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Elliot Norton, 100; Boston Theater Critic Wrote 6,000 Reviews

July 23, 2003|From Staff and Wire Reports

Elliot Norton, 100, a Boston theater critic who wrote 6,000 reviews during a 48-year career, died Sunday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The cause of death was not disclosed.

He was known as a leading practitioner of "play doctoring," a style of theater criticism that producers and playwrights found useful when debuting Broadway-bound works out of town.

Playwright Neil Simon once credited Norton with improving "The Odd Couple" when he said Simon should bring back the characters of the Pidgeon Sisters in the final act. Simon did, and he later told the Boston Globe that the change "made [the play] a bigger success."

Norton began his career in 1926 as a reporter for the Boston Post; he became its drama editor and critic eight years later.

After the Post folded in 1956, he was a reviewer for the Boston Record American and the Boston Herald American, which later became the Boston Herald. He retired from the Boston Herald in 1982.

He reviewed plays on Boston public television station WGBH-TV in a show called "Elliot Norton Reviews," for which he won a George Foster Peabody Broadcasting Award in 1962. He earned a special Tony Award in 1971 for distinguished commentary, and he was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame by the American Theater Critics Assn. in 1988.

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