“Here I am,” is what your first entrance says if you are a big star. If you are an entertainer, then that first entrance is BIG. The audience is built up – maybe there is a support act, maybe an interval, the audience returns and settles down and waits. “Ladies and gentlemen!” I saw Frank Sinatra walk out at the Royal Albert Hall and the audience immediately stood and applauded and cheered. The same for Liza Minelli. I suppose you are applauding their worth, their work or because you are acknowledging their status. They have earnt it.
Sometimes in the theatre it doesn’t work so well. In a play you are drawn into a story and then somebody famous walks on and the audience starts applauding and cheering. No problem for a comedy because there is a connection between the stage and the audience but in a serious play?
In the States well known people regularly perform in Broadway productions and stop the show on their first entrance. Sometimes the clapping and cheering can go on for what seems an age. I understand why it happens, but I find it annoying. I’m there to see the story not pass my respects to the performer.
To me this is an unwanted gift. I want to be excited and captivated by the characters and every time someone new walks on I want to be more fascinated, more surprised even, by what will happen, not take time out to clap my hands.
The most unusual start to a play I watched was a production of Macbeth starring Sean Bean. The audience was mainly school age, probably studying the play for GCSE. There was no dimming of the lights. Without warning the auditorium went straight from chatter to darkness and loud rock music. We were instantly taken somewhere else and it was a shock. That’s the kind of theatre I like, it makes you sit up and take notice. You’re in.
It’s always a question of what you want the audience to feel. When a famous person in a play gets a round of applause before they’ve done anything I think that’s probably the producers of the play reminding you that you got your money’s worth. And that performer knows exactly how to say “Here I am” when they enter.
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