re: off-Broadway's summer season of discontent
Posted by: Joe90 06:06 am EDT 08/21/19
In reply to: re: off-Broadway's summer season of discontent - EvFoDr 05:43 pm EDT 08/20/19

There's much that one can take issue with in this blog post, but I think the author fails to acknowledge that sometimes cultural productions, for a myriad of intangible reasons, just don't catch on. I didn't see BBH, and although I'd count myself as an Annie Golden fan, one expects that the commercial viability of a musical based around exploitation films written for AG would always be a bit of a gamble.

But also, productions no longer live or die by the word of one critic, and I'm unconvinced that most audiences - especially those for commercial runs, Broadway or Off-Broadway - actually read long-form reviews at all. A production might however live or die by a PR team's ability to effectively channel some vaguely kind words from a number of reviews into the sense that a production is a well-reviewed smash, and while there are structural reasons why that might be difficult for a small budget Off-Broadway musical it ain't Jesse Green's fault. Similarly, for Be More Chill: it might have been a viral sensation via a streaming platform, but it's a whole different game when you expect audiences - especially young audiences - to pay Broadway prices to see something that they can hear for free. Again, I suspect that BMC's target audience cares little for what Ben Brantley has to say or even know who he is. They clearly didn't care what he thought of Wicked.

There is definitely a need to examine existing models of criticism, and also find alternative models. But please, let's not have artists write reviews. Writing criticism, like any creative process, is a skill and a craft. It's like watching an actor at work: just because one can discern whether its effective or not doesn't mean that you can do it yourself. And critics (good critics, of which I'd consider those employed by the NYT to be) have an awareness of the labour and the processes that people go through to get a production in front of an audience. But hard word and good intentions aren't enough when you're also expecting people to pay up to $150 for two hours of entertainment.


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