Should the critics have reviewed Spiderman?

I don’t know about what happened at your home, but as soon as that first review of Spider-Man hit the ‘web’ Monday night, my phone started ringing, my twitter started tweeting, and things I didn’t even know I owned started buzzing.

It was a social media cyclone.

And unfortunately for Spider-Man, that cyclone did some serious damage.

But the big question on everyone’s tweets was not how a $65 million dollar musical got such bad reviews, but should the critics have thrown their stones now, or should they have waited?

There has always been a gentleman’s agreement in the theater that reviewers don’t come until they are invited.  And that agreement has held up over the years, except for a few instances, mostly involving high profile out-of-town productions.

But not this time.


Well, come on Spider-Man, you’ve got super-human powers.  Surely, you had to see this coming.  You’ve been in previews longer than it takes an actual spider to spin a web.  Did you expect them to wait much longer?  Especially with rumors circulating that you were never going to open, and especially since the business you were doing didn’t seem to incentivize you to open any sooner.  When you’re doing 1.2+ million, who cares if you’re open or not, right?

Well, the critics do.

And Monday, they had enough.

And I can’t blame them.

I give them a lot of credit, actually.  Instead of just a free-for-all of reviews starting to come out randomly, they obviously got together and orchestrated this release together.  It was a calculated strike (which is the kind that does the most damage).  And the reviews came the day after the show was last supposed to open, which is a logical, rational, and defensible date to use.

So, good for them.

If I was a Producer, I might not like it, but I had to expect it (and evident by the typical post-opening radio spots and other media that ran this morning, these Producers did expect it).

All that said, you know what the real question I was asking after I read the reviews?

It wasn’t how a $65 million dollar musical could get such bad reviews.

It wasn’t whether or not they should have been reviewed it or not.

It was, “Will the reviews matter?”

– – – – –


– – – – –

Enter to win this Sunday’s Giveaway: 2 tickets to see Pippin star Ben Vereen! Click here!

  • Kevin says:

    I whole heartedly agree, Ken. With this show being in the news so constantly for injuries and problems, it deserved to be reviewed. And I talked to some ladies sitting behind me last night at LA CAGE (remember when I groused how I couldn’t believe they were doing this revival — CROW EATEN!) and they cannot WAIT to see SPIDERMAN. I don’t think the reviews will hurt business and that saddens me a bit but the world will continue to spin.

  • I think it will be interesting to see if any of the critics (especially Brantley) will return after the “official” opening, assuming that ever happens. I’d like to hear their perspective about if the show actually changed at all, and whether or not this constant postponement actually resulted in any recognizable work being done. Some of the best shows around have changed significantly in previews, but from what I hear, not much about SPIDER-MAN has actually changed that much. You can’t just keep postponing opening because you know the show is probably not that good to begin with and is just going to be trashed by the critics. Do something! Actually fix it, and don’t just whine about it being “uncool” for people to judge your product just because you know it’s not quality.
    All that said, none of this is going to hurt ticket sales in the least, which is probably the saddest thing about all of this. The show’s gotten free publicity, and the public has once again proven they will buy into hype rather than quality.

  • Ryan says:

    Please, if you charge full-price for “previews” you are “open” as far as your patrons are concerned, so bring on the reviews. You either get to have your cake OR eat it.

  • Mozz says:

    I agree with Ken, and I think the producers were simply pushing the opening of the show to 2012, so that the world could end, as predicted by the Mayan Calendar, before any reviews came out.
    You know what. the reviews are out, and I’m glad. and I agree, those full prices for “previews”, and the constant postponement to “work” on the show. Well, they should have had an out of town try out then.
    Let’s just swat this spider, learn our collective producing lessons from it, and send it back to Hollywood where it belongs.

