Can You Have Too Much Of A Good Thing?

Standing ovations are a rare thing in Australian theatre. They often only happen on opening nights and closing nights – which in a long season can be make them a rare thing. But it is a different story on Broadway, which is why I was surprised to read an article complaining that there are too many standing ovations.

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Personally, I don’t ever think you can have too much of a good thing. I would eat chocolate for every meal of the week if I could. And I believe the same thing about entertainment. Imagine if every show, musical, play, concert, performance ended with a standing ovation. How much fun would that be?

Well, apparently not everyone feels the same way I do.

I was reading an article from a New York producer who was suggesting that standing ovations should be reserved for special occasions or phenomenal shows. His reasoning was that by standing at the end of every show the concept of a standing ovation had been cheapened. Granted, standing ovations are probably less special for New York audiences and performers as they are in Australia – but is that a bad thing?

There is one key element to a standing ovation that is important to attracting more people to the theatre . . . it ensures audience members leave on a high. The atmosphere in a performance venue is electric when there are hundreds of people standing on their feet cheering and showing their appreciation for the actors on stage. And considering that the most memorable part of a service is the end, this is probably not a bad ending to engrain the experience in their memory.

In the past, this memorable ending would have been a great catalyst for inspiring discussion with friends and family about the wonderful experience. And it still is. But there is now another dimension on top of this great word of mouth opportunity through the development of social media.

Whether or not the audience has turned off their phone during the performance, as soon as they walk out the door there is almost a guarantee that each tech-savvy person will have their phone in their hands catching up on whatever news they missed in the last three hours. If they have just had a wonderful experience – which was finished on a memorable high and left them buzzing – then they are probably going to want to create some news for themselves and tell all their friends about the unbelievable show they just witnessed. This increased word of mouth leads to greater awareness, more personal recommendations and ultimately more people lining up to see the show.

So this is my question. While having a culture surrounding standing ovations may cheapen the notion, isn’t it better to have more standing ovations of slightly lesser meaning than rarely ever having a highly prized standing ovation?

If both options get people tweeting, Facebook sharing and posting photos on Instagram, then the answer would have to be a resounding YES!

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