New York's Spanish-language newspaper, El Diario, took the rare step of attacking critics for their negative reviews of a Broadway musical, with the following unsigned editorial, published Feb. 4 in Spanish and English. Here is the English version:
THE CRITICS' FEEDING FRENZY
Last week, after a delay of several weeks and months of speculation, Paul Simon's musical The Capeman made it to Broadway. The play tells the story of Salvador Agron, who in 1959, at the age 16, gained notoriety by being the youngest person ever to be sentenced to the electric chair, for the murder of two youngsters.
Thursday's event was notable not only for its controversy, but because it's truly the most important theatrical event for New York's Latino community ever to hit Broadway.
The morning after the opening, the feeding frenzy began. The New York Times' review stated that watching the show was like "watching a mortally wounded animal", to mention only one of many vicious attacks. The metaphor was more than appropriate, since most of the critics acted like vultures.
Did the theater establishment want to teach Mr. Simon a lesson in humility? Maybe. Many had speculated about the wisdom of putting together a Broadway musical where neither his writer (Derek Walcott), his director/choreographer (Mark Morris) nor himself had any previous experience in the Great White Way. In turn, Simon's responses to that criticism were not a case-study in diplomacy. But as far as we're concerned, we witnessed a vibrant, moving creation. We think The Capeman succeeded tremendously in denouncing the circumstances that surrounded the case of Salvador Agron -- circumstances that still exist -- and in capturing the essence of our culture, music and soul. The teary Latino eyes we've seen at the end of each performance are the best evidence.
Just walk around the Marquis theater before or after the show, and you'll see many Latino families who probably never before spent a dime on Broadway, taking their pictures next to the images of Ednita Nazario, Marc Anthony or Ruben Blades, or waiting for autographs by the stage door.
Yet, with several keystrokes on a computer, a few critics who have no clue of what it means to live as a Puerto Rican in this city, and who don't care, pretend to make an informed judgement about The Capeman and destroy it in the process.
Review after review, it was as if they saw one play, and we saw another. They just didn't get it.
But we do. And we think this is a good time to show that our economic muscle can keep this important work where it belongs: on the stage.
We believe this is one musical every Latino family should see. It is simply one of our stories, a painful one, but one that mustn't be forgotten. You be the judge. See The Capeman, and prove how clueless the critics really are.