Monday, February 02, 2009

The Afternoon Report, February 2, 2009

This information, called The Afternoon Report, is provided by a daily email blast from the publicity firm of Boneau Bryan-Brown, which maintains this blog. This feature doesn't run daily but whenever The Afternoon Report seems to point out articles of interest.

Don’t review this
Minnesota Playlist - by Melodie Bahan
I have a stack of books in my living room – collections of essays and reviews by some of the country’s best theater critics. They include reviews you want to read whether you’re going to see a show or not – the kind of journalism that gets published as collections. The most recently published in my stack is Frank Rich’s collection of writings from the New York Times.

Growing up, I read Rich’s writings at the library in a small town in Illinois. They provided me with a glimpse into what professional theater was, and without my ever having seen a professional production, they illuminated the work with their words in a way that helped me understand it and long to see it done well. Whether he was writing about something as sublime as Dreamgirls or as ridiculous as Moose Murders, his words shaped my image of theater and his obvious love for and deep understanding of the art form instilled in me as much respect for those who write about the theater as for those who create it:

When Broadway history is being made, you can feel it. What you feel is a seismic emotional jolt that sends the audience, as one, right out of its wits. While such moments are uncommonly rare these days, I'm here to report that one popped up at the Imperial last night. Broadway history was made at the end of the first act of Michael Bennett's beautiful and heartbreaking new musical, Dreamgirls…. Miss Holliday just keeps riding wave after wave of painful music -clutching her stomach, keeling over, insisting that the scoundrel who has dumped her is ''the best man I'll ever know.'' The song can end only when Mr. Bennett matches the performer's brilliance with a masterstroke of his own - and it's a good thing that Act I of Dreamgirls ends soon thereafter. If the curtain didn't fall, the audience would probably cheer Jennifer Holliday until dawn.

Rich left the theater desk in 1993. Was he the last of the great theater critics? Is his type of criticism even being written anymore?
Well, of course it is. As for whether anyone possesses the power and the gravitas of Rich, well, that's another story. But as I've said many times before, that is a good thing, not a bad thing, for the American theatre. Does Bahan realize this? I don't know.

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