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Large Ham / Theatre

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Here the hamming tradition begun. Thus "theatrical" became a synonym for "very hammy". The extra ham needed for theatre was justified since there were no microphones back then. People in the cheap seats, take the fat off your faces.

Actors and Other Performers
  • Sarah Bernhardt was the original modern theatre Large Ham, even taking on Large Ham male roles. She was also a Real Life Determinator — even being one-legged with almost no mobility could stop her from being an acclaimed actress.
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  • Isadora Duncan was a large ham of the ballet world.
  • Zero Mostel
  • "Never act with children, dogs or Denholm Elliott." (His film work however is much more subdued.)
  • Michael Crawford originated three roles in Andrew Lloyd Webber productions — the title characters in The Phantom of the Opera and the Screen-to-Stage Adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, and Count Fosco in The Woman in White. This says a lot about his performing style, which dates back to the time when he was best known as a light comedy actor (playing, among other roles, Cornelius in the film version of Hello, Dolly!, Condorman, and Frank Spencer).
  • Even in the World of Ham that is Cirque du Soleil, Brian Dewhurst is in a class of his own — an Englishman born into a circus family in 1932, he had a huge list of credits in circus and cabaret long before he made his first Cirque appearance in 1990's Nouvelle Experience as the ostentatious Great Chamberlain. He played a similar role in Fascination, and after several years of behind-the-scenes work let his love of being a large ham lead him back into the limelight as Mystère's principal clown, "Brian Le Petit". He was 68 then; now in his 80s, he's still in the role, and audiences love him for it. (Cirque being a Silence Is Golden world, he primarily uses his face and body to "project" to the back rows.)

