and Parker Esse and the creative team for this production. The music was icing on the cake. Many times I feel like I was born in the wrong era because of the love I have for this music that I get to sing every night.
They wrote music that everyone could relate to. They did not see race or color, they just did what they loved.
What song in the show really describes your personality?
HANDS DOWN!!!!! “Stand By Me”!” One of my favorites. Being a country boy, you care for everyone.
What solos do you have in the show and how do you relate to the songs?
I sing the ballads or Teen Angel, if you will! “Dance With Me” and “Loving You.” As I dancer I want everyone to come to the dance floor and boogie with me, let’s all shake a tail feather. “Loving you” is so soft and really tells the story of true love. Many times in relationship there is a great bit if jealousy or insecurity. But when Jay is “Loving You,” I only have eyes for you. And I really get to connect with the audience during that song, and I am able to make some young lady go back in time and feel like the only girl in the audience.
Have you appeared in a production of Smokey Joe’s Café before?
No, I haven’t. I have been waiting to do this show for many years now. This has really been a dream come true.
What do you admire most about your fellow cast members’ performances? Which song that they perform is your favorite and why?
Everyone is simply OUTSTANDING and shines. Inside and out. We ALL get along. Many times while on stage I find myself saying,” Am I really on stage with all this talent?!” And I start smiling even harder because I feel so blessed. There are many moments when we are all on stage. But, during “Neighborhood” and “Stand By Me” are the moments I look forward to the most. I start and finish with these songs that I love.
How would you describe a Leiber and Stoller song?
A three-part story. A great opening scene, the meat, and then an ending leaving you wanting more.
Why do you think Leiber and Stoller’s songs are timeless?
No matter who you are, there is a song in this show that you can relate to. EVERYONE!
How would you describe Parker Esse’s choreography and what dances have been the hardest to learn and which is the one you love the most?
I thought I was a ball of energy, WRONG!!!!!! That man is a world of energy. So energetic, caring, inspirational, YOU NAME IT, he is it. I learned so much from him and his assistant Jessica Hartman. I literally did not see him sad or upset one day. He had a HUGE smile on every day. “On Broadway” was the toughest, really trying to capture they style that he wanted.
How would you describe Randy Johnson’s vision for this production of Smokey Joe’s Café?
His vision is out of this word. That man is a geeeeeennnniiiiuuussss!!!!!!!! After Parker put all the ingredients together, Randy put us in the oven and what we have now is one tasty Thanksgiving dinner. The table is set just right! The turkey is carved to perfection, the dinners are still hot. It was jaw-dropping how he made the entire story flow.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing you perform in Smokey Joe’s Café?
I would love for the audience to take a trip back in time and remember this from when they were growing up. Remember the date that they went on and “There Goes My Baby” was playing on the radio, and they fall back in love again with their spouse as they hold hands leaving the theatre. Or for the younger generation to go home and google, research and learn some fun facts about this era.
Jay Adriel’s theater credits include Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and Dreamgirls (Signature Theatre); Guys and Dolls, Legally Blonde, Hairspray, Hello Dolly, The Producers, Crazy For You, 42nd Street, Cats and Thoroughly Modern Millie (Central Piedmont Community College); Seussical, Aladdin, Peter Pan, and Beauty and the Beast (Children’s Theatre of Charlotte), and A Chorus Line (Actors Theatre of Charlotte).
‘Yakety Yak’: Part 1: Kara-Tameika Watkins on ‘Smokey Joe’s Café’ at Arena Stage
‘Yakety Yak’: Part 2: Austin Colby on ‘Smokey Joe’s Café’ at Arena Stage.