The Complex Dance of Broadway Shows and Theatre Critics

The fate of a show often hinges not just on the performances on stage but on the words penned by the critics. Consider the case of Carrie: The Musical, where the cast celebrated their Broadway opening with hopeful excitement, only for the mood to swiftly darken as the first reviews rolled in. These critical responses were not just unfavourable but scathing, leading to the show’s rapid closure after just a few performances. This incident highlights the intense and often harsh dynamic between theatre productions and their critics—a relationship filled with anticipation, influence, and, at times, profound disappointment.

Theatre criticism holds a peculiar, yet pivotal role in the arts ecosystem. It begins during previews, building up to opening night, which sees a select group of critics deliver their verdicts. These reviews, often reduced to a simplistic star rating, attempt to distill the rich, subjective experience of theatre into a quantifiable measure. This practice, though seemingly reductive, plays a critical role in documenting the nuances of a show, from creative decisions to performances, thereby providing a permanent record of ephemeral art.

On Broadway, a negative review in the New York Times can still spell trouble, though its influence may not be as decisive as in decades past. Across the Atlantic in London’s West End, the scene is more democratic; a mixed bag of reviews from various publications can mean life or death for a show, demonstrating that the critical landscape is varied and less dominated by a single entity.

Despite the influence critics may wield, their reviews do not always determine the ultimate fate of a production. For instance, shows like Beetlejuice and King Kong faced mixed reviews but continued to attract audiences, largely thanks to captivating performances and impressive stage effects. In a similar vein, Finding Neverland, led by Matthew Morrison, did not close merely due to critical disapproval but also because of a divided critical reception, with several reviewers appreciating its imaginative approach to storytelling.

Critics often reflect rather than shape the public’s reaction to a show. A production’s longevity is significantly influenced by word-of-mouth; even the most well-planned marketing efforts can’t sustain a show if it fails to ignite audience interest. Furthermore, critics serve as a gauge of public opinion, aligning with it at times, while at other times their assessments diverge sharply from popular views. Take Jersey Boys and Legally Blonde: both received lukewarm reviews when they opened, yet they overcame initial skepticism to enjoy long, celebrated runs, cementing their status in the annals of beloved musical theatre.

Ultimately, while critics wield considerable influence, their impact is nuanced and not as unilateral as the myth suggests. They contribute to a dialogue about theatre, one that resonates with or diverges from public opinion, but always within a larger conversation that celebrates and critiques the ever-evolving world of stage productions.

Photo Credit:

Leave a Reply

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