Friday, May 21

The Re-Usable Review

I wrote this years ago. With the upcoming Festival season only days away, I thought it'd be a timely post.


Every year after the opening of yet another production of the musical Anne of Green Gables, our admittedly wet morning newspaper rushes to print a brand new review of the show. This review seems inter-changeable with previous year’s reviews, as it appears to follow the same format, style and substance, heaping praise, and little or no negative criticism on the same production highlights, year after year. Why go through the motions of writing a new review, year after year, on a show that basically changes little each year… it’s like having a food critic review McDonald’s restaurant once a year; you’re gonna get the same meal every time. The only thing that changes each year is the people putting your Big Mac together and nuking it.

So, why have a (ahem) critic, year after year, review a show that basically doesn’t change, when the only new comment one can make from season to season is in reference to the colour of Gilbert’s trousers?

As a time-saving device, here follows a template review, free for use by The Guardian, in which only the names of the current year’s actor’s need to be inserted. Now every year they can simply print this same review and forego the pretence of reviewing each production. To make this review as Guardian-like as possible, spelling and grammatical errors have been inserted.

The Anne of Green Gables Reusable Review

[Choose from one of the following headlines]

“The Same Anne As Last Year, Only Better”

“Top Notch Perfofmances Highlight Anne”

“Liberals Claim Road Jobs As Tory Patronage”

“Anne of Green Gables Concert Enjoyed By All”

“Gee I’m Glad You’re You, Anne of Green Gables”

Last night’s opening night perfofmance of Anne of Green Gables last night marked the beguining off the [insert season number]th season of Canada’s Favourite Muscle at the Confederation Centre, in Charlottetown, and by the thunderous standing ovation it received in the end by the packed house that were there on its feet clapping, it seems we loved the red-headed orphan as much, if not more than, as ever.

The young woman, [Insert actress name], who played, Anne Shirley and she suited the role perfectly. [Insert “Anne Shirley” actress, first name only], who studded musical dance and acting in [insert Upper Canada city name], was thoroughly believable as the sprightly young orphan, especially in the second act, Act Two where she was even more so, and when she got older and matured, she has a magnificient sinking voice.

Off the other perfofmances, Elizabeth Mawson once again shine in the roll of Marilla, and was wonderfully stern and unflinching in the role of Marilla. It wood be hard to imagine anyone else other but than Elizabeth Mawson playing the role of Elizabeth Mawson played for so long, and made it her own. That she played for over thirty years and made it her own. Matthew was [‘again’, if applicable] played by [insert actor name] and he instantly douched the members of all the audience in the heart with his gently, warm, and humorous portrayal of the kindling, soft-spoken man. I did thought, however, that [insert ‘Matthew’ actor, last name only] did occasionally tend to go for the laughs a few two many times, suck as wipping the dirt off of his boots and and, while funny, this sometimes took away from his kindliness and the dramatic of the play. My one miner disappointment, one I seem to make every sumner, would half to be with the actor who played Gilbert, [insert actor name]. While he is a very compotent dancer, and very light on his feet, I felt his acting wasn’t as strong as was his dancing was, but he did have a very good job, nonetheless, and didn’t detract from the top notch perfofmances of the others.

A special nog must go out to Island actress [insert actress name] who played [insert name of minor Lady of Avonlea character], one of the Ladies of Avonlea. She did a terrific job with her line, and make us all proud of her to be an Islander.

The sets and costumes never looked bitter any year before than they did last night’s, as it was a freshly painted and brightly lit show. And it was expertly directed by [insert name of choreographer], who kept the pace lively and fats-packed.

By the looks of lat’s night show, and passed seasons, and if they are any indignation, we still have a very special thing here, in Anne of Green Gables, and that Anne of Green Gables is a show that should make Islanders, and Canadians alike, proud to be Islanders.



Calico Cat said...

Heh, that was one of the funniest things I've read in a while. A great chuckle during a tough day at the office, thanks.

Nils Ling said...

Heeheehee! Great work, Rob!
As for WHY they run the review ... well, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the Confederation Centre says "We buy x thousands of dollars in advertising in your paper. We want every show reviewed. And when we say "reviewed", we mean "praised far beyond what the show deserves"."
Several years ago, when I was running a show in Charlottetown, I asked to have a reviewer sent out to it - hey, why not, it's free advertising. I was told "We only review shows at the Confed Centre."
Made me understand how small book stores feel about Chapters.

Derek Martin said...

I believe Ms. Mawson has passed the torch on, to whom I do not know.

Davey said...

Do I sense some bitterness, Nils?
Really, other than to stroke the egos of those involved in the current year's production, what possible value does running a review of "Anne" have for Confed Centre?
The bus tour operators have booked a year ago, after 40 years, less than 10% of the audience are Islanders, and the hordes of tourists haven't arrived yet... (In fact, if I were a visiting tourist I doubt that I would put much stock in a small town paper's review.)
In the end, it's just an acknowledgement of a significant cultural activity in Charlottetown (tens of thousands of folks see it every year). Probably more people see "Anne" in one night than an entire summer of "Annekenstein".
Word of mouth (rather than reviews) is by far the most influential sales motivator for theatre in the Island market. No real surprise there. Reviews are not, in any real way, relevant. Stop sweating about them.

Nils Ling said...

Bitter? Moi? No. No. No. No. Okay, yes. A li'l bit.
Good points about the reviews for Anne, Davey - and well said (and seldomed remembered, at least by me) about reviews in general.

Erin said...

They started carrying a column of reviews by Dr. Shannon Murray (UPEI English prof) last summer . . . I hope this is continued. I find the arts and entertainment section of The Guardian weak.

Rob MacD said...

Hey, thanks, blinds4cheap. I'm flattered that an automated spambot appreciates my writing.
And, no, Nils, I don't mean you.

Nils said...