Surprise: New York Times critics really like theatre

Theatre lovers, this may be the best info graphic you are ever going to see. Broadway producer Ken Davenport (Kinky Boots), who created the web site DidHeLikeIt.Com as a way of tracking the tone of New York theatre reviews, has come up with some surprising data that defies many stereotypes the theatre community holds dear about critics. 

In the past 10 years, 71 percent of all theatre reviews written by The New York Times were mixed or positive. Only 29 percent were negative.

The New York Times does NOT hate plays, as has been the reputation of reviewers Charles Isherwood and Ben Brantley for lo these many years. Both have reviewed plays more positively than musicals.

The New York Times
 reviews do not make or break a show. Yes, while only 18 percent of negatively reviewed shows recouped their investments, those shows clearly had bigger problems than The New York Times . Because only 29 percent of positively reviewed shows recouped their investments. The leader in the recouping category – at 33 percent – were shows that received mixed reviews.

The New York Times prefers plays directed by women (50 percent) to plays directed by men (43 percent).

And yes, while I did once win an award for writing a snarky, backhanded compliment of an essay titled I Hate Mamet, I really don’t. But guess what? A full 75 percent of Mamet plays have been negatively reviewed by the Times. On the other hand, the Times loves Stephen Sondhem (75 percent) and is middling on Shakespeare (38 percent). Probably unsurprising, they really love Tom Stoppard (83 percent). 

Pull up a chair and take it all in. This graphic receives a positive review from me:

John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist, where he is the editor of a new media outlet that covers the Colorado theatre community.

DidHeLikeIt graphic