Critical reviews carry a lot of weight, despite being the opinion of just one person, who is usually white and male. Positive reviews can generate hype and ensure a show’s success, while negative reviews can quickly close shows. In addition to providing contemporary audiences with (hopefully) educated opinions, reviews also serve as a public historical record of the theatre.
When it comes to filmed live musicals, the critical analysis and historical record is rather thin. At the end of the day, very few filmed live musicals are being critically reviewed. Is it that theatre critics don’t review films? Or that film critics don’t review theatre? Perhaps it is a lack of critics who understand both theatre and film, and more importantly, the hybrid that is formed when the two come together in a filmed live theatrical event. Or perhaps it is simply the fact that filmed live musicals are not taken seriously as an art form.
Filmed live musicals on television are sometimes reviewed for inclusion in “What’s On” guides. Prime time specials like Jesus Christ Superstar Live also draw a lot of attention, but these are the exception rather than the rule.
Filmed live musicals that are consistently reviewed are those that are released on Blu-ray. The official Blu-ray site, www.blu-ray.com provides outstanding reviews of filmed live musicals that analyze the content of the film, as well as technical aspects, such as image and sound quality, of the Blu-Ray. There are currently only 7 filmed live musicals in the database that have been released on Blu-ray. A rather dismal number for the review situation.
Social media, particularly Twitter, is useful for anecdotal reviews. It can provide an insight into fan-base reactions to filmed live content, but these “reviews” may not be widely read.
The ever increasing frequency of filmed live musical events, encore screenings, and the prevalence of bootlegs, show audiences want filmed live musical content. Official critical responses will help increase the legitimacy of filmed live musicals, and give them their rightful place in the history of theatre.
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