Why we should stop giving critics who undermine musicals the power to judge them
The difficulty with peer review may be finding independent voices willing to voice criticism. If it’s intended to be private, kept within trusted circles and for the benefit of creators, then I can see that working. If it’s intended to be public and help generate interest and potential audience, then reviews would probably end up being unrealistically positive.
Feature articles giving more information and context to new shows would be less of a problem. Not sure how much of a readership there would be for that sort of thing. It would be quite niche. I mean, I’d read them. Heck, I’d even write them! But I wouldn’t like to count myself as typical in this regard.
And, sadly, I suspect that you're absolutely correct not to rely on British theatre critics to do any of these things.
In the early days of theatre blogging (of which there’s a book documenting this now, and of which I was a small part) this is what started to happen (although not so much in musicals) - and IIRC you really tried to go to a show in its first week before any reviews anyway, form your own opinion and then either tell it to the creators if you knew them or blogged about it. It’s possible this could flourish again either via blog or podcast or even videocast, but for lots of reasons (I think maybe tied into the money and energy of the sector at the moment but it’s complex) I’m not sure it will happen. Excellent idea though. (Cf. Eg New economics papers are discussed via blog or Twitter etc. quite extensively as people try to form opinions…).
One more leftfield idea. (1) Get bunch of musical-knowers. (2) get show livestreamed (3) Get livestream party eg Twitch, where musical-knowers can comment/reaction video their response to musical (maybe they watch it once live, and then watch it a second time formore comments) (4) keep record and/or write-up reactions as an archive of critical (or funny) response. cf Twitch for Chess; cf. TikTok but longform critical. [ (5a) Use video as part of marketing ]