Summarized by Lena Booth
Gladys Knight reigns in 'Smokey Joe's' at Wang
Boston Globe pgD13 25Feb00 A4
By Ed Siegel: Globe Staff
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS -- Gladys Knight provides much of the smoke in
the touring production of "Smokey Joe's Cafe" at the Wang Theatre,
despite battling a weeklong bout with pneumonia.
"Smokey Joe's Cafe" is a tribute to the songwriting team of the
'50s and '60s, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Their music is often
identified with the silliness of songs like "Charlie Brown" and
innocent love ballads such as "Stand By Me" and "Spanish Harlem,"
but they occasionally spice it up with Elvis Presley and Peggy Lee.
The variety of their music and the enthusiastic touring production
that Knight has led into the Wang make "Smokey Joe's Cafe" into the
solid, fun crowd pleaser that it has become.
Knight is working with a talented bunch of musicians and
singer-dancers, but personality is often sacrificed for adrenaline.
That's why Knight is key to the show's success; she takes her time in
finding the heart of a song and defines what soul music is all about.
Gladys Knight knows how to sing a song?
Knight is the consistent high point of the show, particularly in the
second act, belting out ''Stand By Me,'' but her duet of Elvis'
"Love Me" and "Don't" with Darryl J. Williams also lights up the
first act. The ensemble numbers, like "On Broadway," break out of
choreographic cliches and the staging by Joey McKneely and Jerry Zaks
as well as Heidi Ettinger's sets are far more imaginative than most
Many people prefer to listen to the originals, but revues strike a
chord with the public and when you have singers like Knight and a
production team like this one to raise the artistic level, there's
reason to leave the tape deck behind and venture to the Wang.
"Smokey Joe's Cafe" takes us back to high school heartbreaks and
yearnings. Too bad we didn't have guidance counselors like Gladys
Knight back then.