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Etiquette for a Broadway Show

Attire, Applause, & Autographs, Oh my!


Etiquette for a Broadway Show

Broadway Marquee Sign



  • Opening Night

If you are lucky enough to acquire a coveted invitation to a Broadway show’s Opening Night performance, this Red Carpet event will leave you dizzy amongst a dazzling spectacle of stars and paparazzi. Formal wear reigns on Opening Night, so deck yourself out in a designer tuxedo or gown, resplendent with sparkly diamonds, to evoke the glamour of yesteryear. Your attire must be the epitome of taste and class, with a touch of theatrical whimsy allowed.

  • During the Run

Dress up for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening performances, wearing any style in the range from cocktails to formal wear. Nicer business and cocktail attire suffice for weeknight performances, while matinees are much more casual.

  • Jeans or No Jeans?

Wearing jeans has its champions and naysayers when broaching appropriate theatre attire. While the anti-jeans group believes denim shows a lack of respect for the theatre, the pro-jeans camp maintains that paying $195 for a ticket allows you to dress any way you want. The truth is, during hot summer months, jeans and shorts are seen as often as slacks for weeknight and matinee performances.

  • Scent of a Woman … or Man

Scented body products are not necessary to life; but if you do use them, a little dab will do ya. You will be sitting in a crowded theatre for a few hours, and the person next to you may be allergic to your eau de toilette’s volatile oils. From shampoo to deodorant, perfume to aftershave, use unscented bodycare products.

Before the Show

  • Pre-Theatre Dinner

As with movie theaters, bringing outside food into the theatre is not allowed. The theatre’s concessions will be open, but eat a full dinner beforehand. Enjoying a pre-show dinner is part of the Broadway tradition and is offered in many hotel/show packages.

  • Arrival

Give your commute to the theatre twice as long as normal to accommodate heavy traffic, a long line at the box office, and other delays. Arrive at least 30 minutes prior to show time if not sooner. An early arrival ensures plenty of time to enjoy the theatre’s décor, peruse available show souvenirs, and read your Playbill.

  • In the Theatre

Allow an usher to tell you where your seats are. Even if you scouted your seats online beforehand, the usher can tell you the best way to get to your seats or if there is anything you need to know about that section.

  • Bathroom Break

The theatre opens an hour before show time. Take this opportunity to go to the bathroom. Even if you don’t really need to, try anyway. After all, you just ate dinner, and standing in the mile-long bathroom line during Intermission is no time to wish you had gone earlier.

During the Show

  • Cell Phones

Turn your cell phone off, and leave it off. Though texting to your Facebook or Twitter page during Intermission is allowed, be sure to turn your phone off again.

  • Intermission

Intermission is the 15 to 20 minute break between acts. Plays and musicals usually have one Intermission, between Acts 1 and 2, whereas Opera can have two Intermissions, separating Acts 2 and 3, or 3 and 4, and so on. An exception is the musical A Chorus Line, which has no Intermission.

  • Alcohol

During Intermission, the Lobby concessions bar offers drinks and snacks for a fee, including alcoholic beverages. If you have a baby-face, you may be asked to show I.D. But know your limits — even a “happy drunk” will make enemies if he or she disrupts a Broadway show.

  • Applause

In Opera and other classical performances such as the symphony or Shakespeare, it is customary to hold applause until an entire scene or work is completed. Broadway theatre performers love a good ovation any time, especially after songs in a musical.

  • Standing O

If you feel the show earned a standing ovation, then get up on your feet and clap till your hands are red and stinging. Truly excellent productions garner screaming standing ovations every night, so feel free to join in.

After the Show

  • Flowers

Certain special occasions such as Opening Night or Closing Night may end with the audience throwing flowers to the stage during Curtain Call. Otherwise, keep your flowers and hand them to the actors personally at the Stage Door. Just make sure the actor is not allergic to flowers.

  • Talkbacks

Occasionally, a “Talkback” is scheduled after a performance. This special event allows you to connect with the actors and learn about the process of bringing the characters to life on stage. Talkbacks are announced on the show’s website and via social networking sites.

  • Autographs

Crowding the Stage Door to get autographs is as popular as ever, particularly when Hollywood and television stars are the marquee draw. Actors can spend half an hour or longer to change out of costume and make-up, but some actors do not stay for autographs.

If you are sick with a cold or ear-nose-throat infection, do not ask for an autograph — you do not want to infect the actor and risk the success of the production.


  • Dress appropriately.
  • Eat before you go.
  • Arrive early.
  • Most shows do not allow children under the age of 6.
  • Turn your cell phone off.
  • Be respectful when you meet the actors backstage or at a Talkback.
  • Have fun!

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