NEW YORK — There’s nothing like a rave. Unless, of course, the positive review appears one full week before the show opens and the critic in question has attended a very early not-yet-ready-for-critics preview.
In the just-published Oct. 18 issue of Newsweek, theater critic Jack Kroll called “Dame Edna: The Royal Tour” “the world’s most celebrated drag act.”
The one column, two-paragraph review of transvestite comic Barry Humphries’ Broadway show probably escaped most readers’ attention — unless, of course, you happened to be a theater critic, editor or reporter planning to attend one of the “Dame Edna” press previews skedded for Oct. 13-16.
Kevin P. McAnarney, publicist for the show, went in to damage control overdrive last weekend and phoned various future attendees of “Dame Edna,” apologizing for Newsweek’s prematurely published review.
A furious McAnarney said, “Years of theater tradition are being thrown out the window by this Newsweek editor whose quote was, ‘If Time can beat us on book reviews, why not?’ ”
According to the publicist, Newsweek senior editor Sara Pettit had assigned Kroll to review a pre-press performance. “It could just create havoc for the theater season if this practice continues,” McAnarney said.
He filed a complaint with the League of American Theater Owners and Producers, and a spokesman for the League phoned Pettit on Friday. “We expressed our concern to Newsweek about this departure from industry practice and etiquette,” the spokesman said, “and we sent a follow-up letter.”
Why did Newsweek jump the gun? Media observers say the magazine had been scooped by Time’s full-page rave on Lincoln Center Theater’s “Contact,” the revolutionary John Weidman-Susan Stroman dance play that somehow flew under Newsweek’s cultural radar without being reviewed to date. Editors at Newsweek didn’t want to follow Time with yet another review, since the former’s next issue is a special on the digital age and will contain no legit reviews.
Phone calls to Pettit and Kroll were not returned.