Our previous appraisal of Broadway Baby was, perhaps, not very kind. Edmund Rumania wrote that it ought to be called Backstreet Abortion and that it “employs the sort of people who would toss off a Doberman for a free pass to a dog fight”. It used to publish the sort of review where… well, see picture. We haven’t changed the picture yet.
The sober, less hilarious truth is that Broadway Baby is much better now. In fact, BB would win the prize for Most Improved Reviewer 2016 if we gave prizes for such a thing. We don’t, of course, because an accolade such as ‘most improved reviewer’ is on a par with ‘best skin disease’ or ‘most charming sex pest’. We’re here to grade, not encourage. That said, BB’s reviews last year were more or less sensible, more or less grammatical and always flew somewhere within the orbit of Planet Fair Enough. As always when you employ students to write for you, there were instances where the pigeon-shit of safe-space politics and received wisdom spattered the windscreen. But overall, this website’s vision has improved beyond all expectations.
Sadly it is now just a website; it gave up its print output in 2014. If this made it less of a draw for journalism students it didn’t show, as this was the year it overtook Three Weeks for sheer volume of reviews posted. And of course, all its old reviews, written by debutantes, drop-outs, frothing militants, morons and pieces of pavement chewing gum that have turned sentient, are all there in the website’s labyrinthine archives and still haunting anyone who fell foul of it in the olden days (you know, pre-Refertrumpexit).
BB now covers five UK Fringe festivals, plus Irish events and American Broadway and off-Broadway shows, so there’s no denying its reach or ambition. So is Mr Rumania’s conclusion, that “a bad review still hurts your feelings while a good review counts for fuck all” still true? Well the first part is, because that’s just life. A good review from BB is, we’d say, worth more now that the scattergun of one-stars and five-stars has mellowed into a more considered cluster around the three-star mark. It’s an oversimplification, but the more three-star reviews a publication gives, the more you can trust its judgement when it gives twos and fours. If it gives a lot of ones and fives it’s probably pish, as BB used to be.
To the average punter the Baby is still toddler non grata, but watch this space. It has a clean nappy on and it’s growing up.