More of the Critic Debate - Now from Down Under

From Alison Croggon's (blogger of theatre notes) review of Jersey Boys in Australia:
"On the morning of the Australian premiere of Jersey Boys, I had an appointment with an osteopath to deal with the Gordian knots in my shoulders.

"My osteo is a young woman from Taylor's Lakes with the hands of a ministering angel. While she was busy with the medical equivalent of breaking rocks, she asked me if I was doing anything special that weekend. With a sigh, I said that I had to see Jersey Boys. Musicals, I explained, are just not my bag. And me, I'd prefer to stay home with a DVD, wearing my fluffiest bed socks.

"She clasped her hands to her breast. "Oh!" she said. "I'd love to see Jersey Boys! I wish I could afford to go! You're so lucky!"

"I felt properly chastened. The privileges of a critic shouldn't, after all, blind me to the naive pleasures of seeing a show."
It's an interesting way to start what turns out to be a positive, if not glowing, review of the production. You may find the exchange concerning her tone and critical assessment in her review (original article taken from The Australian) on Alison's blog to be quite engaging.

Taken from Avi's first comment on the blog:
"I've freely admitted how much I admire you as a reviewer but I cringed when I read the first paragraph of your Jersey Boys review in The Australian. If musicals are "just not your bag", why review them? Surely you're going to be watching music theatre shows with a bias that prevents you from being really objective about the piece?

"The fact that you gave Jersey Boys a favourable review doesn't change the fact that you opened the article by stating that you don't like musicals. Therefore, your review is tainted with your disdain for the form, and no amount of glitzy costumes and showy numbers is going to change that."
Avi goes on to mention her frustrations concerning a stigma against the musical theater art form in Australia among legit theater and artistic communities.

Alison chimes in respectfully. Here's a snippet:
"Aside from having a little fun at my own expense (and hopefully amusing one or two readers, rather than as is my wont enraging them)... there is a serious subtext to my playing about. Yes, I wasn't especially looking forward to it. Yes, I was coming from a place of privilege, and that little conversation made me realise that I was wrong to do so. Do you think that there isn't a divide between a reviewer who gets free tickets and goes to the swisho opening nights, and the punter who just loves musicals and saves up for the ticket? Isn't it better to acknowledge that gap (most reviewers don't but that doesn't mean that it's not operating), and to be reminded that there's a lot of point to what I said were the naive pleasures of seeing a show?"
The rest of the exchange is spirited and reminds me of that ever ongoing debate of the critic's role (see Chris' post What Are Critics Good For?). Thoughts readers?

See the entire theatre notes exchange here.

Note: Commentator Avi owns a blog called Life Upon the Wicked Stage which is invite only. I don't have access to it, but I am curious if any of my readers do.


Jessica said...

sounds interesting, I'll have to read Croggon's review (and add her to the blogroll, which I've been meaning to for forever, but seemed to always forget!)...

I have some opinions about this, but i need to gather my thoughts together first...

Joseph Gomez said...

i'm always in a perpetual state of 'gathering my thoughts together.' in other words, i think im lazy.


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