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Curtain rises for Chicago critics

ARTS NOTES

January 16, 2005|Don Shirley

Chicago reviews of "Monty Python's Spamalot" and "All Shook Up" finally appeared last week -- the fourth week of five-week pre-Broadway tryouts the musicals are having in the city.

Critics are kept out of tryouts at commercial Chicago venues until late in the runs so that producers can tweak the shows as much as possible before any appraisals are published.

Tickets to the pre-critic previews are lower-priced -- but only by $2 (the top post-critic prices are $87 for "Spamalot," $82 for "All Shook Up"). Previews on Broadway are not lower-priced, but theatergoers can wait for reviews with the expectation that many performances will follow good notices.

Chicago Tribune critic Michael Phillips advocates official openings that are no later than a run's midpoint. The opening of "All Shook Up" was moved from today to last Thursday after the paper objected to the long delay, says entertainment editor Scott Powers. But a spokesman for the production says the change resulted from a conflict with another opening.

Although her paper has reported that some theatergoers rely on reviews, Chicago Sun-Times critic Hedy Weiss says she'd rather see shows when they're closer to finished. "They're not producing these shows for the newspapers," she says. But she regrets the Chicago runs can't be extended.

Pre-Broadway runs at Chicago nonprofit theaters, such as the Goodman, open to critics much earlier. Goodman executive director Roche Schulfer says commercial producers "sell one show at a time, so maximizing revenue becomes all-important," while nonprofits emphasize sales of subscriptions.

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