Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I won't stand for it.

So, last night, I went to the theatre. It was a bit of an impromptu visit, as I was given the tickets at noon that day, but as it was to see a new show, I wasn't about to turn them down! This is not a review... or even a specific reflection of that show, but rather a general comment about theatre that was sparked by my experience last night.

One of my pet peeves in any sort of theatre right now is the automatic standing ovation. No matter what you go see, people seem to think that if it has managed to make it to a West End stage, it deserves a standing ovation. Or maybe it is just that the majority of the audience has had to sell the rights to their first-born child's internal organs in order to afford the tickets to some of the big names, so they are determined that it will be the most amazing show that they have ever seen - reality be darned.

Personally, I only want to stand up for a performance that was truly exceptional - be that a show as a whole or one performer in particular. That is not going to be EVERY single show that I go to see. Most shows out there are good in one way or another. They are professional level productions that have a lot of things going for them, but exceptional - by its very definition - cannot be found with every ticket. So, I try to only stand when I really mean it.

If you don't already know me, I will pretty much go see anything theatre-ish. Of course, do I have my preferences and personal favourites. With a background in musical theatre, I will admit to having a very large affinity for anything that moves me through that medium. But I am utterly annoyed by the habit that has emerged for jukebox musicals to include 5-10 minutes of 'mega-mix' at the end of the show that requires the audience to party along with them. The forced and false standing ovation that then is created at the end of every show is frustrating for me. (Don't even get me started on the seventeen curtain calls that seem to go along with every show these days too.)

Now, It is mostly jukebox musicals that have done this... and they do it because they have modelled themselves on the super successes like Mamma Mia. But I have a problem with the concept itself. I have come to watch a theatre production, not a concert. Because of that, I have just spent the better part of two hours trying to believe in the world that has been presented for me on the stage. To then suddenly ask me to participate in that world is a jarring and unwelcome finish as far as I am concerned. To me, it devalues the theatre that has come before it. It asks me to forget the characters and story that you have just invested two hours of your time in and instead highlights that it was actually all about forcing that song you knew from somewhere else into a calculated framework. Not to mention the automatic standing ovation it creates at the final bows - which I take exception to as mentioned above.

Perhaps that is purist of me. Maybe it is old-fashioned. Do you like the 'mega-mix' endings?

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