Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Front page news: "Addams Family" musical

These days, it's rare enough to find much to read in the dwindling arts sections of America's daily newspapers--even in the estimable New York Times--but today that paper ran a story on the front page of the main news section (albeit "below the fold") about the great success of The Addams Family musical on Broadway despite uniformly bad reviews.

It was almost like the Times could not believe their own critic had failed to kill the show with his venomous review, so that made it "front page news."

The Times story says that the show has already sold more than $6 million in tickets, and that only the combination of an already well-known name-brand like The Addams Family and a brand-name Broadway musical theatre star like Nathan Lane (they give scant mention to co-star Bebe Neuwirth) meant that this show could puncture the conventional wisdom of The Great White Way.

Then the arts section front page carried a story by the Times theatre critic Ben Brantley about yesterday's announcement that the Pulitzer Prize for Drama went to the acclaimed musical Next to Normal--a decision made by the Pulitzer board that overrode the recommendations of its selection panel. Brantley pooh-poohs the Pulitzers in drama as having a record of being awarded rarely to anything but mainstream and mediocre works (he should know, he says, because he was on the panel one year). And he cites a history of the Pulitzer board overriding selection panels that have chosen more daring works, so--he says--why should anyone have expected otherwise this year?

The LA Times critic Charles McNulty, apparently--(who was on this year's panel and had a hissy fit over this), and so this story winds up being a bit of an East Coast-Left Coast dig by Brantley against his counterpart.

Oh, and the Times couldn't leave it alone: they also ran a sidebar story quoting unnamed sources from the Pulitzer Prize board that board members went to see Next to Normal in the few days prior to the award announcement--as if there was some "plot" afoot to snatch the prize out of the hands of a more deserving candidate.

Although my own heart rate rose a fraction when reading these stories of "great importance to the arts community," I can only surmise that the vast majority of the world would only have yawned--if they had even noticed the stories to begin with.
And, of course, since most of the world now accesses the paper online, the concept of "front page story" is lost in translation anyway.

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