Musical Ham

  • Jesus Christ Superstar can have several parts with lots of ham. Caiphas in "This Jesus Must Die," for one, and Pilate in "Pilate and Christ" and "Trial Before Pilate." Judas is pretty hammy too. It's a requirement for King Herod.
    • Jesus himself can break out the ham as well, especially Ian Gillan in the original cast version. He screams a fair bit of his lines, and the most remembered part of "Gethsemane" consists of his anguished screams. ("WHYYYYY!? WHYYY SHOULD I DIIIIIIE!?")
  • A Very Potter Musical contains copious amounts of ham.
    • "Did somebody say Ron? / Draco?"
    • Cho Chang gets a special intro dance.
    • The first scene Voldemort gets with a body, he gets a (literal) song and dance about it.
    • Bellatrix spends her tenure running about, shouting, and getting wet over her dark lord.
    • Umbridge needs to be seen to be believed.
    • Dumbledore's entrance is ridiculously long note on 'Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelcoooooooooome'.
    • Snape's the reason they have such limited scenery, though. Man walks on stage and everyone suddenly feels like they've nommed their way through a Costco-sized pack of bacon.
  • Practic-Lee a requirement for anyone playing Richard Henry Lee in 1776 , as the script has him constant-Lee making puns on adverbs and proclaiming he will single-handed-Lee deliver Virginia to the independence movement or may he be cursed eternal-Lee. Lee's involvement in the play amounts to basic-Lee two scenes and the original Broadway actor still won a Tony because his musical number performance was just that memorable.
  • George Hearn's performance as Albin in the original Broadway staging of La Cage aux folles was parodied by Forbidden Broadway as follows: "I ham what I ham/And when I ham, I get ovations..."
    • Really, Albin — aka Zaza — is a role that demands lovable, heartfelt hamming no matter who's playing him, and those who live up to it are embraced by audiences. A 2008 London revival made its way to the West End and then Broadway largely on the strength of Douglas Hodge's performance in the role. His voice isn't as big as Hearn's, but he makes up for it in sheer emotion. (And like Hearn, he won a Tony Award for his performance.)
  • Maureen in RENT. An offstage character until "Over The Moon", she takes over the show during that number and much of Act 2.
  • Applegate in the baseball-themed Faust adaptation Damn Yankees is ham-a-licious.
  • The Two Men in Kiss Me Kate. "Brush Up Your Shakespeare", indeed.
  • The Engineer in Miss Saigon. The show's dark comic relief, this guy steals the show from right under the main characters' feet if played right.
  • Large Ham: Now comes in CD form! Pick up a copy of the 2005 Little Women musical and skip ahead to "The Weekly Volcano Press." Words cannot describe the awesomeness of the entire cast (all... seven of them) hamming the life out of a pulpy, Faux Symbolism fairy tale, clearly having far, far too much fun.
  • Snoopy in You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. The lesser-known Spiritual Successor Snoopy! The Musical gives him even more opportunities to ham it up, particularly in "The Great Writer", in which he types up an increasingly ridiculous Melodrama complete with a fistfight between cowboys that takes place during a stampede.
  • The French Ambassador in Of Thee I Sing. "My country, she is deeply hurt. Not since the days of Louis the Seventh, the Eighth, the Ninth, the Tenth, and possibly the Eleventh has such a thing happened!"
  • This is practically a requirement for the Leonard Bernstein operetta version of Voltaire's Candide. Of special note for the level of salt-cured goodness, however, is Kristin Chenoweth's 2004 turn as Cunegonde, in which she was clearly having a grand old time. See an example.
  • Big River, the musical of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, has The Duke and King...when done best.
  • Basically every single last character in Little Shop of Horrors if the production's any good. It's quicker to list lines that aren't pure ham than that are, provided you can think of any.
  • No matter how good the actors are in all the rest of the show, just try to find a production of Les Misérables where every confrontation between Valjean and Javert doesn't immediately become a giant scenery-chewing contest. Just try.
    • Even better, Enjolras. ONE MORE DAY BEFORE THE STORM! signals an escalation of One Day More to its theme of revolution.
      • Even outside of Ham-to-Ham Combat with Jean Valjean, Javert's a huge ham, probably because he takes everything so seriously. Just look at this passage from "Stars": And If you faall, as Luuciifeer feel, you faaaaal in flaaaaames... AAAAAAND SOOO IIIIIT MUUUST BE!!!!!!! Foooor soooo iit is wriiteen, ooon the DOOORWAY TOOOO PAAAA-RAAAAA-DIIIIIIIISE!!!!!!!!!! Thaaaaat those who falter and those that faaaal must paaa-aay the priiiiiiice. Lord, let me find him, THAAAAT I MAAAY SEE HIM SAAAAFE BEHIIIND BAAAAAARS!!!!!! IIIIIII WIIIIL NEEEVER REEEST TIIIILL THEEEEN, THIIIS IIII SWEEAAR, THIIIS IIII SWEEAAR BYYYY... THEEEEEE STAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARS!!!!!!!!!! And if you thought that was melodramatic, his death is even hammer. I AM REACHING BUT I FALL/AND THE STARS ARE BLACK AND COLD/AS I STARE INTO THE VOID/OF A WORLD THAT CANNOT HOLD/I'LL ESCAPE NOW FROM THE WORLD/FROM THE WORLD OF JEAN VALJEAN/THERE IS NOWHERE I CAN TURN/THERE IS NO! WAY! TO! GO! OOOOOOOOOOOOOOON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And then, holding the last note for an absurdly long period of time, he throws himself into the Seine.
