Thursday, November 10, 2011

Applause: Too Much, Too Often, What Gives

So @adam807 and I started discussing standing ovations and entrance applause over on ye olde twitter.  (As an aside, if you are not following his brand of bitter you are missing out.)  I thought the topic demanded a bit more space. 

The Standing O

First off, I noticed in London these are rare.  In noticing that, I realized they are practically a daily occurrence at every show in New York.  Where is the happy medium?  There were times in London I thought they were earned but not given and on many occasions I have been annoyed that they were given in NY for shows not that deserving.  I'd love to know why there is such a cultural divide.  New York gives too much love.  London gives too little.  Do others feel that way?

That said one show I saw in London got a standing O--Ghost the Musical.  Seriously.   Read into it what you will.  Ralph Effing Fiennes didn't get one for his Prospero.  Dominic Effing West didn't get one for his Iago.  But Ghost the Musical got one.

Entrance Applause

When did this become a thing?  I mean I saw Private Lives last night and EVERYONE got entrance applause.  No actually total offense...none of these people have earned entrance applause.  @adam807 and I disagree here slightly.  He believes in no entrance applause (with an exception for solo shows) because it breaks up the show and the performers have yet to do anything.

I think a legendary performer deserves some entrance applause as an acknowledgment to their status and life's work.  I mean Elaine Strich, Bernadette Peters...aren't these the people we give entrance applause to.  Not Kim Cattrall  people.  Yes, she's famous.  Yes, she's a celebrity.  Yes, she has done more stage work that you probably know about but is she a legendary Broadway performer.  No. Just because someone is famous and you recognize them, I don't think they deserve applause.  When they deliver on a performance, at the end of the show there is room to acknowledge that. 

And what about the entrance applause at Follies.  There are many performers there that I think deserve entrance applause in that show.  @adam807 thinks in particular Bernadette's entrance applause breaks up the flow of that sequence.   I wonder if the performers are re-entering the theater in their memories that the applause we give is actually the applause they hear in their minds.  I might be reading too much into it but it didn't bother me so much--except that there was a lot of it. 

What do you guys think?


  1. In London, standing ovations happen quite a lot in musicals, more rarely in a play. Think I have done it twice. For fantastic RSC plays. Cannot abide entrance applause. The actor coming on stage is in character, I don't want that fourth wall broken too soon.
    Involuntary gasps when very favourite actors come on stage, looking damn hot are another thing. And quite acceptable.

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  3. Aw, thanks! Maybe it's just my brand of bitter but I feel they have to earn it. Having earned it in the past does not mean you've earned it tonight. A solo show gets an exception from me because presumably you're there solely because of what Bea Arthur or Elaine Stritch has done in the past, and it's all about the actor's personality.

    And actually I just realized my less snarky than "earn it, bitch!" reason for not liking entrance applause: An actor enters as a character. The curtain call is when the actors appear as themselves, and that is the time to applaud for them. Applaud for Bernadette Peters, do not applaud for Sally Durant Plummer. It interrupts the story.

  4. It's not actually that EVERYONE gets entrance applause. Slutty McCougar gets entrance applause because she's TV famous. Revile that as righteously as we like, it is what it is. The second banana blonde got entrance applause because overheated thickos didn't register she wasn't Kim Catrall till they were mid-plotz.

    The EXACT same thing happened at Man and Boy. Random middle aged man in a hat opens the door, the crowd goes wild. Five seconds into the rapture, an old lady behind me: "Wait a minute, that's not him. Is that him?"

    While I don't mind entrance applause for Performers of a Certain Stature, I hate, loathe, and despise the Auto Ovation. It's tasteless and allows inferior shows to cheapen their betters. And it pains me more in shows I like just fine than it does in shows I hate. Priscilla Queen of the Desert, I'd burn in hell before I stood (or even applauded) and don't care who knows it. Addams Family? It was very nice, thank you. An extraordinarily exceptional experience? Mmmm, nah. But I don't want to be the buzzkill in the room, and I don't feel strongly enough about it to swim against the current, so I stand. And I feel awkward, and a little compromised, and a little cranky.

    I'd much rather be the sincere dork standing alone in London, than the conflicted crank going along to get along in New York.