Let’s get ready to rumble, Marsha Norman and Frank Rich!

A healthy fight emerged about the power of critics in the modern theater on a NY Times blog a week or so ago.

In this corner, Marsha “Night Mother” Norman!

And in this corner, Frank “Butcher of Broadway” Rich!

(I’ll refrain from telling you what color trunks they were wearing and what they were weighing in at.)

My feeling about critics today?

They’re like aging mob bosses.  They had huge amounts of power at one point, but that power and influence is waning.  The FEDs have got them in their sights.  And some of them are just acting crazy in order to get insanity defenses.

Even though their fedoras are fading, unfortunately, there will always be some people that these ex-Godfathers can extort.

My advice?  If what you’re fighting for is popular in your “neighborhood” then hold your ground.  Stick.  And don’t let them scare you.  Eventually they’ll go off and bother somebody else.

Remember (especially when you get a bad review), there’s a new newspaper every day.

But be careful.  There is a new Dapper Don in town.

Who is he?


The user is the Ben Brantley of tomorrow.  Pay very special attention to your User Reviews.

  • Agreed about User Reviews. I’m always interested in what regular people think of everything from shoes to books to theater. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ended up not buying a book with a great editorial review because of a lot of bad user reviews and vice versa.

  • BT says:

    Holy Moly. There are 35 responses so far in their “discussion”, and most of them are quite lengthy.
    That says something. Exactly what, I’m not sure. I don’t have the time to spend there, I am busy working on creating other things.
    BUT yes, if someone(s) take(s) the time to track down and make a post about your show, you definitely should listen to the them.
    It’s interesting to think – a HUGE chunk of the Broadway audience is comprised of tourists. I promise you most of them don’t read the NY Times.

  • George Frankley says:

    User reviews should certainly be read, but they have the same problem as with a lot of voluntary online surveys—the information you’re getting is only about the types of people who’ll go out of their way to write reviews. These will tend to be people who are highly involved with theater (like critics, maybe not representative of the theatergoing public) or people who really really liked or disliked something. I suspect if you were to pool everything written about Wicked on the internet, and read twenty randomly-selected writings, you wouldn’t be much closer to a useful unbiased evaluation than if you read professional criticism. Will you perhaps respond that I should only be drawing entries from messageboards established as being reliable? That logic is the rationale for having professional critics in the first place.

Leave a Reply to George Frankley Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *