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How To Write A Theater Review—With Examples
Watching a theater play is a wonderful experience. You can laugh at comedies, sing at musicals, learn about history, or feel for the heroes of tragedies. A play is one of the four literary genres. It uses dialogues between characters, along with stage direction, acting, music, setting, and costume to tell a story. A play is a collaboration between the playwright, the director, the actors, the light technicians, the costume designers, and all other people behind the curtain. You need to remember this characteristic of plays if you want to learn how to write a theatre review.
What Is a Theater Play Review?
A theater review is a critical response to a play you have watched. You study, analyze, and then produce a judgment or opinion on the whole production. One important thing to remember is that a critical review of a theater play does not only contain criticisms. Rather, it analyzes and contextualizes the production, points out its positive aspects, and provides suggestions when providing criticisms. Writing a theater review is a crucial part of the process of appreciating plays. However, an appreciation for theater is also necessary for writing great reviews.
How to Write a Theater Play Review?
In this section, you will learn how to write a good review. Theater plays are a bit complicated to write a review on because you only get to watch it once and then render your analysis and judgment from memory. As such, writing one often starts before you even step foot into the theater.
Tip #1. Read the play
Part of the preparation for reviewing a play is to read it before you go to see the production. This way, you have an understanding of the major elements of the play. When you don’t have to strain to understand every bit of dialogue and know what is going on in the plot, you can focus on the other elements of the production.
Tip #2. Do some research
Before you see the show, it helps to conduct some research to give context to your experience. However, do not overdo it—another person’s opinion may influence your experience. Instead of looking at other people’s reviews, look into the facts of the play:
- Who is putting up the show? What has this production company done in the past?
- Who is the director? The actors?
- What kind of play is it? For instance, is it also a film?
These things will contextualize the play. For instance, give you an idea as to the director’s (and possibly the playwright’s) vision. You can conduct further research after you have watched the show to help you form your own opinion.
Tip #3. Attend the show
Read the program before the show, read the director’s note and the cast’s biographies. Remember what you have read when you enter the venue, however, remember to keep an open mind as well.
Tip #4. Take notes
With theater plays, no two performances are the same. Plus, you cannot replay it like a film. To remember the details and your thoughts, take down notes as much as you can. These details will help you write a good review. Here’s what you should take notes of:
- Set design and costume
- Actors’ performance (tone, diction, gestures)
- Special effects
- Faithfulness to the script
Tip #5. Write & proofread
As with any form of essay writing, it is best to start your critical review with a thesis and an outline to keep your thoughts organized. Start with your overall experience or opinion of the production. Then, start considering the different elements:
- Style of performance
- Costume design
- Set design
You do not have to touch on all these elements when you write your critical review. Focus on the elements that stood out the most or those that are most relevant to your thesis. Here is a theater review template:
Provide a summary of the plot—what kind of play is it and what is it about? Talk about the main themes and conflicts, as well.
For each element that you will tackle, you need to discuss the following:
Briefly, but in detail, describe the physical aspects of the performance. Describe only the details and scenes that support your thesis.
Interpret and analyze these elements and how they contribute to the portrayal of the story and the overall experience.
Evaluate the elements. Discuss how the elements complemented the style and format of the play.
Check our guide on how to write body paragraphs.
Summarize your review of the play and the elements you discussed. Some questions to consider:
- Is the production’s execution successful? Why or why not?
- Is the production worth seeing? Why or why not?
Then, close the paragraphs with any final thoughts. Here are tips on writing a conclusion.
Theater Play Review Examples
If writing is not your best skill, the guide to how to write a theatre review may not be enough. Here is a short theater review example that follows the theater review template provided above.
Dear Evan Hansen has attracted attention long before its premiere thanks to its star-studded team. The musical is set up for greatness, having 4-time Tony nominee Michael Greif as its director, award-winning playwright Steven Levenson as its creator, and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul for music. The Broadway show is sold out, and without a doubt, each filled seat was well worth it. This Broadway musical is created for the modern audience, capturing the pervading disconnect despite the world’s increasing connectedness.
Dear Evan Hansen is based on the novel by Steven Levenson. The plot centers on teenager Evan Hansen who writes a note to himself, as directed by his therapist, to help with his social anxiety. This note is stolen by his classmate, Connor Murphy, who then commits suicide. Evan’s note is found in Connor’s pocket, leading the latter’s parents to believe that they were friends. Unable to tell the truth, Evan covers up and inflates his story with lies and fabricated evidence and becomes entangled in a large complicated web of lies.
Being the center of the story, the spotlight barely leaves Ben Platt as Evan Hansen. Platt’s performance did not leave a boring moment on stage. His powerful singing and portrayal of this seemingly stock character brought it to life. Evan’s awkwardness and social insecurity are visible in his constant blinking and twisted speaking. His social awkwardness is at the root of his loneliness and desperation for attention, which ultimately leads him to a path of lies. The audience feels for Platt’s Evan Hansen, and almost roots for his ruse to succeed.
Paul and Pasek’s music underscores the narrative of Dear Evan Hansen . The songs rise and fall along with the emotions of the characters, with some songs being mellow, while others are reflective ballads. The strongest song of all is “You Will Be Found,” which closes the first act and is then reprised in the second act as the rallying cry for the social media movement following Connor Murphy’s death.
Dear Evan Hansen is a musical of the times, capturing the loneliness of today’s modern world as well as the complexity of grieving for a lost loved one. With a powerful score and performance by Platt and the rest of the cast, this musical will stay with the audience for a long time.
Here is another example of a review of Bertolt Brecht’s Waiting For Godot.
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