Nick Leshi

Nick Leshi
Bronx, New York, United States of America
December 13
Writer, actor, media professional, fan of entertainment, pop culture, and speculative fiction. Contact for more info.


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Editor’s Pick
MAY 4, 2012 4:34PM

Are There Too Many Standing Ovations?

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One of the greatest features of the blogosphere is the forum it provides for conversation. It really is the new marketplace of ideas. A wonderful discussion has emerged on a few of my favorite blogs -- Uncensored John Simon (which I wrote about in January 2011) and Ken Davenport's The Producer's Perspective (which I raved about back in December 2009). Mr. Simon argued in his post titled "The Audience" that too many people are standing up and cheering for performances that do not merit such euphoric praise. Mr. Davenport defended such displays of appreciation in his own post, "Why Do People Get So Upset When They See a Standing O?" 

Each blog entry had some valid points, and readers added their own interesting opinions on the topic in the comments sections. The debate has raged on, I'm sure, in other corners of cyberspace, as it has around watercoolers and other real-life environments. Are there too many standing ovations? Do people too often jump to their feet at the end of a show that doesn't really deserve that level of applause?

When I perform on stage, there is nothing more gratifying at the end of a performance than seeing the audience express their enjoyment for what they've experienced. The curtain call is that moment when both the actor and the crowd can connect one final time, both showing their gratitude, through a bow and through clapping, cheering, and yes, standing.

I agree that, especially on Broadway where ticket prices are so expensive, theatergoers have a right to jump and cheer at the end of each show they attend, even if they didn't just witness a masterpiece. Often, live theater culture encourages a sort of stifling passivity during a show.  We have to be quiet and not disturb our fellow patrons during an experience in which every cough and sneeze, every inadvertant chuckle or gasp, can cause heads to turn, distracting from the actions being performed under the lights before us. So when the story ends, applause and standing ovations can be seen as an outpouring of suppressed emotions.

If we stand for everything, though, it does delute the significance of such a gesture. Sometimes we see some people standing and others sitting, which magnifies the message that some thought the performance was brilliant and others are determined in their belief that, "Hey, it wasn't that great to make me get up off my seat." Sometimes, I feel crowd peer pressure to stand because I don't want it to be perceived that by not standing up to cheer I hated a show, which I actually liked (just not so much that I would leap to my feet about it).

If performers become accustomed to standing ovations as the norm rather than the exception, will that have the effect of minimizing genuine applause that's not delivered standing up -- will such cheering be viewed as polite but not sincere, because it was delivered sitting down?

There you have my own addition to the conversation. Let me know if any of you have any other thoughts on the debate. Until then, keep on cheering, whichever way you choose!

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Saw a performance of Phantom of the Opera at a local high school week before last…and I went with lots of trepidation. Phantom, in my opinion, is not an easy undertaking for amateurs; the music requires a lot more singing skills than the traditional amateur productions (Grease, High School Musical, Thoroughly Modern Milly, and the like). The skill for the parts of Christine, the Phantom, and especially Carlotta are major league—and the production number Masquerade is a torture.

But I got the surprise of my life…the production was spectacular. The audience rose as one at the end…and the applause was deafening.

Sorry, no real comment on what you wrote, Nick. Just wanted to note an instance of audience standing that was totally appropriate.
Yes. Giving a standing ovation for every performance reduces the significance of the gesture.

I stood and applauded for José Carreras for 10 minutes in the early '90s, for Reuben Gonzalez at North Sea Jazz, for the original production of Cats, for the Strolling Bones...I refuse to stand for any performance beneath that standard, however I will remain seated and wholeheartedly applaud any performance (unless it was so bad I left halfway through) until final curtain.
Editors Pick, yay!
Hey, father-in-law used to say that the crowd would be "moved" by certain things, such as an actor "amost" bursting into tears, or raising his arms slowly ( a hypnotic mind-over-matter). I think Michael Flatley used to aim to "get em on their feet", and usually did. I have to see SPECTACULAR effort to get on my feet, but sometimes it is done by the author, which they never call for anymore...
If the performance moves you then by all means applause!!