I love opening nights. The audiences are engaged, usually made up of friends and family of the cast members. Everyone is in a jovial mood, eager to be the first to see the latest show.
On the other hand, it may not be the best show to see, if you ask the actors. Depending on the number of preview performances they had prior to opening night, they may still be feeling their way along with their performances. Later in the run, they will know where the laughs and applause are, and based on audience reaction, they build a better show.
Sometimes things happen on opening night because all the glitches haven’t been ironed out. On the opening night of Spamalot at Huron Country Playhouse earlier this summer, an errant mustache came unglued, causing a couple of actors to “corpse” (that’s theatre talk for breaking up with laughter). The audience roared! But they quickly composed themselves, back-tracked a line, and carried on with the show.
Ideally, a theatre-goer should seek the best of both worlds – go on opening night and enjoy sitting among others in an appreciative audience, then go again, several performances later and perhaps see a more polished production.
I’ve been spoiled, attending opening nights. The members of the audience are regular theatre-goers and know the theatre etiquette. Recently, we went to a performance a few days after opening night. The audience applauded politely but they just weren’t generous. Several times, I found myself leading the applause, when the audience was hesitating. In that same audience, people were talking out loud to each other. It was as if they were sitting on the couch at home, watching TV and discussing what they missed when they came back late after the commercial.
Opening night audiences know that they should be seated at least 15 minutes before the show – they study the program, know the various cast members, and have an understanding of what they are about to see. You know it isn’t opening night when you take your seat, and others are constantly climbing over you, going in and out, right up to the time that lights are going down.
You also know it’s not an opening night audience when you hear cell phones chirping, fingers tapping on i-phones, or women rustling in purses. Come on, folks, pay attention to the show!
This is a busy week with three openings: Sorry, I’m Canadian at Playhouse II, and Mary Poppins at Huron Country Playhouse, both in Grand Bend, and Fox on the Fairway at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia. I’m excited!