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Broadway Terms and Definitions

Updated on February 3, 2015
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Daisy Mariposa has a B.A. from Montclair University in New Jersey and two occupational certificates from California colleges.

This photograph of the New Amsterdam Theatre was taken by Beyind My Ken on November 11, 2011 from the 9th floor of the New 42nd Street Building.The theater was built in 1902 to 1903.
This photograph of the New Amsterdam Theatre was taken by Beyind My Ken on November 11, 2011 from the 9th floor of the New 42nd Street Building.The theater was built in 1902 to 1903. | Source

To what does the term "Broadway" refer?

Broadway refers to the professional Theatre District in New York City, New York (Manhattan).

Broadway theaters must have at least 500 seats, and with one exception, be located in the area extending from 42nd to 54th Streets between 6th and 8th Avenues. The theaters are all in the vicinity of Broadway, a street which crosses Times Square.

The exception to being situated in the Times Square area is the Vivian Beaumont Theatre, which is located on 65th Street in the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts complex.

Theaters which have less than 500 seats are known as off-Broadway theaters—even if they are situated in the Broadway area defined above.

There are many terms and definitions unique to Broadway and the theater-going experience. Gaining an understanding of these terms will enhance your viewing enjoyment when you attend a performance.

Sarah Brightman and Antonio Banderas | March 6, 2006

Theatre District of New York City

New Amsterdam Theatre:
280 Broadway, New York, NY 10007

get directions

Belasco Theatre:
111 W 54th St, New York, NY 10105

get directions

Broadway Theatre:
1681 Broadway, New York, NY 10019

get directions

Cadillac Winter Garden:
1634 Broadway, New York, NY 10019

get directions

Helen Hayes Theatre:
240 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036

get directions

Imperial Theatre:
249 W 45th St, New York, NY 10036

get directions

Longacre Theatre:
220 W 48th St, New York, NY 10036

get directions

Gershwin Theatre:
222 W 51st St, New York, NY 10019

get directions

Neil Simon Theatre:
250 W 52nd St, New York, NY 10019

get directions

39 Broadway Theaters

The following 39 theaters are all considered to be Broadway theaters. The Vivian Beaumont Theatre is the only theater not in the Times Square / Broadway area. It's located in the Lincoln Center complex.

Seating Capacity
Theater Name
Helen Hayes Theatre
240 West 44th Street
Samuel J Friedman Theatre
261 West 47th Street
American Airlines Theatre
227 West 42nd Street
Circle in the Square Theatre
1633 Broadway
John Golden Theatre
252 West 45th Street
Booth Theatre
222 West 45th Street
Studio 54 Theatre
254 West 54th Street
Lyceum Theatre
149 West 45th Street
Walter Kerr Theatre
219 West 48th Street
Music Box Theatre
239 West 45th Street
Belasco Theatre
111 West 44th Street
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
236 West 45th Street
Longacre Theatre
205 West 46th Street
Ethel Barrymore Theatre
243 West 47th Street
Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
242 West 45th Streer
Cort Theatre
138 West 48th Street
Vivian Beaumont Theatre
150 West 65th Street
Eugene O'Neill Theatre
230 West 49th Street
Brooks Atkinson Theatre
256 West 47th Street
Ambassador Theatre
219 West 49th Street
August Wilson Theatre
245 West 52nd Street
Broadhurst Theatre
235 West 44th Street
Nederlander Theatre
208 West 41st Street
Richard Rodgers Theatre
226 West 46th Street
Neil Simon Theatre
250 West 52nd Street
Imperial Theatre
249 West 45th Street
Al Hirschfeld Theatre
302 West 45th Street
Shubert Theatre
225 West 44th Street
Cadillac Winter Garden Theatre
1634 Broadway
Lunt Fontanne Theatre
205 West 46th Street
Majestic Theatre
247 West 44th Street
Marquis Theatre
1535 Broadway at 45th Street
Minskoff Theatre
200 West 45th Street
St. James Theatre
246 West 44th Street
Palace Theatre
1554 Broadway
Broadway Theatre
1681 Broadway
New Amsterdam Theatre
214 West 42nd Street
Foxwoods Theatre
213 West 42nd Street
Gershwin Theatre
222 West 51st Street

Broadway-Related Terms and Definitions

The following 25 terms and accompanying definitions are just some of the ones unique to theater-going.

Broadway-Related Term
An alternate is someone who plays a role in place of a star on an occasional basis. If a production has both matinee and evening performances, the alternate might play the role for all the matinees.
The book is the story upon which the production is based.
Cast Album
A cast album is a live recording of a stage production.
The performers who are part of the chorus are the background singers and dancers in a production. If singers, their voices punch up the sound being heard by the audience. If dancers, their movements fill in empty spaces on the stage.
All of the people assocated with a production are the company.
Dance Captain
The dance captain teaches choreography to dancers joining the company as replacements, and assists understudies in learning thier roles.
A diva is a larger-than-life female star whose fans are often fanatical in their devotion to the singer. Broadway divas include the late Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, and Bernadette Peters.
The entr'acte is the music played between the first and second acts of a musical production before the action begins, often before the curtain is raised.
Equity is the name of the actor's union.
Featured Performer
A featured performer is someone who is not the star of the production, but who has an important enough role for their name to be listed separately in the credits.
A flop is a production in which the show's investors failed to receive a return on their investment.
A gypsy is a performer who spends their entire theatrical career as a chorus member, moving from one production to another.
The house is the number of seats sold in the theater for a given performance.
The libretto is the lyrics of the songs in a musical theater production.
A musical production is one in which dialogue, song, and dance combine to tell a story.
The orchestra is the ground floor level of seats in a theater.
An overture is a medley of bits of the songs that will be performed in a musical theater production. It's played before the curtain is raised on the opening act.
The preview period is the first few weeks of a show's production run. Any kinks or problems with the production are ironed out during this time.
Production Number
A production number is an elaborate song and dance number involving many cast members.
A reprise is a song which is sung more than once in a musical production.
A showstopper is a production number which is so popular, it literally stops the show. There is so much applause and cheering, the performers cannot continue until the audience calms down.
Some theaters sell Standing Room Only (SRO) tickets for sold out performances. There is a designated area in the theater in which people who have purchased SRO tickets stand for the entire performance.
A standby is an understudy who has learned several of the major roles in a production who literally "stands by" in case they are needed at the last moment to take over someone's role.
A swing is a person who has learned all of the chorus roles in a production. The swing is called upon to take over any one of a number of minor roles should someone not be able to perform at the last moment.
An understudy is someone who can cover for a number of major roles in a production should the person in that role not be able to perform.

Have you ever attended a performance in a Broadway theatre?

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Broadway theatre advertisement from 1873
Broadway theatre advertisement from 1873 | Source

When you attend a theatre performance, on Broadway or elsewhere, do you prefer seeing dramas or musicals?

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