Conservative theater critic John Simon, whose sneeringly negative reviews in New York were always a great way of knowing what shows you should see, is indignant that critics for Newday and Bloomberg News are beginning to break longstanding theatrical tradition and publish reviews ofSpider-Man: Turn Off the Dark while it's still in previews. We're proudly guilty of this as well—having paid to see a performance last week, we likened the show to "watching a spandex-clad fat man with a flesh-hook suspension fetish masturbate onto a giant pile of money, while singing Muzak versions of all your least favorite U2 songs." But hey, if that's how you like to spend your paycheck, then step right up; it's enervating fun for the whole family!

On his new blog, Simon takes his colleagues to task for not waiting until the show's official opening night (sometime in May 2012 February) to publish reviews. Simon says it's "unfair" to the poor producers, but also "discourteous" to other critics, because some critics don't work for publications that can "cough up $300 for a preview review." Some critics have to wait until the publicist gives them comped tickets in the week before opening night. Some critics, in fact, are currently employed by the Westchester Guardian, which, unlike Newsday or Bloomberg News, has standards, you know. (It may be worth mentioning here that Simon was fired by Bloomberg News in November.)

So there's a bit more to Simon's righteous scolding than just the ethics of respecting the artists . But let's take his point at face value anyway: Is it unfair for critics to review Spider-Man when U2 and director Julie Taymor are still planning substantial changes to the most expensive musical in Broadway history? The Times has refrained from publishing a review for this very reason, but we think one of the commenters on paper's arts blog hits the nail on the head quite nicely:

I would normally be against reviews or criticisms before a show opens, but not in this case--why should the producers be granted any consideration when they are charging full prices (including premium prices up to $300) for a show that is still in previews? And, it should be noted, previews that are occurring long after the show was to have opened and for which many theatre-goers thought they were buying tickets post-opening. If ticket buyers are being asked to pay well over $100 for tickets, then they have every right to know what to expect. All normal rules are out when applied to this show.

Meanwhile, producers have confirmed that star Natalie Mendoza, pictured here for reference purposes, has left the beleaguered production, as previously rumored. In a statement, she says, "It has been a difficult decision to make, but I regret that I am unable to continue on ‘Spider-Man’ as I recover from my injury. I wish Julie and the cast and crew every success with this production." Break a leg, everybody!