Broadway Show FAQs

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20211103 081252 scaled

Broadway Show FAQs

Broadway Times Square New York
Phantom of the Opera installation in Times Square

In this post I am sharing some questions about Broadway shows that I have been asked over the years. These shows are such a delight to watch, so I hope you get to enjoy some too.

Where are Broadway shows located?

Broadway shows are performed in theaters that are located in Midtown West in Manhattan. Most theaters are located in the Theater District between 41st and 54th Streets between 6th and 8th Avenue, Al Hirschfield Theater is a little bit of an outlier on 45th between 8th and 9th Avenue, and Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center is on the Upper West Side at 65th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue.   

What is the difference between Broadway, Off Broadway and Off off Broadway shows? 

Shows in New York are classified based on the seating capacity of the theater they are being performed in –  

  • Broadway show for theaters with 500 or more seats 
  • Off Broadway show for theaters with 100 to 499 seats 
  • Off off Broadway for theaters with 99 or less seats 

What are Broadway show performance timings? 

Most shows have 8 performances a week. Shows are usually ‘dark’ or take a break on Mondays, though you can always find shows that choose to have performances on Monday. The schedule for evening shows is usually at 7pm or 8pm, and there are matinees at 2pm or 3pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays. There is usually one show on Sundays, which can be in the afternoon at 2pm or 3pm, or in the evening. 

What is a Matinee? 

A Matinee is an afternoon performance of a show. Most Broadway shows have Matinee performances (in addition to evening performances) on Wednesday and Saturday, and shows on Sundays are often Matinee performances only. 

If you are visiting New York and have flexibility with when to watch a show, matinee shows will often give you the most available options for tickets. 

Where can I buy tickets for Broadway shows? 

See my post on Buying Broadway Tickets for Dummies here. 

Are Broadway show tickets refundable? 

Broadway tickets are final sale and not refundable.  There are usually insurance options offered while buying tickets, but be careful to read the fine print for all the exclusions if you plan to buy insurance. 

What are Rush tickets? 

Rush tickets are sold day of the show, often at very low prices such as $20. Each buyer can buy only 2 tickets. The websites of the shows often list out the price and policy for buying these rush tickets, and whether they are available in person at the Box Office or through a digital app or link. If these are in person, be prepared for lines that form before the Box Office opens, and tickets that may sell out if you are too far back in line.  If they are digital, the website will give details of how to apply for these. Rush tickets can be –  

  • Regular Rush, which anyone can buy 
  • Student Rush, which requires a student ID to buy 
  • Senior Rush, which are often for over 65+ year old ticket buyers 
  • Under 35 Rush, which are for ticket buyers under 35 

Can I buy Broadway Show tickets for someone else? 

Yes you can! Broadway tickets make great gifts, or they can be a fabulous way to collect credit card points when you are buying them for someone. 

When you attend a Broadway show, they just check that each person has a valid ticket, never whose name it is under.  So you can order under your name and transfer online for electronic tickets, share PDFs, hand over hard copies of the tickets, or give their name as the person picking up tickets at the Box Office. There may be a small charge if you are ordering them for pick up under someone else’s name at the Box Office, which can be specified at the time you order the tickets. 

Broadway Grand Gallery, an Art Installation with 10 foot tall Playbills in Times Square in April 2022

What are Broadway show previews? 

Broadway show previews are performances of a show before it officially opens to the critics for their reviews.  This allows for any changes or improvements to be made before the show officially opens for reviews. 

Previews don’t mean rehearsals, these are full fledged performances that have an audience.  I have seen a ton of shows in previews as tickets are often more easily available and/or discounted for these shows, especially if they have a well known star cast.  I believe a few of the shows I have seen in previews made minor changes after I saw them, but this did not take away from my experience of watching them in previews. In fact, there is only one show I have seen in previews where the show was halted for a few minutes due to a technical difficulty, but to be fair I was aware I was going for a preview and it was not a surprise at all when it happened. 

Be aware that theater critics cannot write reviews of Broadway shows before the opening night, so if you’re looking to get feedback on a show in previews before booking tickets, the best you can hope for is a couple of online user reviews, if any. 

What are Limited Engagement Shows?

Limited Engagement shows are shows that run for a limited number of weeks, often 12 to 16 weeks, based on the availability of the cast. These typically have recognizable lead actors from the likes of Hollywood. I tend to see these often, you can see some of the ones I have been to over the years here.

What is Opening Night for a Broadway show? 

Opening Night for a Broadway show is when critics are invited to see the show, and officially review it. Reviews are published on the following day. 

What is the dress code for Broadway shows? 

There is no official dress code for Broadway. 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. 

When should I arrive at the theater?

In my experience, Broadway shows tend to start a couple of minutes after the stated show time.  However, it is usually a good idea to arrive about 20 minutes before the performance is scheduled to begin so you can comfortably be seated and use the facilities if needed.  This is especially relevant if your seats are in the middle of a section as a number of people will need to stand up for you to reach your seats.  

