The Playgoer: Quote of the Day

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Quote of the Day

"With tickets going on sale months and months in advance of a show's opening - and with prices at $200 to $450 - I don't think it's inappropriate for columnists to give their impression of a show. I hope people read my reports on "Young Frankenstein" and "The Little Mermaid" out of town. I would have saved them lots of money.

These people are not making art. They're in it for the money. Period."

-The Post's Michael Riedel, defending his swipes at the forthcoming Shrek against Dramatist Guild prez John Wideman's objections.

Yes, in theory workshops should not be "reviewed." But my question for Disney--and for the Dramatists Guild--is: when you put on a "workshop" that's supposed to be invitation only and just for fundraising, etc...why do you invite the freakin' press???

The answer obviously is for puff pieces and free promotion. Such events are usually accompanied by Hollywood-esque "junket" interviews.

So is it fair to draw a distinction between a not-for-profit workshop and a Broadway "teaser"? Is Riedel right that criticizing the Shreks and Young Frankensteins in advance is fair game because "they're only in it for the money"?


Anonymous said...

"they're only in it for the money" - ha! that's funny. i wish i knew someone who was in theater for the money, but most of my peers know better.

in all seriousness, sure we have our share of misguided speculators, but there are just too many great folks in the theater, and too many who are in it for the love of it (rightly or wrongly). some make money, most do not, but is Riedel really trying to say that Mel Brooks is broke?

John Branch said...

I would've thought you'd get more responses to this. Maybe I haven't been checking in often enough to have a good sense of what your readers will "bite" on. More than one approach to the issue seems possible. If a critic sees his/her role primarily in aesthetic terms, as evaluating what a show does and how well it does it, then it almost doesn't matter when something is reviewed (except that tradition and the rules for getting free tickets may dictate waiting until opening): what matters is for that critic sooner or later to publish a review. On the other hand, if the critic's role is partly that of a consumer advocate, contributing to an informed decision on the part of theater fans about how to spend their money, then the critic might want to comment as soon as possible (i.e., before opening), for the reason that whenever the product is on sale, his/her advice should be available.

Regardless of that, Playgoer makes a salient point when he asks, "when you put on a 'workshop'... why do you invite the freakin' press?" When theater reaches the industrial scale, there are lots of dollars and often a shortage of common sense.

Esther said...

I thought that Riedel's comment on Jeannine Tesori: "this is for the country house," was nasty and uncalled for.

I do think it's unfair to say that these people are in it solely for the money. I think Mel Brooks truly wanted to make something entertaining, that would make people laugh. No one wants to attach their name and reputation to something that's going to embarrass them. At least I don't think they do! I do tend to be a pessimistic person, but even I'm not that pessimistic!

And you're right, it's kind of disingenuous for producers to invite the press hoping to get scads of good free publicity, then to complain when things don't turn out that way.

Is it fair to review a workshop? Probably not. But these days, there's no way to keep anything private. Even if you don't invite the press, someone will post a comment on a blog or a message board. The only way around it is to have people sign confidentiality agreements or something. And what are the chances of that!

Anyway, I think shows like "Shrek" and "Young Frankenstein" are pretty critic-proof. They have a built-in audience of young children, of fans of the movie, who will go see it regardless.

Mondschein said...

There are a couple of off-Broadway groups who offer me free seats in exchange for a write-up on their show - always prior to their official opening. Unless I've missed something along the way (and wouldn't deny that, btw), it seems they're looking for early buzz in whatever form they can get.

And for the record, the only request they have made of me is to post a discount offer for my readers. (both of them)