I've noticed that some of your reviews lately have stated that you have gotten a free copy of a book to review, or received free tickets to a show you are reviewing. I know you say that you aren't obligated to give a good review, but be honest. Doesn't that influence your opinion a little?
MM, Brooklyn, NY
Thank you for writing - and for reading "the fine print." I have been fortunate that people directly involved with Broadway productions have found their way to my blog and that they think highly enough of it to ask me to review their product or show. I'd like to think that at least part of what makes them ask me in the first place is that my reviews come across as honest opinions supported by facts and details. And I'll assume that before they even ask me, they've read more than one review. So, I feel obligated - more to you than to them, really - to continue to share my honest opinions. If they are good, great, if not, that's fine, too. While I can't speak for these people directly, I can tell you that nothing in our conversations leading up to complimentary tickets or books, even implies that I will automatically like what I see. And should a negative review result in my no longer being asked to review something, so be it. I'll buy the book or the ticket if I want read/see the book/show enough, anyway!
I just got done reading your reviews of Catch Me If You Can and The Book of Mormon. I have to say that yours are the most thorough reviews I've read of either show. You also seem to have the most opposite opinions on both shows that I've read. Do you always root for the shows that are not the hottest tickets and go harsher on the big hits? Last year, you loved Come Fly Away and The Addams Family...
Tarana J., Washington, DC
Thanks for writing, and for being such a long time reader! I get variations on this question a lot, though usually it has to do with my seeming to like EVERYTHING! I guess the bottom line is that I try to go into every show with the attitude that this is going to be a great show, and the truth is, it is rare that I outright hate any show I see. Please note that I say, "I try." I am human, and I am influenced by past experiences, and, try as I might to avoid it, public opinion. For example, I generally do not like the kind of humor associated with the creators of South Park, who both wrote The Book of Mormon. I purposely made myself watch an entire episode of that show just so I wouldn't be operating under any pre-conceived notions about their brand of humor. Further, I absolutely HATED (and I know I contradicted what I just said) both The Producers and Spamalot, which I kept reading about being comparable to The Book of Mormon. So, I have to admit I went in with a certain dread that I couldn't be fair to the show because of all this baggage. And yet, I really liked it a lot. Enough that I'd like to see it again, and I can't wait for the Cast Recording! That said, I stand by my chief objection to the show, which has mostly to do with the pacing and structure of the scenes. As far as Catch Me If You Can goes, I guess it is a matter of taste. I love sophisticated, complicated shows that ask you to mentally participate every step of the way. And I am a sucker for big dance numbers. Which is why I loved Come Fly Away. As for The Addams Family, it just hit me right. Big, splashy sets, costumes and dance numbers, plus a very funny book, coupled with an understanding that they weren't replicating the films or the TV series, but rather the comics, allowed me to love it for what it was, not what it wasn't.
Now that it is on hiatus, what do you really think of Spider-Man?
I was wondering how long it would take to have someone ask me that! You win!
I will honor the work of the original team by not offering a formal review, as the show never officially opened. However, I will say this: it is so far away from being the worst musical of all time - even at the 5th preview I attended - that it makes the reviews that did come out laughable. But it was still in massive need of overhaul in several areas. And I will also mourn the loss of some things that Julie Taymor created for the show if they don't make it to version 2.0. There were some truly stunning moments that I hope I'll never forget. Still, I want the show to be a success, and to be the payoff that the cast deserves. And this is history in the making. What an absolute thrill to have this opportunity to watch and learn!
On a similar note, I noticed today when I was at another theatre site, that the banner ads for Spider-Man have a significant change to them. They now say "Previews Begin May 12!" "Begin"? Interesting... are we supposed to forget the other 150 or so? This is a clear signal that they are distancing themselves from the original. I am surprised that no one has cried "foul" yet about this, given the shows history of being attacked for every little thing. A quick look at the show's website also offers some hints as to where things stand at the Foxwoods Theatre: The title page offers the same "Previews Begin May 12!", but also still lists Julie Taymor as co-writer and director. Deeper in, she remains as the director of record, and none of the new creative team members are listed, but the four members of The Geek Chorus are no longer a part of the cast list. (Everyone else remains so far...). I guess that means legal negotiations are ongoing, but things are moving in getting the show overhauled.
THE NORMAL HEART CONTEST QUESTION OF THE DAY!
It is not too late to join the contest to win TWO FREE TICKETS to Broadway's The Normal Heart! Click HERE for complete rules and Trivia Question #1. Trivia Question #2 can be found HERE.
TRIVIA QUESTION #3:
Lee Pace will be making his Broadway debut in The Normal Heart. He played the lead in which TV series that also featured a lot of Broadway stars?
B. Pushing Daisies
C. The Good Wife
D. Law and Order
Look for question #4 at the bottom of Wednesday's blog! And remember, you need to give the letter AND the answer on your entry!
(Photo of The Normal Heart star Lee Pace)