Fence Sitter — A. R. Samson
Musical theater often reserves a rousing, wake-up-the-nappers number for the end that also seamlessly segues into the curtain call where the cast is reintroduced in groups or solo, for their share of a standing ovation and scattered whoops of appreciation. The main stars fade back for this last number with the chorus line left behind, then reappear in ascending order of importance.
Can there be a more rousing ending than the finale of the fun musical Kinky Boots (showing at RCBC) where the whole cast prances around and bellows “Raise you up/ Just be,” all of them, yes all, male and female (“and those who haven’t made up their minds”) dancing on stiletto heeled thigh-reaching boots? For a musical with unfamiliar songs (albeit with words and music by Cyndi Lauper — but no “Time After Rime” or “True Colors”) but with great credentials (bestowed with the Tony, Olivier, and Grammy awards) the performance was awesome with the audience reaction to match. The dance numbers made me hold my breath for the possible ankle injury for the men in drag and heels. There was thankfully no call for audience participation — bring your own stiletto boots.
I always enjoy the curtain call as an opportunity to show appreciation and love for hard work made to look like simple fun. A prolonged applause punctuated with lusty screams of delight and dancing-in-place demonstrate the rollicking success of Kinky Boots. Movies too (like Mama Mia with an awkward Pierce Brosnan) in the end credits employ this device to show the actors performing one more number, or splicing together bloopers and outtakes. The Marvel movies have patented using the rolling end credits for a short trailer, a nasty device that moviegoers too eager to leave miss, thinking there’s nothing more to see but the name of the caterers and hairdressers.
Curtain calls need to be part of our culture. Applause is a way of showing gratitude for talent and hard work.
The curtain call’s equivalent in the corporate world is the “despedida party” for executives on their way out. This ritual aims to honor a departing colleague who gets treated and toasted (or roasted) by those staying behind. However, unless the retiree is leaving on his mandatory retirement or migrating to Canada to pursue career opportunities in retailing bed sheets, an exit is not always cause for celebration.
Of course, there’s the food and drinks, maybe a singer the honoree can duet with. The banquet allows people to do something enjoyable without having to talk to each other or speculate on the real story behind this occasion.
There are speakers that applaud the honoree — he always asked me to do work he passed off as his own, and that’s how I learned to outsource. This parade of speakers extols the honoree’s virtues. The accolades revolve around “niceness.” Note that this is different from making meaningful contributions to the bottom line.
Anecdotes fall under the category of thoughtfulness — he brought me home one time during a typhoon where he himself got stranded and had to check into a motel with his EA. These heroic stories are seldom work-related.
There is a video presentation to lighten up the mood. Pictures of the honoree are shown, when he still had hair and his waistline did not require industrial-strength belts. Some triumphal moments include video greetings from past bosses — I don’t remember his first name.
The tricky segment is the “acceptance speech.” Like the loser in a talent contest who still has to render a final number and say positive things about the judges, this segment requires self-control and the ability to be a good sport. This part is done at the end, when everyone is drunk and half of the invitees have gone home.
Should companies simply emulate the theater tradition of a curtain call? The honoree can just take a bow and be joined by a supporting cast for the dance number, not necessarily in red stiletto boots, but with the spotlight on the stage as the orchestra raises the pitch of the music for the audience to join in.
And then the house lights go up. The show is over, and the audience heads for the parking area, after a stop at the washroom. Probably, that may not work too well with corporate farewells.
There is after all a big difference between a curtain call… and the final curtain.
A. R. Samson is chair and CEO of Touch DDB.