Tickets, life hacks, and unwritten rules: a guide to Broadway for beginners

A trip to New York and life in the city would be incomplete without attending at least one Broadway show. There’s something magical about watching a play live in a Broadway theater that can’t be replicated anywhere else. If you’re planning on seeing a Broadway show for the first time, Headout has put together a beginner’s guide to Broadway to make your experience unforgettable.

Broadway is both the name of the area where many of New York’s historic theater venues are located and the name of the theatrical performances that take place there. One of New York’s most vibrant and culturally rich neighborhoods, Broadway has become synonymous with the city itself.

Broadway, along with London’s West End, represents the highest level of commercial live theater in the world. Majestic theatres, colorful billboards, and dazzling lights—the Theater District is an unforgettable experience.

The origins of Broadway in New York can be traced back to 1750 when Thomas Kean and Walter Murray founded the first theater company. In 1798, after the end of the Revolutionary War, a new theater with 2,000 seats was built – The Park Theatre. The success of the theater led to the construction of many other theaters in the 19th century. At the beginning of the 20th century, musicals became popular, and then many theaters were built that are still operating today.

Broadway glossary

Here are some terms you’re likely to hear or see while visiting New York’s Broadway.

Opening Night: The official opening night is the first performance of a play or musical after previews have ended. After the premiere, nothing changes in the production, and reviews are published only for premiere performances.

Orchestra: The first level of seats in any Broadway theater that is closest to the stage. Seats in this section are some of the most expensive in the theater.

Mezzanine: The first raised section of seating in the theatre, overhanging the orchestra, the mezzanine offers a clear view of the stage.

Balcony: Only available in large Broadway theaters, the balcony is the last section of seating in any theater and the furthest from the stage.

House: In Broadway terminology, the house can refer to the entire auditorium or just the front portion of the auditorium, including the foyer and box office.

Intermission: An intermission is a break, which usually lasts 15-20 minutes, in performances with a long duration. During the intermission, you can visit the toilet, have a snack or a drink.

Box Office: The box office is where you can purchase tickets for a specific show. As a rule, the box office is located near the entrance to the theater.

Will Call: Ticket sales at the theater box office, where you can pick up pre-purchased tickets for the show.

SRO: Standing Room Only is used to designate tickets that do not have a designated seat and may be required to stand during the performance.

Break a Leg! : Instead of wishing each other good luck, Broadway performers wish each other good luck by saying, “Break a Leg.” When you wish to “break a leg” for someone, you wish them thunderous applause.

Basic Rules Before Buying Tickets to a Broadway Show

  1. Choosing the right Broadway show

Your Broadway experience begins with choosing which show to watch. Like any other form of entertainment, Broadway boasts a wide range of genres, both plays and musicals. From fantasy and romance to drama and comedy, there is a show to suit every taste. To make your first Broadway experience special, choosing the right show is important.

Decide which genre suits you, do a little online research about what shows are currently on, and make your choice. For example, if you’re planning to watch a Broadway show with your family, you might choose a Disney classic like Aladdin or The Lion King. If you’re going on a date, something romantic like The Phantom of the Opera is ideal.

  1. Find out more about the theater

Once you’ve chosen the show you want to see, it’s time to focus on the theater. There are a few things to consider before you book, especially if you’re traveling with older people. For example, does the theater have an escalator or elevator? Is the theater wheelchair-accessible? How many steps lead to the balcony or mezzanine? More importantly, you should know the theater seating chart to choose the best seat according to your requirements.

Knowing the little things like low-visibility seats, premium seats, and more will help you have a great first Broadway experience.

  1. Buying tickets

Once you have done your research before the show, you will need to book your tickets. There are many ways to order Broadway tickets. The easiest way to do this is through the official website of the show or theater. If online transactions are not your thing, you can visit the theater box office and book your tickets there. Alternatively, you can use third-party apps like Headout to book Broadway tickets online. These apps typically offer deep discounts and cashback on Broadway tickets, as well as other benefits that benefit customers.

If you’re looking for last-minute Broadway tickets, you can try visiting the TKTS kiosk in Times Square or opt for SRO tickets if they’re available.

What to do on the day of the show

  1. Choose a special Broadway outfit.

Part of the fun of attending a Broadway show is the experience itself. Walk through the centuries-old halls of the theater with an old-school atmosphere and watch plays and musicals written many years ago. Broadway is a truly unique experience. Join the fun by wearing dresses or suits. Although there is no set dress code, your experience will be enhanced if you get wild and dress up for your first Broadway show.

