Apr 4, 2011

Brantley the Outlier

One reason Isaac and I created StageGrade was for situations like this: Ben Brantley had by far the meanest review of the new revival of How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Though he certainly isn't the only critic who thinks that first-time musical theater star Daniel Radcliffe isn't up to the task of carrying the show, he's the only critic who compared the result to "Dancing With the Stars." As I point out in my summary at StageGrade (where the vast majority of reviews of the show are in the B range, with enough high marks above that to make the median a solid B+):
Critics fall into roughly three camps: Those who think that Radcliffe's innocent eagerness, even his slightly cipher-like quality, perfectly suit the material; those who think that Rob Ashford's similarly effortful production mostly succeeds despite the lead's forgivable shortcomings, particularly in the vocal department; and those, like the Times' Ben Brantley, who essentially view the show as a strenuous vanity project.
I have no brief for this revival, which I haven't even seen (though the reviews, on balance, make me more interested than not). But I was at Humana this past weekend, and when the talk turned to Broadway (as it does, even at Humana), people almost invariably referred to How To Succeed with that damaged-goods look, as if to say, "Yeah, I heard it's terrible," when what they really meant was: I read Brantley's review.

In short, for people who only take the trouble and time to read one review, whosever it is, we're hoping they spend a few extra minutes clicking over to StageGrade for a more comprehensive overview of a how shows are actually faring with the press (and the community, which seems to share the consensus on How To Succeed).

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