  • Wicked has Madame Morrible, the headmistress of Shiz University. Her performance at the end of Act 1 is utterly scene-shredding when done by the proper actress:
    "Her green skin is but the outward manifestorium of her twisted nature! This...distortion! This...repulsion! This...WICKEEEEEEEEED! WIIIIIIIIIIIIITCH!"
    • Elphaba's a Large Ham too, especially in "No Good Deed" ( No! Good! Deeeeed! Goes unpunished! All helpful urges should be circumvented! No! Good! Deed! go-oes UNPUNISHED! Sure I meant well- well look what well meant did!!!) and "Defying Gravity". ( So if you care to find me, LOOK TO THE WESTERN SKY! As someone told me lately, "Ev'ryone deserves the chance to fly!" And if I'm flying solo, at least I'm flying free... To those who'd ground me, TAKE A MESSAGE BACK FROM MEEEEE... TELL THEM... HOW IIIIIIIII!!!!!!! AM DEEEEFYYYYING! GRA-VIITYYYYY!)
  • Arguably Ben Vereen in the finale of Pippin. "Mole! She has a MOLE ON HER FACE! YOU WANT TO SPEND YOUR LIFE WITH A WOMAN WITH A MOLE ON HER FACE?!"
  • From the British production of Mamma Mia!!: "SHE'S STIIIILLLLLLL DONNA!"
  • The Green Goblin in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark was widely considered the infamous play's strongest point.
  • The 2013 adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is set in a World of Ham — which makes sense, given that in-story there's a lot of scenery that can literally be chewed on — with Charlie and his parents the only characters exempt. (And sweet Charlie may just need a little time to grow into hamminess; his fantasy of being a king in his "I Am" Song "Almost Nearly Perfect" suggests he has potential.) But there's no contest as to the biggest ham of all once Willy Wonka reveals himself to the world with the Act One finale "It Must Be Believed to Be Seen", a song that was clearly written for the express purpose of rafter-rattling, and Douglas Hodge is up to that challenge on the cast album.
  • In Twice Charmed, everyone is a Large Ham except Cinderella.
  • Pokémon Live! has Giovanni, the Team Rocket trio, Brock and Professor Oak.
  • Fiddler on the Roof has the ghost of Fruma Sara (in a dream sequence), hamming it Up to Eleven, putting every effort of scenery chewing to shame.
  • In The Drowsy Chaperone, both Janet and the Chaperone are extremely large hams - Janet gets an entire song-and-dance number, complete with encore, about how she wants to give up the stage and live a quiet life (nobody believes her), and the Chaperone frequently interrupts and sings over Janet in "As We Stumble Along", seen below:
    Chaperone: "Inspiration? Really, dear, that's not my forte."
    Janet: "Yes, but if you-"
    Chaperone (singing): "As we stumble aloooooong..."
    • The Chaperone is even an in-universe example, as, according to the Man in the Chair, her actress, Beatrice Stockwell, reportedly demanded a "rousing anthem" in every show she did, no matter how small her part, well into her old age (although by then, her anthems didn't so much "rouse" as "stupefy").
    • Aldolpho also applies, with his "I Am Great!" Song, “I Am Aldolpho”, being about two minutes of him Chewing the Scenery.
  • Oh so many of Hamilton, but especially Thomas Jefferson, Marquis de Lafayette, Hercules Mulligan, and King George III (all of whom have Incoming Ham lines if not when they first appear, then when they make their most memorable entrance). Aaron Burr even gets in on the action in "The Room Where It Happens". If not for Hamilton (in a case of Non-Indicative Name, one of the least hammy character in the show), Washington, and the Schuylers, it might be a World of Ham.
  • Daniella in In the Heights. "Let's have a carnival del barrrrioooooooo..."
    • Piragua Guy is a notably cheery example.
  • Elisabeth: If Lucheni isn't this, the actor's doing something wrong. His very first lines are hammy, and let's not forget "KITSCH!".
    • Death, too. "Der Letzte Tanz" is always an opportunity for an actor to ham it up, and the result is usually awesome.
    • Elisabeth herself, depending on the actress.
  • In Chess, Anatoly Sergievsky is this. Especially in the Denmark Cast Recording.
    • From "Freddie and Anatoly":
    Freddie: "How come your Second controls everything?"
    Anatoly: "Chess is her passion."
    Freddie: "But her obsession is East versus West."
    • From "Endgame":
    • Freddie isn't immune to hamminess either. From the same version, from "Commie Newspapers":
    Freddie: "I can't believe that they can't see my game. I'm like that tennis player, what's his name. They like to hate me and for uuuus, that's dollars!"
    • The Arbiter, as per tradition in the musical, is required to be a Large Ham as well. It isn't Chess without a hammy Arbiter.
    The Arbiter: "I'm on the case, I can't be fooled! Any objection is overruled! Don't try to tempt me, you've no hope! I DON'T LIKE WOMEN, I DON'T TAKE DOPE! I'M THE ARBITER, MY WORD IS LAW!!!"
    Crowd: "From square one he'll be watching you..."
  • It seems that hamminess in the universe of Tanz Der Vampire is inherent in all vampires. note  His Excellency, Count von Krolock, is a Cold Ham, though some turn into Large Ham near the end of Die unstillbare Gier (The Insatiable Greed). His son Herbert is an excitable Large Ham. The entire vampirized cast deliver up choice cuts of pork product for the finale.

