Critic Under Fire Has History of Problematic Comments in His Reviews


BroadwayRadio critic, Peter Filichia(and host James Marino), recently body-shamed performers of the musical Camp Morning Wood on their weekly podcast. Many have called out the longtime critic while others have defended him by stating this one incident isn’t indicative of him as a writer. However, when looking at some of his previous reviews, Filichia appears to have a history with making these types of comments. They range from racist/colorist to describing people with fat-phobic terminology.

In a 2017 review of the Broadway revival of Once on this Island, after suggesting that actor Alex Newell’s portrayal of Asaka resembled more of an “African-American Big Mama, not as a native Antillean,” he goes on to comment on the skin color of other performers in the show.

“Ti Moune is supposed to be very brown in complexion while Daniel is a light-skinned black. Kilgore isn’t that dark and if Daniel (the okay Isaac Powell) isn’t white, he could pass better than Peola does in IMITATION OF LIFE.” (Referring to the 1934 film)

In a 2014 review of Miss Saigon he wrote,

"Many directors have brought about another objection to Miss Saigon right here: “I don’t have young women pretty enough to be these girls.” Ah, but who says that they all must be capable of fitting into Sports Illustrated swimsuits? There have been plenty of ladies of the evening who look as if they’d spent most evenings eating five-course meals prior to a midnight snack."

In a 2012 review of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee he stated,

"William Barfee is usually played by an overweight male, but here trim David Littlefield portrayed him. Perhaps Baccarini didn’t have a heavy-set lad on hand, or perhaps he simply found Littlefield was the best of those who auditioned for the role. What the atypical casting underlined was that extra tonnage is not needed to stress the character’s difficulties. The poor soul has taped glasses, an untucked-in shirt and mismatched clothes; if men routinely wore two bow ties instead of just one, you can bet that Barfee’s pair would clash. Then, in addition to his sartorial problems, Barfee suffers from a mucus-membrane disorder and an intolerance to peanuts. So must he be big as a White House, too? Huzzah to Baccarini for saying no."

Finally, in a 2013 review of Hairspray Filichia not only repeatedly refers to women as “heavy-set”, “unmistakably large” and assumes that their size was a result of “excellent appetites or hatred of exercise.”

He also goes on to question why “anyone playing Tracy isn't underweight by the time that she finishes rehearsals, let alone performances.”

It’s a wonder that MTI published these reviews with these comments included.

Some might say that his comments were made in the past when “PC” wasn’t as prevalent. However, there was plenty of documentation to heighten awareness that such terminology wasn’t acceptable. Also, when was it ever appropriate to refer to a woman as “unmistakably large”?

There are folks online who are saying that the new outrage directed at Filichia is the result of 2019 heightened sensitivity and that his lengthy career in theatre criticism shouldn’t be defined by this. However, as we dig into his writing, a picture is starting to take shape that this is just the latest in a long history of problematic commentary.