So what’s the word on Calendar Girls, the new British movie-turned-musical currently plodding the boards in Sydney (and set to tour the country)? Well, don’t read the Sun Herald to find out.

A review on the show was spiked, Andrew Crook reports in Crikey‘s Daily Mail today. In a cracking article he highlights how the paper has followed the lead of the Herald Sun in Melbourne in dropping theatre and arts coverage from its pages:

Crikey can reveal that just days after Melbourne’s Herald Sun announced the axing of its arts pages, the Sun Herald, once the dominant vehicle for the Harbour city’s Sunday arts scene, has decided to cut its fine arts coverage in half — axing one weekly theatre review in its S section to save money and permanently pulling another page dedicated to stage, music, dance and classical music.

As Crook writes, it seems fashion and celebrity gossip is the order of the day at the Sun Herald — the Fairfax publication that prides itself on being the more meaty counterpart to its tabloid rival the Sunday Telegraph. On May 9, to make way for a Fashion Week spread, Sun Herald theatre critic (and former Rolling Stone editor) Elissa Blake had her review of Calendar Girls spiked.

Last week Crikey reported the Herald Sun is insisting it will still cover the performing arts beat — despite sacking arts editor Alison Barclay and writer Harb Gill. It’s hard to see how.

It’s worth remembering just how big a business theatre is. The ABS says 2.7 million people — 17% of the population aged 15 years and over — attend theatre performances annually (2005-06 are the latest numbers, sadly). About half went more than once.

As newspaper editors watch their readers and revenues dry up, can they really afford to marginalise such a large arts-loving audience?

(For what it’s worth, Calendar Girls — starring Ronda Birchmore and Amanda Muggleton among a gaggle of gals — did win favour among other critics: the Sydney Morning Herald called it “as light as a supermarket sponge cake and similarly complex”, while the Citysearch website said it’s an “immensely likeable and very funny romp”. Let us know what you think…)