a view of a broadway theater as seen from the stage looking out toward the seats

Theater Etiquette for Broadway Shows

Everyone should attend a Broadway performance once in his or her lifetime. Famous actors, musical numbers, bright lights, and fantastic costumes keep people of every generation coming back to the theater. However, it is not possible to be acquainted with all of the rules, written and unwritten, of the theater. Here is a list of some of the most preferred theater etiquette behaviors.

  1. Wear appropriate clothing and do not use too much perfume or cologne.

    Both ladies and gentlemen need not dress in their Sunday best to attend all Broadway performances, but it is important to maintain a neat, clean, and modest appearance. For instance, sweatpants, t-shirts, jeans, sneakers, and caps are examples of what not to wear to a Broadway event. Try instead a nice button-up shirt, sweater, pants, skirt, or dress and closed-toe shoes.

  2. Bring children to age appropriate shows.

    Not every Broadway musical or play will be appropriate for every age. Make sure to research the play or musical that you are interested in seeing before purchasing tickets. It may contain material that you find unsuitable to your children’s age range. Also, if you bring very young children to a performance, many theaters state that they will have to abide by rules relative to those of adults, such as no talking and sitting appropriately in their seat.

  3. Try to arrive early, but definitely arrive on time.

    It seems simple enough, but many of us find it difficult to be on time. While being late to a movie at a movie theater may annoy other moviegoers temporarily during the previews, being late to a Broadway performance is unacceptable because it disrupts the actors as well as the patrons. Just try to remember that it is a live show and therefore it is more important to be on time.

  4. Go to the restroom before the show begins.

    If you anticipate needing to use the restroom during the performance, try to go before you even find your seat. Getting up to use the restroom in the middle of a performance disturbs those around you. Try to avoid it by finding the restroom before the curtain goes up.

  5. Do not talk during the overture; it’s part of the show.

    Sometimes a Broadway musical or play will have an Overture, or a short opening to before their piece begins. This is not like previews at the beginning of a movie that you’d see in your hometown movie theater. This is actually part of the show. If it is not apparent that an Overture is occurring, it is best to err on the side of caution and remain from talking.

  6. Don’t hum or sing along unless it is appropriate.

    Many Broadway musicals have popular and widely known songs that you will be tempted to sing along with or hum to. Sometimes the actors on stage will let you know that it is okay to sing along and make noise, but most of the time it best to stay quiet for the courtesy of those around you.

  7. Wait until the Intermission to search through your bags.

    Unnecessary noise in an otherwise silent theater during a live performance is disruptive to the actors and the spectators. If you need anything particular like glasses, an inhaler, a sweater, or your ticket, make sure to put it in your lap before the show begins. Many theaters do not accept digging through your purse or backpack during the performance.

  8. Don’t leave until the show is over.

    It is generally considered rude to leave a live show during the middle of the performance. The actors, actresses, directors, writers, and everyone else involved in the making of the play or musical should be treated with respect. It is common theater etiquette to wait until the performance has ended completely to exit the theater.

  9. Be considerate and you will have a great time!

    Most modern theater etiquette, particularly for Broadway, is widely known and easily understood and accepted. As a theater-goer, all you have to do is be kind, courteous, and conscious of your neighbor and you will have an unforgettable experience attending a show on Broadway in New York City!

Last Updated: January 08, 2015