SMOKEY JOE’S CAFE: THE SONGS OF LEIBER AND STOLLER, at the Shubert Theatre. First developed at Chicago’s Royal George Theatre a couple seasons back, this anthology of 1950s and ’60s hits by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (called then Baby That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll) came off as a glorified show-lounge revue. Now, in a revised Broadway-scale version, it comes off as an industrial show–slick, sleek, and soulless. When Broadway hit doctor Jerry Zaks stepped in to retool it, I’d hoped he’d give it more dramatic substance; instead, he’s made it even more generic, eliminating all but the most superficial connections among the nine polished singer-dancers. Seasoned pros all, this touring company generates instant but unconvincing feeling at the drop of a downbeat. Sassy, sophisticated, dorky, raunchy, rebellious, melodramatically anguished, sweetly nostalgic–these cats and chicks shift moods with the efficiency of a jukebox flipping chart-topping singles at the command of a quarter.

Still, the good-looking cast has impressive musical skills and smooth moves, and while too many of the songs are throwaways, a few have substance: pop classics like “Hound Dog,” “On Broadway,” and “Spanish Harlem” as well as witty, jazz-inflected character sketches such as “Some Cats Know” and “Don Juan” (both deliciously delivered by the smart, sensuous Reva Rice). But the on-and-off emotions never build into an affecting whole; the powerhouse vocals too often seem to come from nowhere deeper than skilled session singers’ trick bags. Remember Rubber Soul? Well, this is Plastic Pop.

–Albert Williams