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Don’t Make These 10 Mistakes When Seeing a Broadway Show

Category Broadway

|by Mark Robinson |

Broadway newbies, take note

Going to a Broadway show can be one of most exhilarating experiences there is. The joy of seeing a live play or musical and going on a journey of enlightenment and/or escapism is unparalleled in other forms of entertainment. There are, however, mistakes we can make along the way that might diminish our experience or the experience of those around us. Here are the top 10 mistakes to avoid when seeing a Broadway show.

Here’s how to have the best night of NYC theater possible (Photo: Kilyan Sockalingum/Unsplash)

Here’s how to have the best night of NYC theater possible (Photo: Kilyan Sockalingum/Unsplash)

1) Check your ticket for the date and time
Not every Broadway show starts at the same time every night. Sometimes, a Broadway play or musical have earlier curtain on certain nights of the week, not to mention you may be under the impression you are seeing an evening show when your ticket is for a matinee. Always check your ticket closely to make sure you have the right date and time so you are sure to show up for that show you are dying to see.

2) Arrive with plenty of time to spare
Arriving after a play or musical has already started is a terrible breach of etiquette in the world of theatergoing. It is a distraction not only for the other members of the audience, but also for the performers onstage. It is also embarrassing to have to climb over people in the dark to find your seats. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the theater, settle in, read your program and just breathe in the atmosphere. You (and everyone around you) are guaranteed to enjoy the experience much more this way.

3) Use the restroom before the show
After arriving with plenty of time to find your seats, your next stop should probably be the restroom. Broadway theaters are notorious for having very small lavatories with a limited number of toilets. Intermission is usually plagued with long lines to use the facilities, and you only have a few minutes to navigate it to take care of business and get back in time for the show’s second half. Your best bet is to visit a powder room before going to the theater, or heading to the restroom when you arrive. Avoid putting yourself in the position of that intermission rush.

4) Turn off your phone
If the warning over the sound system to turn off your cell phone and other electronic devices feels like a mere suggestion, it is not. Theater is an illusion, a forced reality that requires a willing suspension of disbelief and an isolation from outside distractions that shatter the magic. Again, it is important to remember that theater is a live experience. There is no rewind button, so creating distractions might cause people around you to miss an important point in the story, not to mention how it can throw a performer off. Patti LuPone will have no problem speaking up and calling you out on your impropriety. Turn off those devices and let yourself be immersed in the story.

5) Unwrap your candy before the show
Candy and cough drops might keep you from coughing during a theater outing, but the wrappers crinkle and make a lot of noise. The solution that will keep you in the good graces of the people sitting around you is to unwrap a few of these edibles before the show so that you can simply pop them in.

6) Bring a jacket or sweater
Theaters are big buildings, and regulating temperatures within them can be a tricky thing. In the cooler weather, there can be a chill in the room that sometimes subsides when the audience arrives, but sometimes it does not. Simple solution: bring a light jacket or a sweater with you to the theater so you can enjoy your show without shivering.

7) Avoid talking (or singing) during the show
It’s tempting to have a chat with the person next to you over a plot twist or a breathtaking moment of theater, and it can be just as enticing to want to sing along to a Broadway score that you know and love. Unfortunately, the people around you might not appreciate it, as it detracts from their theatergoing experience. Best bet: enjoy a discussion after the show over dessert or coffee, and sing along to the cast album with gusto…at home.   

8) Prepare kids for their theater experience
We all encourage the idea of indoctrinating children into the wonders of theater at an early age, so let’s set them up for success as an audience member. Have a chat with them about the experience they are going to have and what the expectations are before entering the theater. Talk about appropriate responses and how to be a courteous audience member. They won’t be perfect, but they will try, and you will be helping to build respectful theatergoers of the future.

9) Don’t leave before the curtain call
It is taboo to dart out of the theater before the curtain call. The performers have just spent a few hours transporting you to a different world, and what better way to show your appreciation than giving them their due with applause? Sure, it might seem like a good idea to beat the crowds who will slowly mill out of the rows of seats, but you will be missing out on that final glorious moment of the production. Don’t make the mistake of missing that energy and warmth.

10) Observe courtesies while stagedooring
It’s important to note that performers are under no obligation to come out of theater to sign autographs and pose for pictures after the show. But it sure is lovely when they do, and we all would like to see them continue doing it. Crowds can sometimes become out of control, or behave rudely to both the performers and towards each other. Let’s incentivize the actors and actresses who do stagedoor by giving them the best of ourselves, waiting patiently and treating them with courtesy. They are giving of their own time, and a big thank you never hurts.

Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of Musicals, The Disney Song Encyclopedia, and The Encyclopedia of Television Theme Songs. He maintains a theater and entertainment blog at

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