Thursday, June 30, 2016

More Critics Axed; B'way Update

Elisabeth Vincentelli
The number of paid, professional New York theater critics has been reduced yet again. Jeremy Gerard of Deadline and Elisabeth Vincentelli of the New York Post have both been given the axe. It's becoming like a remake of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None where ten strangers are called to a remote island for a weekend and are bumped off one by one. Gerard and Vincentelli are just the latest in a long line of scribblers to be shown the door as print shrinks, the web expands and fewer readers click on theater reviews. Media corporations are losing money, slashing budgets and cutting out marginal, niche writers. Steven Suskind, David Finkle, Jesse Oxfeld, Michael Sommers, the late Jacques LeSourd, and many others were let go from their long-standing perches. Some have landed on their feet. One such is Michael Feingold who was dismissed from the Village Voice in 2013 but was reinstated this year when the paper got a new owner. There is no shortage of bloggers and freelancers but they are paid little or nothing. In another disturbing development, Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press announced the wire service would no longer be covering Off-Broadway because their client publications felt it was a waste of money.

Gerard extensively covered on and Off-Broadway for Deadline, one of the entertainment-news websites that sprung up as a result of Variety and Hollywood Reporter losing their dominance in the field. Deadline decided to cut back on theater coverage. The Post announcement is more devastating and they didn't even make a formal declaration. The news leaked out via a Tweet from Vincentelli confirming her dismissal. There is no word from the Post about what their theater reviews will consist of, if anything. Back in October, Vincentelli's reviews, which were short to begin with, got even briefer. Sometimes they were only blurbs of a few sentences in a "See It or Skip It" column. Ironically, Gerard was the only major theater columnist to even write about the fact that one of the three major daily publications in New York was razoring back its commitment to the theater industry, the city's biggest tourist attraction.

In another ironic twist, the Post's acerbic theater reporter Michael Riedel failed to even mention the axing of his colleague in his most recent column which covered the subject of critics in plugging "The Critics Say...," a new book about the subject by Matt Windman of AM New York. Windman interviewed over 50 critics (including me) about the precarious nature of the job.

Is Riedel's position safe? Who knows. And who will be writing the Post's reviews now? There are a few prominent Off-Broadway productions coming up-- Privacy starring Daniel Radcliffe at the Public Theater and Oslo, a play about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at Lincoln Center's Mitzi Newhouse. Will the Post even cover them? The next Broadway openings are the touring version of Motown, which is essentially the same show as the one that played Broadway previously, and a revival of Cats. It will be interesting to see if the Post will bother to assign someone to write these shows up.

Speaking of the new Broadway season, there have been some new shows announced since my last update: Oh Hello on Broadway, a two-person comedy act; Anastasia, the musical based on the animated film about the young woman claiming to the last survivor of the Russian imperial family; and Significant Other, Joshua Harmon's comedy about a young gay man looking for love as each of his straight female friends gets married. The last named is the first new American play announced for the season and technically it's not even new since it played Off-Broadway last year. Many of the new productions including Heisenberg, In Transit, Dear Evan Hansen, and Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 have been seen Off-Broadway.

Here is the updated Broadway calendar for 2016-17
July 12--Motown the Musical (Nederlander, previews begin, official opening TBA)
July 31--Cats (Neil Simon)
Sept. 12--Black to the Future (Marquis)
Sept. 29--The Encounter (Golden)
Oct. 10--Oh Hello on Broadway (Lyceum)
Oct. 13--Holiday Inn, the New Irving Berlin Musical (Studio 54/Roundabout)
Oct. 13--Heisenberg (MTC/Friedman)
Oct. 16--The Cherry Orchard (American Airlines/Roundabout)
Oct. 20--The Front Page (Broadhurst)
Oct. 27--Falsettos (Walter Kerr)
Oct. 30--Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Booth)
Nov. 14--Natasha, Pierre, and The Great Comet of 1812 (Imperial)
Nov. 25--The Illusionists: Turn of the Century (Lunt-Fontanne)
Fall 2016--In Transit (Circle in the Square)
Dec. 1--A Bronx Tale (Longacre)
Dec. 4--Dear Evan Hansen (Belasco)
Jan. 8--The Present (Barrymore)
Jan. 19--Jitney (MTC/Friedman)
March 9, 2017--Groundhog Day
March 16--The Price (Roundabout/AA)
March 23--The Glass Menagerie (Golden)
March--Significant Other (Theatre TBA)
April 19--The Little Foxes (MTC/Friedman)
April 20--Hello, Dolly! (Shubert)
April 24--Anastasia (Broadhurst)
2016-17 (Dates TBA)--Singin' in the Rain, The Bandstand, The SpongeBob Musical, The Wiz, Camp David, Photograph 51
Spring 2017--Amelie, Come From Away, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
2017--Sherlock Holmes
2017-18--To Kill a Mockingbird
Spring 2018--Frozen

Future--Archie, Soul Train, Pretty Woman, The First Wives Club, Magic Mike, Freaky Friday, King Kong, Miss Saigon, The Visitor, Bombshell, Escape from Margaritaville, Monopoly the Musical

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