Theater archives

Broadway Hits Have Become Critic-Proof Like Movies!


It used to be that a Broadway show that got raves would have a pretty good chance of being a hit and one that got trashed by critics would most likely fold.

This was the complete opposite of movies, whereby something that got great reviews could easily flop if it didn’t have mass appeal, while the biggest hits of the year were poorly reviewed action franchise flicks whose only award consideration was for the Razzies.

Well, in the last several years I’ve sensed a change, theatrically speaking.

(And by the way, there are glaring exceptions to all the rules I’m spouting here; I’m just talking about trends.)

Yes, some of Broadway’s current hits got good reviews and won Tonys, but there are an unusual amount that got kicked and spat on and continue to thrive.

In the top 10, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark continues to gross well over a million a week, despite the critical sense that they should turn off the lights.

Glengarry Glenn Ross was not universally considered to be an artistic triumph, but the presence of Al Pacino made everyone go “hoo-ha” and check it out.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof has gotten mixed reviews, but with Scarlett Johansson purring around the bed, it’s practically the new Cats. (I’m exaggerating, but it’s doing pretty well. Definitely not a dog.)

And Evita was picked apart by the scribes (though I loved it), but with Ricky Martin in the leading role–yes, the marketing acted like he was the lead–even more people lined up to buy tickets than went to Evita’s funeral.

Meanwhile, the best reviewed Broadway production of the season, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, limps along, tourists not all that interested because it doesn’t have “stars”! Similarly, as Patrick Healy noted in the Times, The Mystery of Edwin Drood isn’t doing as well as one might think, considering the critical bouquets it deservedly received. (Talk about a mystery.)

In the old days, raved-about shows didn’t always become smashes, but they usually developed a “must-see” glow, and as for badly reviewed shows, big names could keep them going via sheer starpower, but the production would plotz soon enough.

Now, it seems, with out-of-towners desperate to see an epic, a spectacle, an event, and a movie star–and having to pay big bucks to do that–so-so stuff can run forever.

Just sayin’.