Really? Must We?

Because sometimes it is good to go see something other than a movie, on Thursday night we decided to give local theatre another go and went to Stanley Park to see Bye Bye Birdie, which is part of their Theatre Under the Stars program.

There actually is a movie [fair warning – this link is pretty irritating] of this show, and apparently once upon a time, a Broadway version.  The movie was made in 1963 and starred Janet Leigh, Dick Van Dyke, and Ann-Margret.  I’ve never seen it, and was going into this with no knowledge of what to expect besides that it was a musical.

It was cute and upbeat.  The pre-show was a bit (ok, a lot) cringey, but if you have some spare money lying around and nothing else to do in Vancouver, go see it.  It was fairly funny, with a few recognizable songs.  Ursula the super-fan was hilarious and stole the show.

Now, I need to assume the story was a parody, because taken literally, the entire plot was pretty appalling.  I know women have come a long way in the last forty-some-odd years, but still.  The song, “How Lovely to Be a Woman” was particularly painful.  So was the extremely smart, capable, and lovely woman whose big life “goal” was for her boyfriend to become a teacher so she could marry him and be a teacher’s wife.  Gag.

Whatever; I was able to turn off my screaming inner feminist and enjoy the show.

Live theatre and movies are pretty different.  The “live” aspect means there can be mistakes, or slight differences every time.  There’s generally a lot less money involved.  The biggest difference though, is that when you go to a play, the performers can see your reaction.

For me, that means I feel pressured to pretend to be having a better time than I am.  I laugh at jokes that aren’t really that funny.  I smile when the people who come into the audience make eye contact.  I clap after solos or big group numbers, regardless of quality.  And at the end, even if it was really only ok,  I’ll follow the crowd and give a standing ovation if everyone else does.  Part of me realizes that this insults the shows that actually deserve standing ovations, but I also know these people work really hard.  Artsy types tend to be sensitive, and I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

This show took the live aspect to a new and unpleasant height though: they included audience participation.  I dread audience participation.  Remember how I said I’m not a big one for random displays of emotion?  Well that goes triple for audience participation.

It started out fairly innocuously.  They threw a bunch of gigantic beach balls into the crowd and had people bat them around.  I could live with that.  But then, somewhere in the middle, they made us all stand up and do the twist!

I was horrified.

  1. I don’t really dance.  When I dance, I need a lot of advance warning so I can mentally prepare.
  2. I certainly don’t twist.
  3. I especially don’t twist in front of a whole bunch of strangers when I have come to a show for the purpose of watching other people dance, people who actually know how.
  4. Because there were people there who knew what they were doing, my involvement would look even worse in comparison.

Unfortunately, this is one of those situations where you have to bow to peer pressure or mob mentality or whatever.  (Even though your whole life you are told you don’t have to and even shouldn’t.)  Because if you don’t, if you sit in your chair while everyone else does the audience participation thing, you look like an asshole.  You get branded a bad sport or a party pooper or just plain boring, and god knows there’s nothing worse than being a bad sport.

So I did it.  I resented it, but I got up and did the twist in the middle of the show.  Except that I can’t twist, so what I actually did was stand there and sort of wiggle my bum and feel like a dork and pray it would be over soon.

Right, that’s why I usually go to movies.

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