Friday, January 24, 2014

The Standing Ovation Phenomenon in Utah

If a production absolutely knocks you off your feet, then you get on your feet at the end of the show to applaud.  This is what we call a "standing ovation."

I have participated in audiences from L.A. to San Francisco to Alaska to Hawaii to New York City (dozens) to Ohio to Florida to even Branson, get the picture.  I've seen more than my fair share of productions.

Utah audiences have this unique approach to the standing ovation, the likes of which I have encountered nowhere else.  I think it would be fair to state that at the conclusion of an artist's performance, the audience milks it more than the actual performer.  They have this innate know-how and drive to get exactly what they want - more performing.

Here's how it goes in Utah:
1. Performer (theater, concert, or otherwise) gives their best performance and concludes their performance
2. Audience jumps to their feet and claps in uproarious thunder, regardless of if the performance was actually good or not
     - Shouldn't a performance be noteworthy to earn such a special kind of applause?
3. Performer re-enters the stage for the encore
     - Most performers are all-too familiar with the encore and have one prepared
     - After encore #1 is when most audiences know the show is complete
4. Utah audience continues to clap as if trying to shake down the rains from heaven
     - Performer re-enters and performs yet a second encore, most at least have a trick
       up their sleeves
5. Utah audience continues to clap with all the gusto of a stampeding heard of buffalo
     - Performer re-enters and most often will say they don't have another encore
       prepared, thank you, and please go home
6. Utah audience still doesn't get it until the lights in the theater come up and the stage begins to clear of anything that resembles a performer

I have actually seen five encores before while attending the performance of a Broadway diva with the Utah Symphony.  Five!  Can you imagine?

I'm curious as to how this all started.  How did Utah audiences start clapping and never stop?  How do they all seem to just know they should do this? 

Image from


S.R. Braddy said...
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S.R. Braddy said...

Pet peeve of mine, this. I think Utahans think it rude not to ovate on their feet.

j said...

If people keep coming out and doing encores, then it seems as though they are encouraging the behavior. If the audience's goal is to get more music and applauding a lot (like really a lot, forever, can we just go to the car?) results in more performance then that reinforces the behavior.

When I'm at a concert for a band I like, then I'm always hoping for more music. When I'm at a theatrical performance where there's no such thing as an encore, I don't necessarily understand the need for a standing ovation after every show. But yeah, as soon as most people are standing you start to feel like a jerk if you don't. Also you can't see what's going on.

Janell said...

I was of the opinion that Utah audiences felt that /not/ standing for an ovation and demanding encores was rude. My, the glares I'd receive when /not/ standing to offer my applause. So what do they do when a performance needs an expression of gratitude? Longer ovations! More ovations! Cat calls?

I'm perfectly fine offering applause on a curve and reserving my feet for performances I truly feel I won't forget.

MamaHintze said...

I was taught, in college, as a music major, that generally a performance is worthy of a standing ovation perhaps once in a lifetime, otherwise the value of a standing ovation is cheapened. They told us we were allowed one per semester, since we are Americans, not Europeans. I often do not stand dor a perfectly fine performance. But our culture is such that most audiences stand after every performance. So be it!

miss kristen said...

I'm no where near as well-traveled as you Riss, but having seen my fair share of productions I've only ever WANTED to stand for one or two. The rest I was coerced into doing because everyone else around me was doing it and I was getting nasty looks for not getting up as well.

All of your friend's comments are spot on in my book.

Eve said...

I think it's sweet when audiences stand. I don't see it very often. And if I wasn't planning on standing, but the person next to me does--it delights me that had such a great experience at the theatre--and I generally stand in support of that. I have a lot of friends who just never stand--and that's fine too. But like I said--it's delightful when you can see that someone has had a wonderful time at the theatre!

Shelli said...

This is a very interesting topic. On the one hand, I would credit our frugal determination to get a lot of somethings for nothings. If that means that we have to stand a while longer and clap until our hands bleed, well, that's just fine, because that means we get maybe one or two more mini-performances, and that is fantastic.

As for myself, I agree that over use of the standing ovation cheapens it somewhat. But, I stand because I have been entertained by people who have put their hearts and souls into their production and have accomplished something I will never - and could never - do.

I think that more than two encores, though, is asking a bit much.

Caprene said...

My friends I have my season tickets with know how much this Utah trend bothers me. It seems like people don't understand what an ovation actually means. I've been to shows that just weren't good, and yet they still ended with everyone, but me, on their feet. Oye people! I have stood, for example when Audra McDonald performed 110 in the Shade at Orem Hale, each time I saw it, I stood - just for her, as much as to demonstrate my gratitude for her coming to Utah and performing in this tiny venue as in acknowledgement of her amazing performance. But you won't find me on my feet very often. I'm such a party pooper!