Former New York Times theatre critic Frank Rich, once dubbed “the Butcher of Broadway” for his powerful negative reviews, reveals his knife anew with the Oct. 22 release of “Hot Seat: Theater Criticism for The New York Times, 1980-1993,” a collection of essays, reviews and followup notes published by Random House ($39.95).
The 1,000-page book includes hundreds of reviews of shows from Barnum in 1980 to Angels in America in 1993, plus selected Sunday essays and his 1994 Sunday New York Times Magazine essay, “Exit the Critic,” which memorably had a caricatured cover illustration of Rich slathered with blood and wielding a cleaver.
Coinciding with the publication, Broadway producer Rocco Landesman will interview Rich in a public forum 7:30 PM at the 92 Street Y in Manhattan. Tickets are $18. Call (212) 996-1100.
The book also includes afterthoughts on many reviews, with Rich in a charitable mood, as with his comment following a negative notice of On Your Toes (1983): “Since I love Rodgers and Hart, I don’t know why I was so sour about this revival.” These “reflections” serve to ink-in a full history of American theatre in the period that gave us Cats, the blight of AIDS and the rise of the Public Theatre’s George C. Wolfe.
Also in the volume are Rich’s lists of favorite new plays, indelible ensemble casts, favorite new musicals, productions he felt he “most overrated” and “most underrated,” and more. Rich, who is now a Times Op-Ed columnist, often musing about arts issues, was born and raised in Washington, D.C., and schooled at Harvard. He lives in New York City with his wife, writer Alex Witchel.
-- By Kenneth Jones