A Disclaimer on ReviewsPosted: July 29, 2014
I’ve been thinking a lot about reviews and critics recently. It remains fascinating to me how people can have such different opinions about things, and I’m not just referring to theatre. I’m talking about movies, TV, books, any form of art really. I mean, this isn’t news. Art is subjective. We know this. People are going to see it through their own eyes, approaching it with their own history of experiences, relating to it in their own way. If art weren’t subjective, it would be a whole lot less interesting, not to mention a lot less universal.
I find that in the theatre world, we tend to surround ourselves with those who have a similar aesthetic in the same way that our friendships naturally evolve. You know how you’re friends with people your friends are friends with? But even within that shared aesthetic, you’re still likely to have massive differences of opinions. My pal Matt loves the musical Ghost. I hate it with a fiery passion (sorry Matt, you know how I love to dig at that show). Jenn adores certain actors whom I would rather not see again. Brigitte loves the movie “Runaway Bride.” But despite these differences in opinion, I would still take their advice any day on what shows to see.
Honestly, it’s amazing to me that critics have a job, that the concept even exists. When opinions are so varied, how is it that one individual can make a living saying what he or she thinks? This isn’t a Yelp situation where a musical receives a certain star rating because 600 people went to see it and then commented about their favorite parts. So much of a production’s sales can depend on what the New York Times prints the night of its opening. Is the fate of a show in the hands of Ben Brantley and Charles Isherwood alone?
There are times I’m reading a Brantley review and it’s like he took the words right out of my mouth, but other times when I think, “Did we even see the same show?” I thought Aladdin was a major miss – it got great reviews. Matt and I did not care for last season’s Cinderella – same thing. ROCKY we loved. In fact, when it was in previews, I didn’t hear a negative thing about it in the general Broadway buzz. But then the reviews came out negative to mixed. I admit – I began to worry people would start to not trust my reviews, but it’s not really about trust, is it? It comes down to opinion and opinion alone. Not everyone will see eye to eye with me. The best I can do is share what I see and what I know, and from there it’s up to you.