I've been asked recently whether I ever leave a show at intermission. Easiest question I've ever answered: no~at least not in the absence of some emergency or other non-show-related reason. I mean, we did leave "Mary Poppins" at intermission when my seven year old niece began throwing up...seemed like the right thing to do at the time.
The only other time I can think of that I left a show at intermission was in the case of a play that was four hours in length and I had a 6 a.m. flight the next day. It was the only chance I had to see the play and I at least wanted to see as much as I could (and I was glad to have seen even a truncated version).
So, as the title of the post suggests, leaving early amounts to a huge gamble that I am simply not willing to make. Even the shows that don't make it onto my top ten list have:
It's not about the money. There is no glory or satisfaction in making myself miserable simply to justify the ticket price. I've paid for that ticket; I'm not getting reimbursed if I leave early.
But one of the many reasons I love theatre so much is that each time is different; even if I'm seeing a show I've seen before, the "of the moment" nature of live theatre means it will be a unique experience. I have noticed things I didn't see the first time, heard a song a different way or have seen a character reaction that helped me understand the story a bit better.
It's the great unknown~those question marks~that keep me there. When it comes to a show that doesn't thrill me early on, my curiosity is piqued about what will happen with the second (or third or fourth) acts. Will I like it better? Will I understand the things I didn't like a little more and why they were done? Will I get to see a performance/actor/dance number/song in the second act that will make the whole show worth seeing? Most importantly: will I get to know my personal taste in theatre better and make more informed choices in the future?
Some examples of how this has played out for me:
Sometimes we need the whole story to understand the choices that the cast and creative team have made for a production. And I may not agree with those choices, even at the end; but I will have shared a full experience with that cast and my fellow audience members that was once in a lifetime.
Leaving at intermission is always a personal choice and, so long as you wait until intermission so as not to disturb the production, there's no judgment coming from me. I would just encourage giving the show the chance to change your mind!