When a Composer Reacts to Criticism in the Ugliest Way Possible

Chris Peterson

  • OnStage Founder & Editor-in-Chief

Imagine if you will, going to see Hamilton, and for whatever the reasons, you didn't like it.

Imagine being so disappointed with the show, that you decide to voice your opinion about it on a website, where the only purpose is to let audience members rate shows. 

Now imagine if, after posting your poor review, Lin-Manuel Miranda decides to get revenge, hunt you down and humiliate you online for all to see. 

Of course, this example is preposterous because being the theatrical professional and human being Miranda is, he would never do something like this. But the same cannot be said for all composers, for example, Karlan Judd. 

Mr. Judd is the composer and lyricist of the musical, "The Real Actors of NYC", which is getting a limited NYC run until Oct 29th. 

The website, show-score.com, allows audience members to rate and review productions they've seen. While critics haven't reviewed the show yet, audience members have been giving it ratings since it started previews on Sept 24th. The audience reviews, truthfully, have been mixed with a show score of 65% so far. 

Some comments have been very positive and very negative. One such comment came from a man named "Eliyahu K." who wrote, "If you're smart. There's a reason I ranked it so low. Probably the worst show I've seen in my entire life."

Okay, so it's not the most detailed or constructive review ever written but if I had just seen what I felt was the worst show ever, I might not spend that much time breaking down why I hated it either. 

It's important to point out that "Eliyahu K." wasn't the only person who had a poor opinion of the show. Others called it "disappointing", "unfocused" and "cliché". However, upon seeing "Eliyahu K.'s" comment, Mr. Judd decided to exact some revenge. 

Normally a professional composer would simply ignore it, understand it's one person's opinion, concentrate on the positive and move on. But Mr. Judd seemed to have felt he couldn't have risen to that level and instead, decided to exact some revenge on Eliyahu K.

The first thing Mr. Judd did is find out who "Eliyahu K." was, given that it's a pretty specific name, it wasn't hard to find. Turns out, Eliyahu K. is a fellow singer/actor living in New York City.

Upon seeing this, Mr. Judd decided to post one of Eliyahu K's performances on "The Real Actors of NYC" Facebook page and mock Eliyahu for all to see.

Let me repeat this, a composer of a professional NYC production cyber-bullied an audience member who gave his show a negative review. Below is the screenshot of the since deleted post:

Reaction to this post was swift, with many rightfully calling out Judd for how unprofessional, mean and childish this was. Judd then took the post down, but he wasn't done there. Instead of apologizing for using his show's Facebook page for a personal vendetta and for cyber bullying an audience member, Judd offered his Sorry/Not Sorry #1. 

On a BroadwayWorld.com discussion board, he said the following:

To say this even rises to a "half-assed" apology is generous at best. I can see where Judd is coming from, feeling insulted that his show was trashed by an audience member before it officially opened. But what's missing here is an actual apology. He never admits that it was wrong to publicly shame an audience member, only apologizing doing it from his show's Facebook page, it's a classic "I'm sorry if YOU'RE offended" type of move. But Judd wasn't done yet. 

After consulting with his investor, Judd issued Sorry/Not-Sorry #2

With this, Judd only digs the hole even deeper. The statement starts out fine, I guess, with Judd basically admitting the only reason he's apologizing again is because his investor(An obviously smart person) told him to. But Judd just can't help himself and goes off the rails again, contradicting himself all over the place. 

First Judd states he's open to "any and all criticism of this show". No, you're not Karlan, because in retaliation to a negative review, you cyber-bullied a ticket-paying audience member. That's like, the exact opposite of being open to "ANY and ALL criticism of this show". 

Judd then says how he's not "hurt" by the review. Not for nothing, but if anything Karlan Judd, you've showcased how actually hurt you were by a one sentence review. Judd, then tries to wax poetic about defending his cast, forgetting that he's already lost the moral high ground and that his cast, would have been much better off had he just kept quiet. 

At the end of his diatribe, Judd even lays another parting shot at Eliyahu, to remind him that all of this is his fault too. 

Well after Sorry/Not-Sorry #2 was met with more criticism, Judd released a 3rd statement, finally getting it right. 

But once again, this post fails to address what Judd actually did wrong. Yes, it was wrong to use his show's page to go after an unsatisfied audience member. But Judd either doesn't understand or doesn't care about the fact that he cyber-bullied someone in retaliation, broke every non-written rule in the professional theatre industry and put his show/cast(which he cares so deeply for) in a precarious position. 

What Judd forgot or didn't know, is that Eliyahu K. isn't Ben Brantley and Show-Score.com isn't the Arts & Leisure section of the New York Times. He's a ticket-paying audience member. He's not required to give a detailed account of observations of a show he paid to see and hated.

Yes, Eliyahu's comment is short and negative, but did it warrant the type of response that Karlan Judd imposed? Absolutely not. Seeing how Judd places Eliyahu on the same level as Charles Isherwood, one can only imagine what Judd's reaction would be if the NY Times gave his show a negative reaction as well.

And that is where the line that divides theatrical professionals like Lin-Manuel Miranda among others and folks like Karlan Judd, lies. We'll never know how irked or angry Tom Kitt or Stephen Schwartz gets after a bad review, but we do know that an audience members' comment will turn Karlen Judd into a petulant child. I'm sure he's going to love reading this. 

Given that this seems to be Mr. Judd's first foray into NY professional theatre, lessons will surely be learned. But lessons like these aren't learned from theatrical experience, they come from being an adult, which Karlan Judd seems to have forgotten he was. My advice to to Mr. Judd: You seem to understand that this business can be harsh, but cyber bullying an audience member and then not really apologizing for it, is beyond cruel and uncalled for. 

If opening a show in NYC is the big leagues, you just showed us how much you're not ready for it.