Theatre lovers eager to read what the New York critics thought of Triumph Of Love no doubt rushed to their newspapers this morning, Oct. 24, to see the usual scribes weigh in on the new musical.But among them was a new name: Fintan O'Toole at The Daily News.
O'Toole comes to the News fresh from the Irish Times in Dublin. O'Toole told Playbill On-Line he's been in the United States for three weeks, though he was first hired by former Daily News editor Pete Hamill in April. Why the delay? "I had some work to finish in Ireland. Plus it took longer than we had expected to get visas and work permits."
Former chief critic Howard Kissel has been reassigned to review other kinds of entertainment. On his answering machine message at the Daily News, Kissel says that all requests for theatre reviews should be addressed to O'Toole and that, "I will now be doing a general cultural column." O'Toole says Kissel will remain a critic but will no longer review theatre.
[Hamill had announced he was bringing in O'Toole in as a replacement. But when Hamill was fired a few weeks ago, the News staff assumed Kissel would remain in place. However, O'Toole had already signed a contract for the position.]
Asked how he felt about his first day in American ink, O'Toole said, "It's been such a long process, but this is a very exciting theatre community. The News seems to be giving me a reasonable amount of length, and the style is not terribly far from my usual style." Author of the upcoming Farrar Straus & Giroux book, "A Traitor's Kiss: The Life Of Richard Brinsley Sheridan," O'Toole will spend his first few weeks concentrating on Broadway and major Off-Broadway openings. Later on, he hopes to pay more attention to smaller shows, and possibly even Off-Off Broadway. "There's no second string critic," O'Toole admitted, "so there are limits."
O'Toole says he favors the current Broadway policy of having critics come during previews and then running their reviews the day after opening. "I saw Triumph Of Love on Wednesday night and wrote the review on Thursday for publication today [Friday]. It's different in Ireland because there critics aren't allowed in previews at all. If you review, it's either on opening night or after. So you still get the phenomenon in Ireland of the instant review. The critic running out of the theatre and bashing something out before midnight. Not a system I like; I don't think it's good for a balanced judgment."
For the record, O'Toole's review of Triumph was highly favorable.
-- By David Lefkowitz