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Understand that in this tally, we’re not counting curtain calls.

But indeed, last month in London during a Saturday matinee of OPERATION MINCEMEAT, I saw not one, not two, but three standing ovations greet a trio of numbers.

Well, this show is a smash-hit of epic proportions. It’s often been dubbed “the best reviewed musical in West End history.” Go scan the Internet for yourself, and you’ll find that this claim is genuine truth in advertising.

No wonder that MINCEMEAT’s presence was nowhere to be found at the Leicester Square TKTS booth. When I tried the various ticket agencies around town, I only received are-you-kidding sneers.

But, as luck would have it, when I walked to the Fortune Theatre –

where writers David Cumming, Felix Hagan, Natasha Hodgson and Zoë Roberts are making a fortune – someone had just turned in a seat in the very last row of the balcony. I grabbed it as the box office staffer grabbed my 85 pounds.

OPERATION MINCEMEAT tells of a ruse that the Allies pulled on the Nazis in World War II. To keep the enemy from invading Sicily, the British devised one of those “It’s so crazy that it just might work” plots.

The Allies found a dead body, dressed it in a British uniform, got a briefcase and filled it with purposely incorrect war plans. They handcuffed the briefcase to the corpse’s wrist and threw the body into the ocean. They hoped the Germans would find it, be led off-course and leave Sicily alone.

Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, that’s just what happened.

The four writers decided to use the time-honored tradition of British farce to lighten up the story. Considering both the reception and receipts, few if any have seemed to mind.

But the real surprise was to see those three standing ovations.

First, they reveled as Ian Fleming (yes, that Ian Fleming, who created 007) and his fellow officers came up with a different plan about which they insisted, “God, That’s Brilliant.”

Their commanding officer disagreed, but the many fortunate theatergoers at the Fortune staunchly showed whose side they were on by leaping to their feet.

Then, “All the Ladies” had Jean, the new low-level hire at the Naval Intelligence Office, dream of being on the same footing as men. One could effectively argue that the crowd was railing against the reminder that women weren’t as professionally valued back then, but here’s betting that the song itself provided the majority of the seated to leave their seats.

As it turns out, Jean will play an important part in this war, once the officers see how she can be valuable to them. To make the information in the briefcase believable, Jean is conscripted to write a love letter to “Bill” that will be placed among the bogus plans.

So, Jean writes “Dear Bill,” a most tender love ballad.

This genre of song is not the type that’s known to spur an audience to leap to its feet. Such a response is usually reserved for a wildly frenetic up-tempo song or after a singer has held a note for an inordinately long amount of time. Seeing people rise and cheer for a ballad was a first for me – and probably a first for the audience, too.

My mind returned to the first time I ever saw a standing ovation greet a single song was at DREAMGIRLS’ Boston tryout in November 1981.

Need I add that Jennifer Holliday’s rendition of “And I Am Telling You, I Am Not Going” was responsible?

What was truly astonishing is that the crowd couldn’t wait for the song to finish; by the time Effie Melody White got to the lyric “push, strike and kill,” many were already up and rewarding her for killing it.

The Bostonians greeted the end of the show with a standing ovation as well. Such a reaction was starting to be the norm at musicals and plays. Frankly, as any theatergoer will attest, these days only the most disappointing of shows don’t get an audience to stand at the curtain calls.

Standing during or after a particularly strong number may become the norm, too.

That started me wondering what songs might have received such a reaction had they not been performed in a more sedate and sedentary era. If I had to guess and list a Top Ten in chronological order, I’d say:

1… “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” (Guys and Dolls, 1950). If there were a prize for Best Eleven o’clock Number of All Time, this would have been it – well, at least until…

2. “Brotherhood of Man” (How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, 1961). Note that this one was written by the same composer-lyricist: Frank Loesser. Watching these corporate types let loose was uproarious fun.

3. “Hello, Dolly!” (Hello, Dolly!, 1964). Soon after rehearsals began, producer David Merrick was furious with director-choreographer Gower Champion for spending the first two weeks defining and refining this number. It turned out to be time well spent.

4. “Mame” (Mame, 1966). True, Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside was already in love with Ms. Dennis before she sauntered down south, but her victory in the fox hunt made it incontrovertible. Even if Beau knew that she’d done it in a foxy way, he still would have proposed. 

5. “Willkommen” (Cabaret, 1966). Given that we now know that The Kit Kat Klub is supposed to be a seedy joint, perhaps the glamor that oozed in this number gave the audience the wrong impression. But as the next song in the score maintained, “So What?”

6. “Turkey-Lurkey Time” (Promises, Promises, 1968). Michael Bennett puts his dancers into a figure-eight configuration, keeps them moving, and turns them into a veritable Mobius Strip. And in case you’ve forgotten what that is, it’s a loop that has no end. Audiences would have been happy if this number, enhanced by Burt Bacharach music, would had never ended, too.

7. “Who’s That Woman?” (Follies, 1971). Arguably the greatest production number that Broadway has seen in more than 50 years. It even exceeded“Beautiful Girls,” the opening number. Yes, seeing these once glorious young women make their entrance down the staircase that they once dominated was impressive. Still, witnessing them older all these decades later dancing aside their younger selves was even better.

8. “You’re Never Fully Dressed without a Smile” (Annie, 1977). Needless to say, the first part of the number that was set in a radio studio would not be the reason why this would win. You needed the little girls to come on and create their own version of the number.

(Given that Tessie starts it, let’s assume she did the choreography, too.)

9. “She’s a Nut” (On the Twentieth Century, 1978). Granted, its impact can’t be totally gleaned from the cast album, so let’s describe it as utter chaos, as one person spreads the bad news to another from train compartment to train compartment. It all culminated with Mrs. Primrose, the song’s titular unbalanced creature, riding on the train’s cowcatcher into the night.

(And to do that, you must be a nut.)

10. “Lullaby of Broadway” (42nd Street, 1980). Broadway loves to celebrate itself. Why shouldn’t it?

Peter Filichia can be heard most weeks of the year on His new book – BRAINTEASERS FOR BROADWAY GENIUSES – is now available on Amazon and at The Drama Book Shop.