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!

What a musical really needs, by Walter Kerr.

Walter Kerr was the Ben Brantley of the ’60s and ’70s.

What’s interesting about Kerr is that prior to his Pulitizer Prize-winning career as a critic for the NY Times, he was a book writer for Broadway musicals, and contributed to six shows on the Great White Way.  (What is also interesting to me is that he was one of Sondheim’s toughest critics and I often wonder if he’d change his tune if he’d been able to see any of the recent revivals.)

Kerr was pretty knowledgeable about what it took for a musical to work, and he said so in a very simple way on January 28, 1968, in his review of the original Off-Broadway production of Your Own Thing:.

Do you remember those little light bulbs that used to pop into place over the heads of comic strip characters whenever one of them got a bright idea?  All a good musical really needs is one such light bulb, for starters.  The wattage doesn’t matter, where it comes from doesn’t matter, the only thing that matters is the quick sharp click that lights the place up and lets us see things in sudden color.”

Kerr so poetically puts into words something that I think about all the time.

Yes, the play is the thing.

But without the right idea, the play is nothing.

How many pitches for shows have you heard that you just knew weren’t going to work?  They don’t feel musical.  The stakes don’t feel high enough.  They are too complicated, or not complicated enough.

When deciding what project you are going to spend the next several years of your life on, make sure the concept passes Kerr’s test.

The idea alone has to light up a room, so that the show can light up the stage.

To read the full article, including Kerr’s review of the yet-to-be-revived Your Own Thing, click this link:  Download ‘Kerr Has a Happier Time

Special thanks to my office historian, Jen, for putting this article on my desk.

First recoupment and now this!

It’s raining good news over at the Booth Theatre on Broadway.

Less than two weeks ago, the unlikely hit, Next to Normal, defied expectations and announced that it had recouped its investment.

Yesterday, in another “shocking” turn of events (get it?), N2N took home the biggest drama prize of them all . . . The Pulitzer!

To say that this was a surprise, would be like saying Alice Ripley’s character in N2N is just “in a mood.”

From the sound of the fallout, the choice was a surprise to the prize.jpgckin’ insiders as well.

First, Charles McNulty of the LA Times, and a member of the Drama Jury that was chosen by the Pulitzer Board to give recommendations on nominees, ripped the board a new one for ignoring the Jury’s recs in his article entitled, “On The Year’s Drama Award, The Pulitzer Board Blew It.”

Then came Patrick Healy’s revelation that “a lot” of Pulitzer Board Members saw N2N the night before their important vote for the winner (and you and I both know that awards are most likely to go to shows that are “fresh” in voters’ minds, right?).

And this morning, the HE in DidHeLikeIt Himself, Mr. Ben Brantley, wrote a very interesting op-ed piece in the New York Times expressing his frustration about the process, having been the Chairman of the Drama Jury in 2007, when the board overrode the Jury’s recommendations as well.

Whatever happened, it’s a fantastic story for a show that almost didn’t make it to Broadway and has now not only recouped, but also been awarded an incredible distinction.

Will this big prize have an impact at the BO?  Let’s watch and see . . . (my guess is that the people who the Prize means the most to have already seen the show, although I’d also bet that the ad agency is designing a big sign for the front of the theater to trumpet this news to all those tourists).

Congratulations to everyone involved for this incredible honor.  I’m sure they are all thrilled.

In fact, I heard a rumor that that lead character was so happy about the big win, it cured her depression.

– – – –

Normal is only the 8th musical to take home the P Prize, and it’s in great company.  Can you name the other seven?  Give it a shot, then click here for the answer.

You ask. You get. A rate for Oleanna.

I’ve received a bunch of requests from readers asking for a deal to see Oleanna.  So here it is, the Producer’s Perspective discount!

Only $59 bucks will get you in to see what Brantley called “arguably, the ultimate he-said, she-said drama” in last week’s NY Times Fall Preview (Better seats will cost you $65).

To get the deal, click here.
Oh, and here’s something even cooler that not many people know. We’ve put a very limited number of tickets for Opening Night on October 11th on sale.  These are at full price, but if you’ve never been to an opening, they are a lot of fun.  Lots of stars. Lots of butterflies. Lots of fun.
To get those, click here.
See you there!