Desperate for a hit, NBC is doing everything it can to make people watch Smash, their making-of-a-Broadway-musical drama. They're hyping it to The Voice levels of annoyance, they're putting it on the Monday after the Super Bowl, and they're making it available for free on iTunes right now! So, I watched the show. Just like a Broadway hoofer, it's brilliant...and a bit of a mess.
New York Post theater columnist Michael Riedel loves to twist the knife into a failing production, and this morning he can't help himself. The staged failure in question is an irrelevant, overpriced disaster that struggles along slowly where its competition surges on. This horrorshow is the dramatic plight of the newspaper theater critic, a production that should have themes that resonate with Riedel's job status, but the controversial Broadway observer doesn't see the irony in writing trend pieces that might leave him unemployed. Does the world really need Ben Brantley (left), or Michael Riedel, for that matter?Critics are taking buyouts right and left, with the The Star-Ledger parting ways with two longtime writers who reviewed for more than a decade in their pages. The financial climate for new productions is one reason for cutbacks, but there's just not much need for a critic when bloggers have the attention of the industry. "Most people can't tell the difference between Wayman Wong [a blogger] and Ben Brantley. And, frankly, I'd rather read Wayman," a producer tells Riedel. It's not just the cutbacks, it's the brutal humiliation they've suffered in having to do the job:
There's no New York theater critic who likes to throw his weight around quite like Michael Riedel of the Post. Riedel's latest beef is with legendary Spamalot director Mike Nichols' version of Clifford Odets' The Country Girl, which goes before critics for the first time tonight. Although he has yet to view the play, Riedel has spewed constant venom about the production, with his favorite target the show's star, much-honored screen veteran Morgan Freeman. The 70-year-old Freeman made the grave error of substituting the name "Mabel Mercer" for "Mabel Beck" this week in previews, and Riedel smelled blood, terming Freeman "Morgan the Mangler" and describing the actor's reported flubbing of every other line. Tomorrow the play opens to critics, but we saw the show last night, and are happy to report Riedel's nastiness is wholly unmerited. More on how wrong Michael Riedel is about this revival of a play Frank Rich termed "near the top of second-rate" after the jump.