To stand or not to stand? (Who cares?)


“Hardly anyone stood up at the end to applaud the show.”

That comment was left by a reader in response to Chris Jones’ review of Beauty and the Beast. This individual was pointing out how disappointed s/he was with the production by noting it didn’t receive a standing ovation.

Yes, I agree the show wasn’t that great, and I would have never, in a million years, considered getting out of my seat to applaud it.

But that’s not the point. The point is: Why do people feel a show needs validation via a standing ovation to be considered “good”? Can’t people form their own opinions? Do they need thousands of people around them standing up and shouting to tell them “Hey! This show must be good! All of us are doing that standing and clapping thing! Woo hoo!”

Or, sometimes people stand and clap for crap just because they feel it’s their obligation, and it somehow validates the price of the ticket. If a show didn’t get a “standing o,” than it must have failed on some level.

(Yes, this is an age-old argument, but sometimes these are worth revisiting.)

I’ve been to plenty of shows, mainly in smaller theatres with more seasoned theatregoers, that were powerful, well-done productions, but we didn’t stand up. We clapped heartily and expressed our gratitude for a job well done, but that was it. Standing was unnecessary. Doing so would have seemed obnoxious — even tacky.

Please, don’t join the masses and stand if you don’t feel a performance isn’t exceptional enough to warrant standing. And, conversely, stand if you feel it warrants a standing ovation!

Whatever you chose to do, don’t base your opinions on what others think. How do you feel about it? Let’s form our own opinions here.

That’s all that really matters.

5 thoughts on “To stand or not to stand? (Who cares?)

  1. Adding to this, I feel that it’s somehow become customary to stand for an ovation at the end of big-budget shows, regardless of the quality of the performances. I have never been to a Broadway, National Touring company, or other large Equity-ish show where people did not stand at the end. Without naming names of specific productions, there have a few that truly weren’t worthy.

    (Was there a standing O at the end of Cats, Bob? I can’t remember.)

    That said, when an ovation is due, I’m the first to my feet. (Ragtime, January 2010, y’all. For reals.)

    1. Yup, standing O’s are just part of the norm. People don’t seem to process what they’ve seen — they just react.

      There was a quasi standing O at the end of “Cats.” A few people here and there. We remained firmly planted. :)

  2. I always stand if the all the rest of the audience stands. If I stayed sitting I worry it would look like I was trying to make some huge point about how the show really wasn’t that good and I alone have what it takes to recognize that. Now if I really did want to make that huge point, perhaps I would resolutely stay in my chair, but if I don’t feel that strongly about it – whatever, I’ll stand.

  3. If everyone else is standing sometimes you have to get up just to be able to see the curtain call. Also, I like to gather my things so I can make a hasty retreat for the restroom and/or the stage door!

    But yeah, standing Os are pretty much the norm. I’ve written about this issue on my blog and I think part of it may be that most people don’t get to the theatre very often, let alone Broadway, and it’s exciting. You’re kind of caught up in the moment and you want to stand and applaud because you’ve had a good time.

    Or maybe if some people stand everyone else thinks they ought to, also.

    1. Hey Esther and Maile –

      Yeah — the “rolling O” is a phenomenon that could explain the constant standing — even by those that don’t want to.

      But, I think the difference here is: both of you know why you’re standing — you are able to discern a great performance from one that’s merely good. Regardless of the Standing O.

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