  • Eva Heinemann says:

    I’m a critic here and I think it was most rude. You don’t review an unfinished product whatever that might be. Nobody is giving them credit for trying to fix it so that we get the best show. My only gripe is that the prices should be cheaper to reflect preview prices and that might set a bad precedent like premium seating and constantly raising the price so that no one can afford to go to the theatre anymore which is a crying shame to me. Theatre used to be accessible to everyone.
    I’m perfectly content to wait til the real opening date. There’s too much other theatre to see right now anyway.
    Eva Heinemann / HI! DRAMA

  • Tom says:

    The only reason I can see an Opening night still happening is so once the production is ‘frozen’, they can now mass produce the show into theatres all over the world. Add a ‘junior’ version with music tracks and every elementary school kid will want to dress up as Spiderman or Green Goblin. Who will care at that point about the reviews?

  • dan mason says:

    Ken- I will take it a step further. It’s not “Will the Spiderman matter?”. It’s “does ANY review matter?”. Michael Riedel singlehandedly tried to kill The Addams Family. Every critic in the city crapped on Promises, Promises. They ended up being two of the biggest grossing new shows of last season.
    Isn’t there a huge disconnect between the tastes of people like all of us who come to this blog and the tastes of casual theater fans? Every one of my “non-theater” friends on the West Coast talks about Spiderman being the one show that they would love to see. Is it lowest common denominator in some regard? Yes. Do we need shows and spectacle like this to introduce new audiences to theater? Without question. Remember, if it were up to the critics, Wicked would have closed years ago.

  • Jack says:

    Spidey made grossed more than Wicked last week. But its all due to the “curiosity factor”. People are going to see it, and wanting to see it, because Spiderman is all anyone is talking about right now. Brantley hit the nail on the head when he wrote about audiences not caring about any kind of artistic merit, and just wanting to see disaster strike. That will wear off in time.

  • Anna says:

    I think the critics were not wrong to review the show also stating clearly that they understand it’s still in previews and no, I don’t think the reviews matter because people will eat up spectacle regardless of the quality of consumption.

  • dan mason says:

    @ Jack– “Artistic Merit” is so subjective. Brantley wants challenging material and couldn’t stop gushing over “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”. The show closed in three months. What has artistic merit means to you and I is not necessarily reflective of the overall audience. I find Jay Leno’s show to be lowest common denominator level comedy, but there are a whole lot of people in middle america that love his schtick. When I was 16 years old, I thought “Cats” and “Grease” were the best shows in musical theater. As an adult, I’d rather stab myself in the eye with a spork than sit through either of them. Yet, those shows introduced me to theater so that I could later appreciate the more challenging pieces as well. Spiderman, if it enjoys a healthy run, could do the same for this generation.
    In the meantime, don’t stress. “People In The Picture” opens soon. I’m sure you will LOVE IT! :o)

  • David King says:

    Yes, exactly.

  • The critics were perfectly right to review it. If the public is going to see it, then critics have a right to express their thoughts. That being said, I hope that despite the bad reviews that people will give the show a chance. Not because they are courting disaster, but because Reeve Carney is incredibly talented and deserves the encouragement of an audience in his corner, and not predisposed to be against him.

  • Jack says:

    lol, I’ve heard some of the music from “People in the Picture” and… *shudders*

  • Anna says:

    You New York fellows are so lucky if there is some sort of self discipline among the reviewers. Where I come from (Paris), the rule is that if a show is good enough to be presented and paid for by the public, then it is certainly good enough to be reviewed. If there is no organised viewing for the press for the first show, then either they buy their ticket or they won’t review the show at all.
    That leads to the question whether reviews matter. In my modest opinion they do not trigger or impeed anything but are merely the photography of a latent general opinion. So probably, bad reviews will not prevent a show to find its public, but which will be reduced to fans with a different set of values in their evalution of the show, and good reviews will do the same but also allow a broader scope of spectators because it is reassuring to know that a play is liked by the press when you are going to spend that amount of money. In the end, haven’t we decided upfront what to see or not independantly of any review? And then, isn’t the word of mouth so much a stronger incentive?

  • Michael P says:

    It’s a BRAND, just like the poorly reviewed Addams Family….this spider will continue spinning its web as long as there are pre-adolescents, adolescents and grown-ups who are caught up in it – a comic book and how many successful movies?
    Reviewed poorly or not, I wish I could have afforded a piece of that action !

Leave a Reply

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