There is a curious inflationary principle at work on Broadway today that has nothing to do with royalty percentages, union wages, or ticket prices. In the commerce between artist and spectator, a point has been reached where the applause of a Broadway audience is entirely meaningless: they will clap for absolutely anything. They clap when the curtain rises; they clap when a familiar actress makes an entrance without tripping; they clap when a familiar actor hurls three darts and doesn’t miss the board. One would almost think that Broadway audiences had become so inured to mediocrity and so desperate to be pleased as to be genuinely grateful for anything at all.

Nowhere are the economic aesthetics of Broadway more clearly seen than in the practice of marketing a show on the strength of its stars. You read in the paper that Jason Robards will be starring as Grandpa Vanderhof in You Can’t Take It With You, Amanda...


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