Dear Broadway Stars: I Have To Apologize To You

Categories: Theater

Annie 2A.jpg
I'm basically bowing and scraping before your fabulous feet and saying "I'm so sorry".

And why am I apologizing? Because I'm old!

I've been around.

I've seen revivals upon revivals upon revivals of the shows you're currently reviving.

In fact, I even saw the originals!

So I'm always writing stuff like, "So-and-so had some very fine moments, but she couldn't hold a candle to the role's originator, Dorothy Loudon."

Or, "Miss Movie Star is a natural actress and never false, but excuse me, Cherry Jones was galvanizing in the role 16 years ago, and Miss Movie Star can't make me forget that for a moment."

And it's not fair to people attempting classic roles to have to be compared to those who previously shone in them!

Many years ago!

It's not right that they should have to be held against that imbalanced measuring stick simply because people like me have roamed the earth for decades and have seen (and remember) it all.

To new theatergoers, the current batch are the best ones in the roles--in fact, they're the only ones they've ever seen.

But then again...wait a second, let me think this's probably good to have a sense of history color one's look at new things.

It's hard to evaluate a production without noting the ways it was previously attempted while discerning what's been jazzed up, dumbed down, or maintained.

And besides, if an actor can't sparkle in a part that was magical when someone else did it, they should probably stick to the non classics and just do revivals of the shroud of Turin musical.

Then no one needs to worry about unfair comparisons.

Apology rescinded.

My Voice Nation Help

Actually it's not their fault. It's producers who will throw together a show with someone with the fraction of the talent or just plain not suited for the role. Combine that with the fact that there are no more Tommy Tunes, Michael Bennetts or Bob Fosse's, Tracked vocals or Orchestra parts, And Choreographers willing to dumb down their work to a box step and there you go.


And virtually every critic does it.


Comparing a production to previous productions is "personal bias"??? No, it's called reporting.


"It's hard to evaluate a production without noting the ways it was previously attempted..." That does not mean one should not make the attempt at all (JeffKurtti puts this far more eloquently). I hope the Voice pays close attention to your column and fires your ass for this. Personal bias should not get in the way of reviewing a production fairly.


>cough< Jessica Chastain >cough<


Unfortunately can't agree with this as a general rule (I'm not privy to the specific performances cited). I have many decades under my belt, too--enough to know that often, a golden memory is actually better than the actual performance was at the time; and that the memory is frequently influenced by my lack of perspective and context "back then." 

Even seeing a previous performance on film, kinescope, video, or audio recording carries nuance of perception and context with it. It's why in offering criticism it is best to take the present at face value, and offer context regarding those tools that were available to the performer and director. 

Guess what? NO ONE will ever play Effie in "Dreamgirls" the way I saw Jennifer Holliday play it (three times). But I'm not sure it's a part of a useful criticism of a revival performance.

miles46 1 Like

Not to mention, we also saw Betty Buckley, Cleo Laine and George Rose in Drood; Patti in Evita; Joe Mantegna in Glengarry; the long-haired guy in Jeckyll & Hype; the original Phantom fella with Mrs. Webber du Jour; and any number of people in Virginia Woolf and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Bonus points if you saw Sammy Davis in Golden Boy, but I wouldn't admit to being that old even if I did.


very true !!! It holds the same to fashion. 

bethesda topcommenter

The shroud of Turin musical??? Glad I missed that one.