Ben Brantley, in Theater Talkback, The New York Times, May 17:
Something rare and wonderful happened at the opening night of the Encores! concert production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at City Center last week. At the end of the show, when the performers took their bows, the audience remained seated….
We whooped, we roared, we wolf-whistled. Our applause might well have sent tremors all the way to Battery Park. But no one, as far as I could tell, was standing up. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes had been accorded the five-star tribute of a sitting ovation.
I would like to make the case, officially and urgently, for the return of the sitting ovation. Because we really have reached the point where a standing ovation doesn’t mean a thing. Pretty much every show you attend on Broadway these days ends with people jumping to their feet and beating their flippers together like captive sea lions whose zookeeper has arrived with a bucket of fish. This is true even for doomed stinkers that find the casts taking their curtain calls with the pale, hopeless mien of patients who have just received a terminal diagnosis.
I’m not asking for the wholesale abolition of the S.O. That would be a sadly quixotic demand. I’m just asking you, my comrades in urban theatergoing, to think before you stand, if you must stand at all. And to remember, in an age in which the S.O. is as common in a Broadway theater as an endless line for the ladies room at intermission, that staying seated has become the exceptional tribute.