Shakespearean Ham

Stephen Sondham

  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: A musical with melodramatic tendencies and a tip of the blood-spattered hat to the Grand Guignol shows. Mrs. Lovett's infamous meat pies often come with a side of ham. Just how much and for which characters depends on the production, but it's pretty much a given for Pirelli, who just isn't Pirelli if he isn't played as ham with a side of bacon.
    • The song ''A Little Priest", the Act I finale, is chock-full of ham and lampshades its own hamminess. The movie tried to do it without being hammy and thus demonstrates that ham is sometimes necessary.
    • Whoever plays Todd simply must ham it up during "Epiphany." It's his big moment, after all.
    • Judge Turpin can get pretty porky as well in his oft-cut song "Johanna (Mea Culpa)."
  • Miles Gloriosus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Actually, most of the main characters in this require some degree of ham.
    • Don't forget, Miles takes LARGE STEPS!
  • Into the Woods has both the Princes as Large Hams. "AGONY! FAR MORE PAINFUL THAN YOURS!"
    • Oh, the Witch tops them all. "IT'S THE LAAAAAAAAAAAASST MIDNIGHT! SO GOODBYYYYYYYYYYYYYEEE AAAAAAAAALLLL!!!!!!!" Seriously, count the number of single-syllable lines of hers that get drawn out.

Hamdrew Lloyd Webber

  • Another female example: Carlotta in The Phantom of the Opera (and by extension, many of the actresses playing her) — she's a Large Ham In-Universe!
    • The Phantom himself. A deformed, emotionally unstable musical prodigy with a chip on his shoulder towards the world and an opera obsession living in a gothic lake underneath an opera house? Let's just say that it's not a role that often lends itself easily to understatement and downplaying.
  • Lloyd Webber loves his large hams. Pharaoh from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Rum Tum Tugger from CATS, and Herod from Jesus Christ Superstar (especially the 2000 version) are some of theater's best hams.
  • In the London West End version of Cats, Old Deutromony and Bustopher Jones were originally played by BRIAN BLESSED.
  • Count Fosco of The Woman in White. It's another Melodrama so everybody hams it up, but as the show's primary comic relief and a villain, he's a lot more fun than the other characters. He's also a large ham in the physical sense in-story, with actors having to don a Fat Suit to play him.

Non-Musical Ham

  • The title character in Doctor Faustus sold his soul to the devil to become MORE of a ham (and he's plenty in the scenes before he does).
  • Madame Rosepettle in Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You In The Closet And I'm Feelin' So Sad. (Played by Hermione Gingold in one production.)
  • John Barrymore's ghost in I Hate Hamlet and arguably the character of Dierdre as well.
  • The Man Who Came to Dinner is another play populated almost entirely by hams, with Sheridan Whiteside as the king.
  • Noises Off features ham within ham. The characters are the cast and crew of an over-the-top Farce and perform accordingly, but offstage they're only slightly more subdued.
  • Walter in Don't Drink the Water. Marion meanwhile is a unique character in she can be played as either a large ham or a Deadpan Snarker.
  • Most of the cast of characters in Fools, with special mention to Count Yousekevitch.
  • Tito Merelli in Lend Me a Tenor is all about the operatic ham.
  • Half the cast of The Play That Goes Wrong are large hames. The other half favour Bad "Bad Acting".

Other performance forms

  • Pretty much all of opera. Inevitable when your medium is the narration of every little thing that happens to you via really loud singing. And let's not even get started on any aria and solo parts, and especially the "buffo" role. Romantic operas, even more so.
    • But for starters one usually whet one's appetite with the Verdi mezzo soprano-contralto roles: Amneris, Eboli, Azucena and Ulrica had been stealing shows since their inception (in case of Amneris & Azucena, the ham is in fact written in the score. One scene for Amneris instructs the singer to exit like a certified crazy person, done very marvellously in this video).
  • For Murder on Center Stage...there's Stanley the Janitor. In his Shakespearean acting.
  • The Gilbert and Sullivan operettas require overacting from the entire cast. One Large Ham that manages to stick out due to his flamboyancy is the Pirate King of The Pirates of Penzance, especially in his songs "For I am a Pirate King" and "With Catlike Tread".
  • Cirque du Soleil shows demand everyone to be ready and willing to ham it up if and when need be, and often without intelligible dialogue (if that!). In particular, the vast majority of comic characters/clowns are large hams. Particularly hammy shows include Nouvelle Experience, Saltimbanco (particularly Act Two), Mystère, and Zarkana, the last of which was initially the Cirque version of a Rock Opera, so...
  • Anyone in a Pantomime is required to be one of these, the bigger the better.

Alternative Title(s): Theater


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