"Some theater people are shivering with fear that their jobs are about to disappear. Unfortunately, they won't get much sympathy from anyone else on Broadway. That's because they're newspaper drama critics, those once all-powerful arbiters who, with a vicious turn of phrase, could close a show, humiliate an actor, bankrupt an investor. Now they're in danger of being shut down themselves, done in by declining circulation, shrinking arts coverage and that dreaded rival who's usurped their power, The Blogger."
Of course for Michael Riedel (author of the above, in case you couldn't tell) "The Blogger" amounts to some guys on All That Chat.
But sobering news indeed that such familiar names as the Star-Ledger's Michael Sommers and Peter Filichia, as well as our friend Eric Grode, formerly of the late NY Sun--are all out of jobs now. (Some voluntarily. Sommers, reports Riedel, took a buyout--as are so many journo's these days.)
Here's a wistful statement from Sommers that pretty much captures the changing times:
"We were all misled," says Sommers. "I thought I was going to be George Sanders. [i.e. Addison DeWitt in All About Eve.] Then I found out we don't get invited to the parties. There's no glamour anymore. During the stagehands strike, my editors had me standing on the sidewalk at 2 a.m. getting quotes."Hey at least they had someone on the street covering the strike. But in the old days, the paper might have actually had a theatre reporter (or two!) in addition to the critic. It's now a one-man beat, if that.
Also newsworthy is this view of the changing landscape from the PR Firm view:
"A review is the only kind of editorial you're going to get for an off-Broadway play," the publicist says. "But for a big musical or a play with a star, the critics don't matter at all."This confirms the obvious recent trend of "critic-proof" hits, like "Little Mermaid" and "Grease." In fact, given the concurrent rise of "praise-proof" flops on the drama side ("Journey's End," "Well," "[title of show]" and even, to an extent, "Passing Strange") dare we come to the conclusion that print critics are mattering less and less on Broadway in general?
If true, then that remark about the Off Broadway impact seems all the more salient, doesn't it.