The Broadway Television Network (BTN) says it will be a while before it has viewership and PPV figures in for its debut broadcast of Smokey Joe's Cafe, but a BTN spokesperson said the airing came off without a hitch.
"We're getting calls from all over America," said BTN's Susan Lee, "and the response has been terrific."
There were reports of isolated service problems with the PPV broadcast. One viewer said he had ordered the program from Time Warner but had not received the pre-show special starring Tony Orlando and Deborah Gibson.
Lee acknowledged a few complaints had come in and that her network was looking into it. "We're trying to figure that out," Lee told Playbill On-Line. "A lot of people saw it and some didn't. We sat here and watched it and we have Time Warner, but I guess it might have been different in different areas."
Lee addressed the issue of a refund for the viewer who had written in and said, "If they (Time Warner) don't refund his money, we will." BTN's first pay-per view broadcast of Smokey Joe's Cafe: The Songs of Leiber and Stoller was preceded by a half-hour special starring Tony Orlando and Deborah Gibson. The actual closing-night taped performance of Broadway's Smokey Joe's Cafe aired at 9 PM.
Preview host Tony Orlando joined the Broadway cast of Smokey Joe's for two weeks in the summer of 1999. Numerous celebrities comprise the list of guest artists that performed in Smokey Joe's including Rick Springfield, Ben E. King, Pam Tillis, Lou Rawls, Leslie Gore, Gloria Gaynor and Gladys Knight.
Deborah Gibson started performing at age five with Placido Domingo at the Metropolitan Opera and at eleven she appeared in Sheldon Harnick's A Christmas Carol. Gibson later became a teen sensation in the late '80s, billing herself as "Debbie Gibson." Her triple-threat debut as a solo artist featured her writing, producing and performing her songs. In an unusual tie, Gibson and Bruce Springsteen shared equal but separate top honors as ASCAP's 1989 Songwriters of the Year. Returning to theatre, Deborah Gibson has played Eponine in Les Miserables, Sandy in the West End revival of Grease and Rizzo in a stateside run of Grease, as well as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl and Belle in Disney's Beauty and the Beast.
-- By Murdoch McBride