Theater archives

The Guy Who Plays Smokey Robinson


Charl Brown is nominated for a Tony for playing singer/songwriter Smokey Robinson in Motown: The Musical. He’s great in the part–convincing as Smokey, yet bringing his own stuff to it the way good interpreters do.

At a Tony nominees’ event, Brown (Jersey Boys, Sister Act) told me the casting makes sense because for ages now, people have told him he looks like Smokey. (And indeed, the resemblance is eye popping.)

And he admires the guy, telling me “Smokey was the first Vice President of Motown. He helped Berry Gordy from the ground up. They’re still best friends. Motown is as much his as Berry’s. He wrote at least 18 # hits.”

It’s true. The man not only penned “My Guy,” he wrote “My Girl”–and so many more classics that if his own jukebox show doesn’t come some time real soon, you’ll be seeing the tracks of my tears–yes, the tears of a clown.

By the way, Smokey’s voice might sound like a falsetto, but it’s not; it’s his natural range, and that’s an amazing feat unto itself. Brown fully understands this phenomenon and can interpret that too; yes, he even sounds like Smokey!

Oh, and one more thing: “He’s the nicest man,” said Brown.

But don’t let it get around. It might go to his head.