One of the things I love most about Broadway and New York theatre is how sentimental it is. You’re never just seeing a play, it’s a New York Play. It’s not just a musical, it’s a Broadway musical. For some New Yorkers, theaters are true houses of worship. When I ask people what their first Broadway show was, most can describe that day in extremely vivid detail.
Mine was The Lion King when I was 16, a prime too-cool-for-everything age, but I was sobbing the second the house lights dimmed and the orchestra started to play. The Lion King will never disappoint whether it’s someone’s first show or their hundredth, but there is so much I wish someone had told me I could do prior to taking my seat. Here are seven fun things to keep in mind for your first Broadway experience.
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1. Take Advantage of When the House Opens
Typically a Broadway house opens 30 minutes before curtain to allow theatergoers a chance to get settled. If you want to enjoy the house pre-show (highly recommended if there happens to be one) and you already have your tickets, plan on arriving just a bit before that 30 minute window. If you need to pick up your tickets, it’s a good idea to arrive about 45 minutes early in case there’s a line. Those 30 extra minutes before the show starts will make all the difference.
2. Get Settled Early
Once the ushers help you find your seat and give you your Playbill, get settled in first. Drop off your coat and miscellaneous items at your seat. Some theaters even have a complimentary coat check, so be sure to find that out on their website. Hit the bathroom as your first stop – the lines right before the show and at intermission are outrageous. Just be sure to keep your tickets with you if you leave everything else at your seat or at the coat check, it’ll be hard to access some areas without it.
3. The Bar
Broadways shows, especially the spectacular ones, always have an excellent bar with great snacks. Snag a drink in a souvenir cup. They’ll usually have a fun list of themed cocktails (or mocktails) specific to the show. If you’re feeling really Dionysian, The Hudson Theater even allows you to purchase full bottles of wine to take into the house with you, CLASS!
4. Find the Merch and Grab a Sticker
What would commercial theatre be without the chance to buy as much overpriced merchandise as possible? Though pricey, the items they sell are very cool and you often can’t purchase them anywhere else. If you’re a full blown theatre fanatic and it’s your first Broadway show, go ahead… get the shirt. It’ll have sentimental value later. I still wish I’d gotten the yellow baseball hat I’d tried on at The Lion King.
5. Check Out the Set and the Pit
Before the show starts, take advantage of seeing everything up close, especially if your seat is way up in the balcony. Broadway sets are amazing, but be forewarned, seeing things close up might create spoilers. Or it might just add to the technical magic of the experience. That’s a judgement call. But if you’re there for a musical, seeing the pit where the orchestra plays is a must.
6. Fully Explore the House
Most Broadway theaters are landmarked because of their historical significance, or at the very least have a fascinating past. Some houses line up old photos along the walls of past shows and iconic events that happened there. If you can find a chatty usher, they might tell you some amazing things about the theater – ghost story highly likely (ghosts love the theatre).
7. The Stage Door
The stage door tradition is an absolute favorite. The stage door is the entrance and exit the cast and crew uses to get backstage. Fans can stand by the stage door at the end of the show and ask actors to sign their Playbills. Not all actors participate, but usually some of the biggest Broadway stars know how appreciated it is and really enjoy spending some time with their fans. Having a chat with the person who just played your favorite character can tie up that amazing first Broadway experience really nicely.
What was your first Broadway show?
Or if you’re getting ready to go to a Broadway show for the first time, what will you be seeing? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments below! And in the meantime, here’s where you can see what Broadway shows are on right now!
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Author: Isabelle Zuniga
Isabelle Zuniga is a writer who contributes to Theatre Trip, Theatre Nerds and The Craft.