I walked out of the musical Rent during the intermission. And I think Les Misérables too.
Yes, I’m a monster.
Actually, I’m jealous of the joy self-proclaimed musical theatre “geeks” get from Broadway productions. They seem so happy and carefree and sometimes a bit peculiar! If you have a musical theatre geek in your life, you know they are very serious about their favourite form of art. But it’s not that I don’t appreciated the monumental efforts that go into staging massive productions. I do! I think it has to do with my inability to suspend my disbelief during serious moments—say, finding out you’re HIV positive or being on your death bed—and characters break out into song.
But the last time I tried was probably 20 years ago. Maybe I’ve changed? Maybe sold-out extravaganzas like Come From Away and Hamilton would be different?
In any case, if I scored a coveted ticket to either, I would behave myself: I wouldn’t talk, or use my cell phone, and I most definitely wouldn’t sing along—and not just because I don’t know any of the words. I just know that this would be rude and it would ruin other patrons’ experience. A Broadway musical is not a Raffi concert.
This may not be common knowledge.
“The theater is a mutual experience in which everybody is there in one place and at one time, and it will never happen again — it's about being respectful of all the work that has gone into something," Judith Light told The Hollywood Reporter in 2016. "I think the real truth of it is, a lot of people don't know what theater etiquette actually is. Maybe that's our responsibility, to put something together. I find that when you give people the information, they will abide by it."
Judge John Hodgman, a fake judge who answers queries every week in the New York Times and on his podcast, recently delivered some very sound advice on this very matter.
A woman named Anne asked him:
Here’s how Judge John Hodgman responded:
God I really enjoy Judge John Hodgman.
Here are some other tips for musical theatre novices courtesy of the Hollywood Reporter who asked some of Broadway’s greatest performers’ biggest pet peeves are:
"Loud talkers! Even a whisper is too loud when you’re in theater. In the bubble outside my head, I’m always thinking, 'Do you realize I can hear you?!'" Hugh Jackman told them.
Danielle Brooks, who played Sofia in The Color Purple, said: "One girl sat dead-center in the front row, in a bright purple shirt, and mouthed the entire show. That was distracting for me. I’m supposed to be singing it!
And Jonathan Groff, who played King George III in Hamilton, said: "Sleeping during the show. But I never saw it happen in Hamilton."