Sunday, October 9, 2016

Critical Shrinking; Broadway Update

Elysa Gardner, no longer with USA Today,
now freelances
The NYC community of theater critics continues to shrink. We're like some rare endangered species in a seldom-visited jungle and nobody seems to care as our numbers diminish. (We don't even get a late-night commercial with sad music pleading for funds to save us.) It was barely noticed that Elysa Gardner left USA Today where she was the theater and rock critic since 2000. There has been no announcement as to whether she was let go or departed voluntarily. She briefly tweeted the information that she was no longer with the nationwide publication on Aug. 1. Worse, there was no mention of it in any of the chat boards or on any of the theater-related websites (Not that I could find anyway.) USA Today has apparently dropped theater coverage altogether. They did not assign anyone to review the first two Broadway openings of the fall--The Encounter and Holiday Inn

On June 30, I blogged that Elisabeth Vincentelli of the New York Post and Jeremy Gerard of Deadline had been dismissed from their publications. Vincentelli, like Gardner, is now working freelance. The former New York Post critic has had assignments from the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the Wall Street Journal. Gerard is still writing for Deadline, the insider show-biz website, but on a freelance basis and has resumed covering the theater scene from both a critical and journalistic angle without missing a beat. So that is some consolation.

Those major publications with a print component are devoting less and less room to serious critical theater writing. The Post assigned staff entertainment writer Johnny Oleksinski to review The Encounter, Simon McBurney's solo play featuring sensational immersive sound design. Oleksinski adapted the Post snarky house style and nastily dismissed the show as an elitist snoozefest, labelling the show "the perfect night out for the nose-up, pinky-out set" and "This American Life-less Bore." (I always put my pinky out when attending the theater, don't you?) That's okay, at this stage, we should be grateful the Post is covering Broadway at all. They failed to send a critic to Holiday Inn, perhaps because its target audience is too old for their desired demographic but they will probably dispatch Oleksinski to Oh Hello since it stars two click-bait Comedy Central comedians. (I saw the show last night and the audience was the youngest I've seen at the theater in years.) The Daily News is still fulfilling the mission to evaluate Broadway shows, but just barely. Joe Dziemianowicz's review of Holiday Inn was only 135 words.

In related news, there has been a mini-brouhaha among the scribbler set over press dates. Scott Rudin, the producer of the all-star revival of The Front Page decided to harken back to the days of the play's settings, the 1920s when reviewers all attended opening night and ran up the aisle as the curtain fell to get to their offices for the morning edition. Nowadays, first-night critics are invited on a range of dates during the last few previews. For a publicity stunt, the major press were invited only on opening night. They were also given a ticket to the opening night party. The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney was the sole regrets-only respondee, stating he has previous plans that night and could not attend. How about an earlier preview performance? Rudin shot back nothing doing. As of now, all are waiting to see who will blink first. 

Updating Broadway, Lucas Hnath's A Doll's House 2 will open at the Golden just before the Tony nomination cut-off. Starring Laurie Metcalf, Chris Cooper, Jayne Houdyshell, and Condola Rashad, this is a sequel to Ibsen's revolutionary work. A Doll's Life, a 1982 musical, followed a similar track, but was a quick flop. Hanth's plays Death Tax which I saw at the Humana Festival at the Actors Theater of Louisville, and The Christians and Red Speedo, both Off-Broadway last season, displayed innovation and imagination. So it should be interesting.

Here's an updated breakdown of the Broadway and Off-Broadway season:

July 12--Motown the Musical (Nederlander)--already closed
July 31--Cats (Neil Simon)
Sept. 12--Black to the Future (Marquis)
Sept. 29--The Encounter (Golden)
Oct. 6--Holiday Inn, the New Irving Berlin Musical (Studio 54/Roundabout)
Oct. 10--Oh Hello on Broadway (Lyceum)
Oct. 13--Heisenberg (MTC/Friedman)
Oct. 16--The Cherry Orchard (American Airlines/Roundabout)
Oct. 20--The Front Page (Broadhurst)
Oct. 21--Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons on Broadway (Lunt-Fontanne)
Oct. 25--Vietgone (MTC/City Center Stage I)
Oct. 27--Falsettos (Walter Kerr)
Oct. 30--Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Booth)
Nov. 2--Kingdom Come (Roundabout/Laura Pels)
Nov. 14--Natasha, Pierre, and The Great Comet of 1812 (Imperial)
Nov. 20--Sweet Charity (New Group/Pershing Signature Center)
Nov. 21--This Day Forward (Vineyard)
Nov. 22--Alton Brown Live: Eat Your Science (Barrymore)
Nov. 25--The Illusionists: Turn of the Century (Palace)
Dec. 1--A Bronx Tale (Longacre)
Dec. 4--Dear Evan Hansen (Belasco)
Dec. 5--The Babylon Line (LCT/Newhouse)
Dec. 11--In Transit (Circle in the Square)
Jan. 8--The Present (Barrymore)
Jan. 19--Jitney (MTC/Friedman)
March 2--Significant Other (Booth)
March 6--Burn This (Hudson)
March 12--Come from Away (Schoenfeld)
March 16--The Price (Roundabout/AA)
March 23--The Glass Menagerie (Golden)
March 23--Miss Saigon (Broadway)
April 5--Present Laughter (St. James)
April 13--Oslo (LCT/Vivian Beaumont)
April 19--The Little Foxes (MTC/Friedman)
April 20--Hello, Dolly! (Shubert)
April 23--Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Lunt-Fontanne)
April 24--Anastasia (Broadhurst)
April 27--A Doll's House, Part 2 (Golden)
2016-17 (Dates TBA)--The Bandstand, The SpongeBob Musical, The Wiz, Camp David, Photograph 51
Spring 2017--Amelie, Half Time, M. Butterfly
2017--Sherlock Holmes, Singin' in the Rain, Pat Benatar Musical
2017-18--To Kill a Mockingbird
Spring 2018--Frozen (St. James), The Flamingo Kid

2016-17 Broadway Season

New Plays
A Doll's House, Part 2
The Encounter
The Present
Significant Other

New Musicals
A Bronx Tale
Come From Away
Dear Evan Hansen
Groundhog Day
Holiday Inn, the New Irving Berlin Musical
In Transit
Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812

Play Revivals
Burn This
The Cherry Orchard
The Front Page
The Glass Menagerie
Les Liaisons Dangereuses
The Little Foxes
Present Laughter
The Price

Musical Revivals
Hello, Dolly!
Miss Saigon
Motown the Musical

Special Attractions
Alton Brown Live: Eat Your Science
Black to the Future
Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons on Broadway!
The Illusionists: Turn of the Century
Kristin Chenoweth: My Love Letter to Broadway
Oh Hello on Broadway

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