Boston Globe Critic Misses Biggest Broadway Fail

The hardreading staff yields to no man in our respect for Boston Globe theater critic Don Aucoin.

But, man, did he miss the boat in his front-page piece yesterday.

Theater companies find fault sometimes is in their stars

Marquee names are a draw at the box office but can be a drain on the stage

As both noun and verb, there is probably no more important word in show business than “star.’’

But the reality is that when it comes to the stage, glittering names on the marquee can be a decidedly mixed Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 1.23.19 AMblessing. Theater companies and producers who try to tap into star power are often faced with a trade-off between the potential of boffo box office (especially advance sales) and the peril of artistic letdown (which alienates the very audiences who bought those advance tickets). The biggest name onstage can also be the weakest link.

Because they’re squeezing in theater appearances between movie or TV commitments, some big-name stars appear out of synch and out of place. Watching them flounder, you wonder how much work they did to unearth the essence of their characters, how little thought they’ve given to the unique dynamics of live performance (for instance, projecting to the last row, since there are no close-ups in theater), and even, sometimes, how certain of their lines they are.


The biggest Broadway bust, though, is the one Aucoin does not mention: Al Pacino in David Mamet’s new play China Doll.

Representative headlines:

Al Pacino having trouble remembering lines, needs telepromter

Al Pacino needs teleprompters for lines in terrible new Broadway play

Ticket sales have been good regardless, so the producers pushed back the opening by two weeks to this Friday, which means the reviews might be buried in Saturday’s editions of the New York papers.

Sort of like the play itself should be.

But, apparently, will not.

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