Five crazy cellphone disruptions in classical music and theater

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Anyone who has attended a live performance in recent years, whether it be classical music, theater or opera, knows that a stray cellphone ring (or two) has become one of the unavoidable annoyances of a nice night out. In the vast majority of cases, the guilty gadget is silenced in a timely fashion. But sometimes the ringing (or chatting, in some cases) can cause a major disruption for the audience as well as the performers.

The New York Philharmonic experienced such a disruption this week when a persistently ringing device brought a performance of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony to a screeching halt. The gory details of the incident, which took place at Avery Fisher Hall, have been the talk of classical-music blogs.


Here are five memorable dramatic cellphone disruptions.

New York Philharmonic: On Tuesday evening, the orchestra was near the end of the fourth movement of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony when an iPhone near the front of Avery Fisher started ringing. The iPhone, which had a marimba-sounding ringtone, was persistent and apparently loud enough for conductor Alan Gilbert to hear because he halted the performance to confront the offender, asking the man, ‘Are you finished?’ He didn’t respond. Once the phone was silenced — and after loud expressions of displeasure from other patrons — the concert resumed.

Kevin Spacey: During a run late last year of Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’ in Australia, the actor chastised an audience member whose device disrupted a performance at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre. Spacey reportedly stayed in character as the English tyrant, telling the offender, ‘Tell them that we’re busy.’ During another performance, the actor was said to use a pen light to spotlight the face of a cellphone abuser.

Hugh Jackman: The actor appeared opposite Daniel Craig on Broadway in ‘A Steady Rain’ in 2009. During previews, Jackman halted a performance to berate a cellphone abuser but reportedly stayed in character. Footage from the incident was caught on camera and can be seen online. Laurence Fishburne: The actor played Henry II in a 1999 Broadway revival of ‘The Lion in Winter’ by the Roundabout. During one performance, a cellphone rang for about a half of a minute, causing the actor to break character and chastise the owner of the device.

Patti LuPone: What can be said about LuPone and cellphones that hasn’t already been dissected by bloggers and journalists? The Broadway star has been known to halt performances and loudly rebuke cellphone abusers and amateur photographers. At this point, anyone who is foolish enough to let their electronic devices ring during a LuPone performance deserves to be chewed out by the fiery actress.


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— David Ng