Brow Beat

Here’s What Critics Are Saying About Skittles Commercial: The Broadway Musical

Reviewers of this answer to Super Bowl ads especially enjoyed the song “Advertising Ruins Everything.”

Michael C. Hall in a cat costume sits leaning against a set designed to look like grocery store shelving.
Michael C. Hall contemplating the “ruin” of his career. Susan Farley/Skittles

Advertising during the Super Bowl costs companies a pretty penny—reportedly $5.2 million for a 30-second spot—but why pay at all when you could stand out from the crowd with a self-aware anti-commercial instead? Mars and advertising agency DDB Chicago mixed it up last year by creating an entire marketing campaign around a mythical “Super Bowl ad” for Skittles that would only be seen by one person.

This year, they expanded their reach considerably with a (still pretty limited) one-night-only show in New York starring Michael C. Hall called Skittles Commercial: The Broadway Musical. While proceeds from Sunday’s performance are going to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the production is a commentary on Super Bowl advertising and product placement that is, itself, a feature-length advertisement full of product placement. Even if you didn’t get a ticket, you can listen to the songs (and four minutes of Hall noisily eating candy, if that’s your thing) by scrolling below.

Every review of the show—including this roundup—doubles as more free advertising for Skittles, which is kind of the point. But what did critics think of the show?

The performance began before the curtain even rose.

Karen Han, Polygon:

Fake knock-off tees were sold outside the theatre; concessions consisted solely of Skittles (obviously); and the stage was an operational bodega (cash only), also selling Skittles, and complete with a random guy hanging out too close to the till. The Playbill included fake ads (a holiday package to North Korea; a picture of furniture under the words “nothing unusual here”) as well as random games …

The premise may be absurd, but the talent involved are no joke.

Louis Peitzman, Food & Wine:

Hall is fully committed, the songs (all three of them) are deceptively complex, and the book has Eno’s idiosyncratic humor without alienating the audience entirely. (It probably helps that he got an assist from copywriter Nathaniel Lawlor, who wrote the lyrics and co-wrote the book.) Director Sarah Benson, whose previous brand-unfriendly work includes Blasted and Fairview, does an exceptional job holding it all together even as the show threatens to collapse on itself. You get the sense that everyone involved takes silliness very seriously, and it pays off.

One musical number blows the others away.

Peter Marks, Washington Post:

The best of the handful of songs, “Advertising Ruins Everything,” was a nifty reality-twisting production number in which actors played members of the audience complaining that they’d been manipulated into buying tickets to a Skittles commercial.

“It stalks me online like some sad lonely ex/ Tracking my every move,” sang a “theater usher” of his discomfort with modern advertising. “It knows what I eat and the size of my feet/ And it’s inside my brain, and I do not approve!”

Despite the ironic message, you’ll never forget what the show is really about.

Karen Han, Polygon:

… the entire last number, featuring the ghost of Michael C. Hall, crows about a nearly imperceptible rise in Skittles sales thanks to the musical.

Greg Evans, Deadline:

… an absurdist rabbit-hole of a tale that parodied Super Bowl advertising while advertising the hell out of those fruit-flavored candies.

Louis Peitzman, Food & Wine:

There are harsh truths here, truths that pair surprisingly well with the sweet taste of Skittles.

Peter Marks, Washington Post:

I stopped counting the Skittles mentions at 28 …