play to the gallery, to

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play to the gallery

To act, behave, or perform in such a way as to receive as much approval from an audience or spectators as one can get, especially the lowest common denominator among them. I wish the band played more of their new material and didn't just play to the gallery with their greatest hits the whole night. Rather than acting in a way that best suits the role and the play as a whole, he prefers to play to the gallery and soak up the spotlight when he can. She's a great basketball player, but she spends more time playing to the gallery than playing to win the game.
See also: gallery, play
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

play to the gallery

 and play to the crowd
to perform in a manner that will get the strong approval of the audience; to perform in a manner that will get the approval of the lower elements in the audience. John is a competent actor, but he has a tendency to play to the crowd. When he made the rude remark, he was just playing to the gallery.
See also: gallery, play
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

play to the gallery

Appeal to spectators for maximum approval, as in He peppers his speeches with humor and wisecracks about his opponent, clearly playing to the gallery . In this term gallery refers to the cheapest seats in a British theater and hence the least sophisticated audience. [Late 1800s]
See also: gallery, play
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

play to the gallery

If someone such as a politician plays to the gallery, they say things to impress the public and make themselves popular, instead of dealing seriously with important matters. Others were reluctant to allow TV cameras into the House of Commons, because they feared that some members would play to the gallery. Her refusal to play to the gallery eventually won her the respect of her people. Note: The gallery in a theatre is a raised area like a large balcony, that usually contains the cheapest seats. In the past, the poorest and least educated people sat there. Actors and other performers found it easier to get applause from them than from the other members of the audience.
See also: gallery, play
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

play to the gallery

act in an exaggerated or histrionic manner, especially in order to appeal to popular taste.
From the mid 17th century the highest seating in a theatre was called the gallery, and it was here that the cheapest seats—and the least refined members of the audience—were to be found. This figurative expression dates from the late 19th century.
See also: gallery, play
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

play to the ˈgallery

behave in an exaggerated way to attract ordinary people’s attention: The most popular and successful politicians in our history have always known how to play to the gallery.
In a theatre, the gallery is the highest level where the cheapest seats are.
See also: gallery, play
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

play to the gallery, to

To appeal to the audience for maximum applause or effect. In the British theater the gallery holds the cheapest seats, and by extension, it was assumed that the audience there was the least sophisticated, the lowest common denominator. To court popularity from such patrons was considered demeaning. Rudyard Kipling used the term: “The instant we begin to think about success and the effect of our work—to play with one eye on the gallery—we lose power and touch and everything else” (The Light That Failed, 1890). See also grandstand play.
See also: play
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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References in periodicals archive ?
He tried to play to the gallery over the next two holes with steadying pars - but the bogey bug struck again at the 439-yard fourth.
Some members of the interview panel might want to play to the gallery.
The UKIP leader likes to play to the gallery but his words exposed the toxic aftertaste to his man-in-the-pub routine.
His spontaneity and ability to play to the gallery is being compared with Govinda," says trade analyst Taran Adarsh.
Arjun Kapoor and Ranveer Singh also tried to play to the gallery as local goons working in coal mines in the film, Gunday .
But did Peter Lawwell, a member of the full SFA board as well as Celtic's chief executive, really have to play to the gallery with his Rory Bremner/Tony Blair jibe at their shareholders' gathering?
Michael Gove, who pontificates about purer and more rational politics, likes to play to the gallery. He recently told Diane Abbott across the floor of the House of Commons that he loved her.
It is right of the opposition to play to the gallery and embarrass the government, he said and added, he had been in the government many times and since 1947 he was constantly hearing the statements that Pakistan was going through very difficult times.
He made it clear that the PML-N never wanted to play to the gallery or score points over the security of Pakistan, while India showed an irresponsible attitude by accusing Pakistan and its institutions of supporting the attack.
Communities minister Wendy Alexander stood to deliver the first speech and showed she likes to play to the gallery by announcing: "I am a Glaswegian."
Politicians tend to play to the gallery, so we will wait for him to finish and then get on with the job of sorting this out."
Most people will agree that the presence of TV cameras has played a major role in impelling our parliamentarians to play to the gallery, rather than deal with the issues on hand.
He will not want to play to the gallery - but he has to take delegates with him as the Chancellor did yesterday.