From the publisher...

A.S. Waterman

February 2008

What is a "Bad Review"?

One of my favorite opening lines is, "The wind chimes were the first bad sign."1 This is from a review of a Celtic Woman concert in Providence, Rhode Island, wherein the reviewer opined that the renowned performers had strayed too far from the Celtic roots that made them famous. Reviewer Rick Massimo was far from alone in that opinion. However, at last count, Celtic Woman album sales were doing just fine in Providence, and no one impaled Rick on a shamrock. The performers, and their entire enterprise, took his comments in stride and probably under advisement. It takes a true professional to understand that even bad reviews are good for business, and that a less-than-stellar review means that someone really listened, rather than dashed off some lines based on a press release. That is a very good thing.

It's also a lesson that, apparently, some Louisville theatre managers haven't learned. I have heard of some serious backlash against reviewers in recent months. Some theatres have withheld reviewers' comp tickets, sent them angry letters or even tacitly blacklisted some whose reviews they found unflattering. This baffling and mean-spirited phenomenon reaches across the spectrum, from the smallest online publication to the area's most widely circulated print media.

So, all of this begs the question, "What constitutes a bad review?" Certainly, there are some, just as there are bad productions. It is important to remember, however, that "bad" and "unflattering" are not the same. Every person, in every chair in your theatre, is a reviewer, although all may not be equally as vocal about their reaction. When someone does express an opinion, it's essential to listen -- and when that opinion doesn't coincide with your theatre's, you need to figure out why. Unless you're planning to blanket the audience with questionnaires, reviewers are your eyes and ears out there; and whether you agree with them or not, all have a vantage point that you can only get by proxy. Moreover, it's rare that an opinion is held by only one.

A bad review is one that is poorly written, or one that rambles, fails to make a point, or lacks enough specifics to support the reviewer's opinion, whether flattering or un-. It is not one that simply fails to tell a producer what he or she wants to hear.

In short, ask not for whom the wind chimes ring. Open your doors and your minds, lest you find them ringing for empty seats.



1 Massimo, Rick. "Celtic Woman Not True to Music." The Providence Journal, March 6, 2007.


Copyright © 2008 A.S. Waterman. All rights reserved.





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