Performing Arts

Flat Rock Playhouse: Timeless Music Then and Now

By Abigail Amato

The Flat Rock Playhouse pays tribute this month to some old favorites of folk and rock that will have audiences singing in their seats. Music on the Rock: The Music of Simon and Garfunkel will be performed at Playhouse Downtown April 1–9 by husband and wife songsters AJ Swearingen and Jayne Kelli, and Smokey Joe’s Café, a long-running Broadway revue of the music of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, rocks the Mainstage April 21–May 13.

“When Jayne and I met and formed as Swearingen & Kelli, an Americana Folk songwriting duo, in 2012,” says Swearingen, “we discovered that our vocal blend had an old soul sensibility.” Accompanied only by his acoustic guitar, the couple harmonizes in a performance that stays true to the sounds of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. “We perform all of the hits because they had so many, but we also enjoy some of the really obscure album cuts,” he says. ”We definitely get the sense from the audience that it is a very nostalgic evening for them.”

Featured songs of the iconic folk-rock duo include “Mrs. Robinson,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “The Boxer.” Music that bound together a generation a half a century ago has found new listeners today. “We do feel that this music is timeless across all generations,” he adds, “but we are seeing more and more young faces in the audiences and that is very refreshing.”

Articulate guitar chords paired with the perfectly blended voices of Swearingen and Kelli provide an authentic experience for the audience. “The mission of our show is to replicate the early years in the Greenwich Village coffeehouse scene in the mid-sixties,” says Swearingen.

With a cast of four women and five men, accompanied by a six-person band, Smokey Joe’s Café, says director Amy Jones, “is going to rock!” It includes everything from “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock” to “On Broadway,” “Yakety Yak” and “Poison Ivy.”

Although the show is more revue than play, Jones says that it will be presented “as a sort of memory play, following the cast as they go back to their hometown neighborhood and relive their experiences as they grew, changed and learned about love and life,” with the soundtrack of the times accompanying those memories.

Ticket prices for the shows vary. To learn more about Mainstage and Playhouse Downtown performances or to reserve tickets, visit or call 828.693.0731.

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