Michael Riedel Doesn’t Have Any Answers, But He Has Some Ideas


(You have no idea how long I have waited to use that picture.)

Tuesday, Matt Windman wrote on amNY’s website, “And Michael Riedel, if you’re reading this, get to work and figure out what the fuck happened.” Well, Riedel’s column doesn’t tell us really tell us what happened.

He does dismiss the “conflict of interest” explanation that the Tony Award management has given. The comp ticket theory isn’t really debunked. He writes,

Producers have long balked at having to shell out so many free tickets at Tony time. Eight hundred pairs of orchestra comps have a street value of about $225,000. Thin the voting ranks, and you save some money.

Besides, the press already gets freebies when the show opens. Why give them more?

And there are a lot of schnorrers on the press list.

“You wouldn’t believe how fast they have their hands out for their Tony tickets — and many of them want three or four tickets,” a publicist says.

At least this quote is suggesting that the cost issue is a very possible reason. He also writes that there are some members of the press list that only go to the major shows, but a lot of people that aren’t on the press list only go to the major shows.

After discussing these possible reasons for the dismissal, Riedel wrote this,

But in the end, the Tonys are run by and for the commercial theater. They’re marketing tools, and any hue and cry about “integrity” is beside the point. If the producers don’t want journalists around, well, it’s their party.

Which is not to say the press shouldn’t take its revenge.

I’m all for a down and dirty fight. Broadway’s a lot more fun to write about when there’s acrimony in the air.

First of all, I think anyone who reads Michael Riedel’s column somewhat regularly knows that he likes a down and dirty fight. It’s something to dish about. I can also, sadly, say that his column is much more interesting “when there’s acrimony in the air.”

So how should the critics fight back? Well, Riedel has four suggestions.

One is to not see the show at the press preview or on opening night. His reasoning is that a show might have several weeks of previews, but the producers still charge full price. What if the critics wait a couple of weeks, see the show and then file their review? Personally, I’m not so sure about this because there might be some artistically brilliant show that could suffer if there aren’t reviews hailing it. The big movie adaptions wouldn’t suffer because of a recognizable name if this happened. Yes, it’d be a great way to get revenge on the producers, but think of the artistically worthy plays that would suffer.

His second suggestion is to ignore the “crass commercial shows.” By this he means “9 to 5,” “Shrek,” “Legally Blond,” and, next season, “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.” This is something that I’m not as questioning of, but the producers for those shows probably don’t even care if critics like their shows. Those shows, again, sell by name recognition. Joe Schmo from Waverly, Iowa probably doesn’t care if Elisabeth Vincentelli thought the performances were stunning.

The third suggestion is for the press to ignore the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing. I really don’t have any comment on this because I don’t think I have the place to discuss this.

The fourth suggestion is for the Drama Critics Circle Awards to be beefed up. This is because those awards recognize the shows that the critics that are members of the organization feel are the best shows of the season. I would like to see the Drama Desk Awards to get a better coverage and to see a better awareness of the Drama Critics Circle Awards. The Drama Desk Awards because it honors off-Broadway and Broadway productions, as does the Drama Critics Circle Awards. The Tony Awards only recognize the shows on Broadway and, as a result, ignore some great off-Broadway productions.

I think Michael Riedel might be trying to incite a revolution against the producers, or at least a firm reestablishing of the critics’ power in the theater.

A reestablishing of the power is what he seems to imply in the final sentences of his column:

It [the theatre press] still has platforms, it still has power.

It can put its boot on Broadway’s neck and break it.

Ladies and gentlemen, I think that this is the major topic in theater that will keep evolving as time goes on.


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