Some shows specifically announce that theatergoers will not be seated after a performance begins, in which case you will be seated at their discretion, often towards the back or another section of the theater irrespective of the seats or section you paid for. Other shows may make you wait for a scene or musical number to end before seating you to minimize disruption for other patrons. Regardless, arriving after a show begins is a big no no in general, so plan ahead. 

What should I do if I have all the tickets but my friends/family are arriving at different times or may be late for the performance? 

If you know in advance that you will be arriving at the theater at different times, especially in the winter when waiting outside can be cold, you have a couple of options depending on the kind of tickets you have.  Just remember that if someone is running late and get to the theater after a performance begins, they may or may not be seated next to you based on theater policies for late seating. 

  • If you have ordered through Ticketmaster, you can transfer specific tickets through your account to others for them to print or use mobile versions. 
  • If you received tickets as attachments, all the tickets are likely to be in one PDF so you share with your friends and manually assign seats for printing, unless you have the software to separate the PDF into individual tickets as needed. 
  • If someone is running late or you have all the paper tickets for any reason, you can always leave the paper tickets at the Box Office right before a show starts with the full name of the person that each ticket is for, or all under one name. This is a very common practice and does not cost you anything extra to do. 

What is Will Call? 

One of the options to get your tickets is at Will Call, which means you need to pick them up at the Box Office, usually between 10 – 60 minutes before a show begins. You will need to give your name to pick tickets up, but some theaters require picture ID or the credit card used for payment before handing your tickets over to you. 

The line for Will Call is usually separate from the line to get seated for the show, so be sure to check if you are in the right line outside the theater if you’re picking up tickets from Will Call.  

What can I carry into a Broadway show? 

Most Broadway shows allow personal items/small bags to be carried into a show. Food and drink are not permitted, though in my experience you can carry small snacks such as nuts in your bag to eat before the show or at intermission.  The leg space tends to be very limited, so it is recommended not to carry any extra bags such as shopping you may have done into the theater. 

Are food and drinks available at shows? 

All theaters offer a limited selection of snacks and drinks for sale before a show or during the intermission. These can be expensive so plan accordingly!   

How long are Broadway shows? 

The length of each show varies, and is usually given in the show description while buying tickets, or on the website of the show.   

Is the intermission at Broadway shows? 

There are usually one, sometimes two, intermissions in the longer shows. Shorter shows, often plays, do not have an intermission. The number of intermissions is given in the show description while buying tickets, or on the website of the show. 

Can children attend Broadway shows? 

Shows have different policies around children attending their performances, which can usually be found on the website of the shows. As an example, Lion King’s website states that it is recommended for children 6 and up, but children that are 4 and under will not be admitted.  

Children do require a ticket to attend. 

Most theaters offer booster cushions for children so they can see the stage from their seats, you can ask an usher when you are being seated for these. 

Do Broadway theaters offer wheelchair accessible seating? 

 Broadway theaters offer two types of seating for wheelchair accessibility.  The first is an empty wheelchair spot, and the second is transfer seating from a wheelchair. Each of these has a companion seat next to them. Most theaters permit one companion ticket with accessible seating, even if there is a larger group planning to attend the same show. The actual location of the seating varies by theater. 

Wheelchair accessible seating is specifically reserved in each theater, and tickets can often be found for this even for sold our shows.  

Most online sites for the purchase of tickets have an option to select wheelchair accessible seating, or these can be requested while buying tickets over the phone or at the Box Office.  Always check by calling in or with the Box Office if tickets are not available online as they are often able to assist with these requests. 

I have attended a couple of shows with a wheelchair user, and theater ushers are incredibly helpful in facilitating the seating and accommodating requests.  

If you are a regular Broadway show patron as a wheelchair user, you should check out the Theater Development Fund Accessibility Membership for people with disabilities here.  

Do theaters offer any assistance for theatergoers that are hard of hearing? 

Various assistive listening devices can be offered by theaters, some of which have also upgraded to handheld captioning devices. 

It is recommended that you confirm the availability of options supported by the theater by calling in or visiting the Box Office before buying tickets as tickets are non refundable after purchase. 

If you are a regular Broadway show patron and require hearing assistance, you should check out the Theater Development Fund Accessibility Membership and/or options for people with disabilities here.  

Is there a coat check at Broadway shows? 

Some shows offer a coat check in the winter, but lines can become long for collecting these at the end of a show. Most people tend to either sit on their coats or hold them in their laps during a show. 

If I don’t like the view from my seat, can I change my seat or ticket? 

Seats at Broadway theaters are numbered and assigned, and are not changeable which is why it is very important to research the seating options when you commit to a ticket.   

If you see an empty seat and decide to sit in it – even if it is after the show starts – you should expect to be asked to move back to your seat if the ticketholder arrives a little late. 

What is NYC Broadway week? 

NYC Broadway week is a program to offer 2 for 1 tickets to some Broadway shows. Broadway week happens twice a week, the first time early in the year in Jan/Feb, and the second time in September. This is a great way to get discounted tickets! 

Is there any Broadway show etiquette I should be aware of? 

Read my post on Broadway show etiquette here


Hanit GyaniAuthor posts

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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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