Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Thinking About Reviews

A few friends of mine who don't really know all that much about show biz were asking me questions about what the reviews mean. They just wanted a little perspective.

So, to clarify, the Gold Standard, the one review in the WORLD that you must have in order to succeed, especially if you don't really have a "pre-sold" show such as a Disney musical or if you don't have much money for advertising or publicity, is the New York Times review. It's the pinnacle.

When they write their reviews, they are usually very "stingy" with words of praise -- and they always -- ALWAYS -- point out what's wrong with your play or musical. Even if they say something positive, they will usually find a qualifier to match it, a big "but..."

Also, they usually, as one of the producers explained to me yesterday, find ways to say positive things to make it difficult to get a really good "pull-quote." They are very aware of the position as the "last word" in the arts, so all this is understandable. If they endorse something, then they are usually very careful to make sure that their name is not diluted or watered down by too much praise.

That's why our NY Times review was so astounding. It was FULL of pull-quotes and there were NO qualifiers. None. Not a single negative note.

Then it happened again with the Variety review. And it happened again with the Village Voice review.

Do you know how small our show is? The other big NY newspapers declined to even send a critic. That comes from being nobodies from nowhere playing in a new theatre no one ever heard of. After all, it's crowded marketplace. A lot of shows opened the same week we did.

And, as I said before, our show was financed by friends and family who believed in us. No big producers. Nobody writing huge checks. No underwriters. The entire production is a labor of love.

So, credit has to go to Keith Sherman, the publicist, who managed to get the Times in. From here, our marketing team of Eliran Murphy, also one of the best in town who chose to work with us because they believed in the material and were "heart-drawn" to it, now has something to work with.

Again, these reviews were everything to a little show like ours. They would either make us or break us. And the other thing we have going for us is the word of mouth coming out of the back of the theatre. The audiences LOVE the show. So, while nothing is assured and nothing is guaranteed, with a little more media exposure -- if theatre goers SEE the reviews and if the word of mouth kicks in -- we could settle in for a nice, long run.

Wouldn't that be a beautiful holiday gift?


James said...

I've been following the production ever since ordering the original CD and video of one of the LA performances. I'm so glad to hear that the show is going so well! Best of luck guys!

Anonymous said...

This is so unusual and so flat out wonderful a review. Fingers crossed and great cheeers from here.

Katie. said...

Yay for Steve and Jim!

And that NYT Review... WOW. I'm so thrilled for you two (you're completely right about their reviews, by the way, I read tons of their reviews and there are always qualifiers) and hopefully it brings tons of people to the theater.

And hopefully those tons of people keep going to the theater, keeping you two working like madmen. Then I'll finally have to come out to New York and see a real off-Broadway show.

Sending you both lots of hugs and congratulations from the West Coast.

Steve Schalchlin said...

Now, it all comes down to precise marketing and promotion -- as well as money to run long enough for word of mouth to turn into big ticket sales. Usually, it takes about three months for that to happen. But we're doing very well so far. We've only been open, officially, for one week and our producers are very enthused about ticket sales so far. But even more than that, the word of mouth coming out of the theater is REALLY good. So, we keep our fingers crossed and let's see what happens!