Broadway Show Etiquette

View of a Broadway Theater from the Stage

Broadway Show Etiquette

As is the case with all theater, Broadway has a commonly accepted dos and don’ts while attending a show, all of them aimed at respecting the space and theater experience of everyone around you.  This Broadway Show Etiquette is very important as everyone around you has paid as much, if not more, than you for tickets, and allows for everyone to have a good theater viewing experience.  It is important to follow Broadway etiquette to make the theater experience enjoyable for everyone that is attending the show.

While this may seem like a long list, these are all common sense – which ironically is not all that common – recommendations that I have unfortunately encountered over the years. 

Be on time 

It is distracting – and not to mention disrespectful – to the cast with all the movement in the audience, and you may well require a whole row of people need to get up so you can get to your seat, interrupting the performance for them and everyone behind your row. 

How to Dress for a Broadway Show

There is no official dress code for a Broadway show. It is common to see people that choose to dress up for the show and make an occasion of it along with dinner before or after the show, while others choose to attend in their everyday clothes. I usually make a mad dash after work if there is a 7pm performance just to make the show on time! The least you should aim for is business casual, though no one is usually turned away based on the way they are dressed. 

Matinee shows theater goers tend to be more casually dressed as these are in the day time.  

Opening nights usually tend to have people more dressed up, though there is no guideline about this.  

Theaters tend to get cold in the summers, so it is best to be prepared with a light sweater or covering. 

Caps and hats should not be worn during a performance as they could block the view of people seated behind you.

While it is unlikely that you will be turned away from a Broadway show for the way that you are dressed, keep in mind that everyone is seated in very close proximity to each other so it is just nicer if everyone around you is comfortable with the way you are dressed.  While it may be okay to wear activewear, don’t go straight from the gym if you need a shower. And please keep your shoes on! 

Settle in  

Do everything that requires any movement or noise before the show starts. Remove your coat. Get your tissue. Turn your phone off (more on this below). Unwrap candy or cough drops before the show, the sound that the wrappers make can sound deafening during the performance! 

You should also plan to use the restroom before the show, during an intermission or after the show only. It is a huge distraction if you do this during a performance. 

Cell Phones are a no no 

Cell phones should always be switched off, and are a big no no during any Broadway show. This would include:

  • Any sound from the phone at all, including ringing, alarms, beeps, clicks, or just about anything 
  • Answering calls during the show (yes, I have seen this happen!) 
  • Texting or emailing during a performance 
  • Doing anything that requires your phone screen to be lit, including checking the time 
  • Putting your phones on vibrate, as the sound is still audible 
  • Turning phones back off if they have been turned on at the intermission  

Silence truly is golden 

Talking during a performance is distracting to the cast and everyone around you. 

If anyone around you is making noise or being disruptive, try sending a dirty look their way. You will be amazed at how effective these can be! If they are not responding to your looks requesting them to stop, let the ushers deal with the situation. Shushing them or asking them to stop adds to the disruption for everyone.   

Moving around  

Fidgeting or resting your head on the shoulder of the person next to you can impact the viewing experience of the person behind you, and should be avoided.  By extension, don’t fall asleep for the same reason as well. 

Recording and Photos are not permitted  

Taking photos or recording the performance are not allowed, so it is best to let the performance live on in your memories.

Eating and Drinking

You’re not allowed to carry food into a theater, but you should be careful to eat anything you do buy inside the theater before the show or during the intermission only. The sound of chewing can be very loud in a quiet theater, and distracting to everyone around you.  I have often witnessed people buying potato chips or pretzels during an intermission, and the sound of these being eaten once the show starts is loud!  The same goes for ice clinking in the glass of a drink that you bought in the theater as well. 

Singing at Musicals 

Singing along at a musical is never okay. You may know all the words to a song, but the people around you have paid to hear the actors – and not you – sing. 

Always wait till after the song is over to clap.  

Wait for the Curtain Call Before Leaving 

Last but not least, wait till the curtain call is over to leave any Broadway Show. It is respectful to all the performers that you are acknowledging their performances by applauding after the show. Standing ovations are entirely up to you, and should be a reflection of a show that moves or wows you. 

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Hi, I'm Hanit Gyani, a full time professional by day and a blogger by night and weekend. Welcome to my blog, aka my passion project, Gotta Love New York.

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