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The advantages of theater websites are obvious: no page constraints, unlimited listings, online ticket buying, profiles of talent you never heard of, and reviews of unsung Off-Off Broadway shows along with extensive coverage of Broadway. The dangers are just as plain: few copy editors, an overwhelming amount of unfiltered information, and only sporadically reliable reviews by poorly paid and inexperienced critics.
A few sites, though, are playing to their strengths. Playbill Online is, of course, Old Faithful; it offers all the A-list puff profiles that you enjoy perusing in your theater seat along with entirely trustworthy, up-to-date local and international listings, news, Broadway grosses, and plenty of shopping options. TheaterMania and CitySearch are Playbill’s two major challengers to date, and they’re both using the Web to do something different. For some time, Citysearch has distinguished itself by providing reviews of shows often overlooked by others, and TheaterMania has partnered with Show News, which promises to cover “shows under $25” but often offers reviews that are worth much less. So far, Theatermania doesn’t seem to get the Web: Do you really want to read a 1,000-word review of a terrible play like The Hologram Theory? Citysearch has a better handle on the medium. So theater coverage exists as it always has: Look to established media for reliable reviews and news, but look a little harder to catch wind of that next experimental hit.
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