How to earn your standing ovation

Why do audiences give standing ovations?

These days, standing ovations aren’t hard to come by. I’d estimate at least 80% of the musicals I see result in the audience cheering on their feet. My big question: why?

Musicals vs plays

Plays are often infinitely more delicate, intricate and discovering than musicals yet almost never get the recognition in the form of a standing ovation. Perhaps there’s something about a rousing encore or orchestral backing that just gets people on their feet. It’s a shame, but I for one will never be the first person to leap up in applause at the end of a play.

Plays sometimes end on a rather melancholy and thought-provoking note, making it seem almost awkward to stand up and clap at the end. Comedies might prove a little more clap-happy, however undeserved that might be.

The fake standing ovations

Cheating musicals often bring on a clappy encore, encouraging the audience to ‘get up and dance’. This is not, I repeat not, a true and well deserved standing ovation. If an audience has to be dragged onto their feet by an ill fitting encore it just doesn’t count.

The tear-jerkers

Blood Brothers is a classic one – the audience is moved, it’s emotional, and it’s just one of those things. Yep, up we get. The Lion King‘s another standard standing ovation musical. It doesn’t matter how good the cast is, the formula is right every time.

The deserved and unrecognized

Totally hats off to directors who choose to subtly and correctly end their musical. The most recent tour of Chicago got it totally, totally spot on – the cast sung the last song and off they went. It was simple and in fitting with the show, but didn’t allow enough time for the standing ovation. Such a shame, really.

The rewarded

My favourite category by a country mile. These musicals damn well deserve a standing ovation, and you know what? They damn well get one. Think Nativity: The Musical, School of Rock and Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. You just can’t not.

What shows do you stand for?

Let me know in the comments or tweet me your answer!

Photograph credited to Catherine Ashmore


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