  1. Have a snack

The food and drinks offered at all Broadway theaters are prohibitively expensive. We’d recommend grabbing a bite to eat at one of the amazing restaurants located in the Theater District and Times Square before the show starts.

  1. Arrive 20-30 minutes before the show starts

Broadway shows always start on time. To maintain this punctuality, security checks, and baggage collection begin approximately 30 minutes before the start of the show. To avoid missing the start of the show, plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before the show starts. This will give you enough time to go through security, check in your bags and luggage if necessary, and get to your seat. Most Broadway theaters are very strict about late arrivals and if you are late you will be seated at the discretion of the theater staff.

  1. Search for places

Before coming to the theater, carefully study the seating chart. This will help you easily find your seats and also locate the right entrance. Broadway theaters don’t have the most legroom, and you don’t want to disturb already-seated audiences by walking in the wrong rows. If you have difficulty finding your seat, you can always ask the theater staff for help. Plus, if you purchase your tickets in advance, you don’t have to wait in line at the box office. Go to the Will Call window and pick up your tickets.

  1. Visit the restroom

All Broadway theaters seat more than 500 spectators and have only a few restrooms. This leads to long lines for the toilets both before the show and during intermission. To avoid wasting time standing in line, visit the restroom before the show starts, or better yet, before entering the theater itself.

During the show,

  1. Turn off your phone

Speaking in front of a large audience is not an easy task and requires a lot of concentration and dedication. To ensure actors can perform without distractions, put their phones on silent.

2. No photos or videos

Just like in a movie theater, you shouldn’t shoot videos or take photos during a Broadway performance. There are theaters with less stringent restrictions on photography, but if there is a notice that photography or videography is prohibited and you are still caught with your phone, you will likely be asked to leave the theater.

  1. Sit back and enjoy

After all, Broadway provides an unforgettable experience. Make your first trip to Broadway special by keeping the above points in mind. Once the show starts, all you have to do is sit back and admire the stunning productions and scenery.

Broadway Theater Etiquette You Should Know About

  • Applaud after a musical performance or at the end of an act.
  • Do not talk during the performance, as this will greatly distract the performers. If you are watching the show with a small child, explain the plot to them before the show begins.
  • Although you may be tempted to do so, do not sing along during musical numbers unless the performers encourage the audience to do so.
  • When in the theater, maintain a neutral or positive opinion of the show, even if you don’t like it. Creating a Broadway show is no child’s play. You don’t want to seem rude by openly criticizing the show.

Advice for first-time Broadway goers

Avoid bringing large backpacks or shopping bags into the theater, as the rows in a Broadway theater are usually very close together. Since the seats are very narrow, there is not enough space to fit large bags. Your bags will be checked at the entrance, so the less luggage you have, the faster you will get through security.

Try to arrive at the theater at least 30-40 minutes before the appointed time. If you’re late, there’s a good chance you’ll have to watch the show on the monitor in the lobby until intermission or the first break.

Upon entering the theater you will be given a poster with information about the performance. In some cases, the poster includes a note from the director telling you what you’re about to see. The playbill also contains detailed information about the number of acts in the play, the length of the intermission, and any last-minute cast changes.

If you bring bags, secure them securely under your seat and make sure they don’t stick out, especially if you’re sitting in an aisle seat. This is because in some shows, performers use aisles for entry and exit. If your bag sticks out too much, performers may trip and fall.

You should not unwrap any food supplies, including sweets. It might get noisy. The crunch of the wrapper can ruin the performance not only for those around you, but also for the actors. To avoid this, unwrap edibles before the show begins.

In Broadway terms, “sit back and relax” means actually sit down. If you lean forward, you can block the view of the person sitting behind you, and he, in turn, blocks the view of the person sitting behind him as he adjusts. This is a domino effect that is best not to participate in.

Some Broadway shows boast live orchestras playing music during the performances. As a rule, the orchestra is located in a pit under the stage. You can watch the musicians by walking to the front of the orchestra section.

The cast of a Broadway production enters through a door onto the stage outside the theater. You can meet them after the performance and ask them to sign souvenirs or a poster. If you have difficulty finding the door to the stage, please contact the administrators.

Leave a Comment