Alicia Keys

Cane is the “muy caliente” drama from CBS that’s a cross between Dallas and The Sopranos, with a powerful cast headed by Jimmy Smits to pull off some sweet ratings.

It’s about the family intrigue that goes on with the Duque clan and their sugar and rum empire. But what really makes this Tuesday night show a hot production are the musical artists who will be grabbing some moments in the show’s spotlight.

We were invited on the set the day Alicia Keys shot a couple of scenes for an upcoming episode of Cane. The lovely Grammy-winner looked right at home, and had fun soaking up the atmosphere at the Thom, Thom night club location in Santa Monica, which doubled as a South Miami hot spot.

Alicia played herself, but still had to act like she was flirting with Henry Duque (Eddie Matos of General Hospital fame), who runs the club. As the director blocked her scenes, she was surrounded by dozens of sweaty dancers getting their groove on at the jam-packed club with music blaring away.

Alicia’s band members were there kidding around with her, that the scene lacked all the action that she saw in the Smokin’ Aces, shoot-em-up film. Yeah, she really was a kick-butt babe in that. But on the set of Cane, it was her voice that proved to be the most powerful force, when she took the stage to sing “No One,” a cut from her new album that will be released next month.

Electrifying the tiny stage at the club, Alicia sat at the piano and showed the same brilliant talent that made her a multiple Grammy winner for her albums “Songs in A Minor” and “Diary.” Everyone burst into genuine applause after she finished her live performance.

On hand was Hector Elizondo, who plays the patriarch of the Cuban-American Duque family. He said that the music is an important element in the show. “It’s not a novelty bit just thrown in. The music is almost like another character, creating a mood, adding to the drama and giving off energy.”

Hector Elizondo and Rachel Carpani

Among others, Reggae-rapper Daddy Yankee and Nicole Scherzinger of The Pussycat Dolls have also had guest-starring gigs on Cane, playing themselves. The idea is to have the music stars who would be playing in Miami, drop into the Duque club and perform. The record companies love the idea of a stint on the show because several artists will be introducing new recordings, and it’s a tradition to drop a record on a Tuesday, the night the series airs.

Also part of the attractive cast is Paola Turbay (Miss Universe finalist), Lina Esco (London), Nestor Carbonell (Lost), Michael Trevino (The Riches), Polly Walker, and the much honored Rita Moreno who plays Elizondo’s wife. Just added to the cast is a popular Australian actress Rachel Carpani (looking like a young Nicole Kidman).

Smits is a hands-on producer on the show, working on casting and budgets along with creator Cynthia Cidre (The Mambo Kings), Jonathan Prince (American Dreams) and Polly Anthony (music industry leader). Although he admits he’s working harder than he ever has on any of his shows (LA Law, NYPD Blue and West Wing), Smits reports, “I’m doing what I love. And we’ve got strong Cuban coffee on the set to fuel the cast and crew.”

Fueling the spirit is all the hot music that happens on the set.

Frank Barron is the former editor of The Hollywood Reporter, having served twice in that capacity. In between, he was West Coast news director for Billboard Publications, supervising their five magazines. Barron also created the western TV series “The Man From Blackhawk” for the ABC network. For more than three decades he and writer-wife Margie Barron have covered Hollywood for Production Update magazine, and they currently contribute to numerous publications. Frank started in showbiz as publicity director for the KHJ radio and television station. Before moving to California, he was a sports editor in New Jersey.