Who’s Sitting Next to Me at a Broadway Show?

Who’s Sitting Next to me at a Broadway Show?

By Christopher Lim


An iconic part of New York City that locals and tourists both flock to see. Each year, Broadway welcomes millions of audience members, more than the total number of people who watch New York’s professional sports team’s home game. As an avid theatergoer myself, I wanted to examine the diversity of a Broadway show’s audience at any given performance. In the past, Broadway was dominated by white actors and saw little diversity not only onstage but also backstage. However, diversity has become a prominent topic within the industry and many steps have been taken to foster diversity. According to a paper published by Katy Gentry of the University of Central Florida, having a diverse group of people working on the production backstage including playwrights, directors, and designers may also contribute to a more diverse audience. This prompted me to attend a Broadway performance and not just watch the performance but closely look at the diversity of my fellow audience members. 

Bar area where I was standing

The Broadway audience that I examined was the audience of Kimberly Akimbo, playing at the Booth Theatre, on April 25, 2023, at 7:00 PM. Kimberly Akimbo is a 2021 musical by David Lindsay-Abair that follows the story of a high school teenager that suffers from a rare genetic condition similar to progeria, a disease that causes the body to age four and a half times faster than normal. Kimberly, the protagonist, has to navigate through family problems, friendships, school, and more. It is important to note that the cast, creatives, and crew are incredibly diverse.  

Kimberly Akimbo Ticket Zones

I was able to receive a complimentary ticket to the performance which allowed me to gain access to the inside of the theatre. After arriving at the theatre around 6:30 PM, I stood off to the side close to the entrance where all the audience members were entering. With my premade chart out (See Figures 1 and 2), I began to take note of the sex and race of the audience members. Furthermore, I had another chart (Figure 3) which allowed me to take down qualitative observations of the audience members. This chart was for me to write down anything regarding one’s clothes, accessories worn, consumption of alcohol, etc. 

(Figure 1, Identification of Gender)
WhiteBlack or African AmericanAmerican Indian or Alaska NativeAsianNative Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
(Figure 2, Identification of Race)
Misc: Young male, t shirt, jeans with backpack (Student?), White Female with LV bag (Rich??), Man in suit and briefcase (working), Girl in dress with lots of jewelry holding alcoholic drink (Rich?), Large group of people that look like tourists (first timers), family with kids, normal clothing, nothing fancy (working, middle class)
(Figure 3, Miscellaneous Notes) 

Through my observations, I can conclude that the audience members were very diverse. I was able to identify over 238 males and 253 females coming in. Moreover, I saw 148 white, 107, Black or African American, 39 American Indian or Alaska Native, 163 Asian, and 22 Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander audience members. I was able to make a few observations regarding what people were wearing and how they appeared. I noticed that there was a white female with an LV bag that purchased an alcoholic beverage. The alcoholic beverages that were being sold in the theatre ranged from 12 to 22 dollars, thus I assumed that the white female was of a higher socioeconomic status. Furthermore, I noticed that a young male was wearing a t-shirt and jeans with a backpack, thus I assumed that he was a student. I also noticed a girl in a dress with a lot of jewelry holding an alcoholic beverage with a group of friends. I noted that she could have been from a well-off family and was able to afford tickets and a drink. Lastly, I noticed a family of four, 2 adults and 2 kids, that were not in any fancy clothing or had any fancy accessories. Ergo, I assumed that the family was a working-class family that was out on a special occasion to watch a Broadway show. 

Picture of the audience members

It is important to note that the ticket prices were fairly consistent throughout the theatre. However, the ticket prices in the Orchestra level between rows C and H are much higher as they are considered premium seats. The ticket prices were around 90 to 200 dollars with the cheaper tickets being closer to the back of the section.

It is important to note that I was not able to examine all of the audience members that attended the performance due to the sheer volume of people. The Booth Theatre has a seating capacity of 800 people and with most of the seats filled, I was unable to note the characteristics of the entire audience. Additionally, I did not approach audience members to ask about their race and gender, which meant that I utilized observed gender and race. Thus, I acknowledge that observed race and gender may be different to what the person actually identifies as but since race and gender is largely based on phenotype in the United States, I felt comfortable utilizing observed race and gender in this project. This project also presented another challenge as I had to get creative when I was taking notes about the audience. Without the ability to take out my phone, I instead used index cards as they were not only able to hold a large amount of information but also were discreet.

The diversity at Kimberly Akimbo can imply that the diversity in other shows are also relatively high. It is important to note that the theme and cast of the show can affect the various groups of audience members that attend a show. For instance, if a Broadway show focuses on the Asian community, the turnout of Asians might be higher for that particular show. The majority of theatergoers are still Caucasian and on the older side which means that there will be a higher number of older Caucasians at any given Broadway show. 

Overall, I was able to determine that the audience of Kimberly Akimbo on April 25, 2023, at 7:00 PM was incredibly diverse. The audience was composed of people from different races, genders, and all walks of life. My findings indicate that the industry is moving in the right direction as there is an increase in diversity. As noted in “Lin-Manuel Miranda: Hamilton, a New Era of Broadway Musicals” a musical that “appeals to people of all different ages, races, and backgrounds” can bring in “diverse ethnicities and a younger audience” while maintaining high ticket sales. Maintaining high ticket sales means that there must not only be locals that come to watch shows weekly but also tourists and new theatergoers. With much more progress to be made, this is your sign to go out and support the arts!