6 Reasons why the State of the Union is like Opening Night of a Broadway Show.

Politics is one of the greatest stages in the world.  And every year, we see one helluva show when the President addresses Congress and The Country World with his State of the Union address.

It’s got all sorts of drama built in, and as I watched President Obama do his yearly duty last night, I couldn’t help but think that it reminded me of a Broadway opening night.

So here are my six reasons why the State of the Union is like a Broadway opening night:


The advertised curtain time was 9:00 PM, but the President didn’t even enter the theater until several minutes after.  And then there’s that march up the aisle.  Lots of hand-shaking and cheek-kissing, just like in the orchestra of an opening night!  I wonder how many viewers changed the channel because they were waiting for the show to start.


They get up, sit down, get up, sit down.  And you just know it’s gonna happen, just like at an opening night.  Sure it’s fun to watch when the opposing party is going to sit on their hands, but you can predict when everyone is gonna stand.  And, well, that just gets kind of dull.  I switched over to the golf channel a few times during the extended ovations.


Sure, the spotlight is on that one guy in the smart suit behind the podium, but boy oh boy it takes a lot more people to pull off this show.  First of all, you’ve got that speechwriter.  And the speechwriting team.  And the researchers, and the practice team, and the aides, and the all the other people who help craft that sucker and then put it in the hands of the star.  And then it’s his job (and maybe in a few years her job?)  to bring it home.


Just like a show, the draft of the speech gets seen by a ton of folks before it makes its debut before the American people.  This year, they even started leaking the new policies before the speech, because they were afraid people weren’t going to tune in.  Like an opening night, it’s starting to feel like the speech’s die is already cast, and the actual address is more pomp and circumstance than revelatory.


I watched CNN’s live chat updates that followed tweets and talk about the #SOTU.  My favorite?  “Michelle Obama is wearing Michael Kors.”  What’s on the stage at the speech and at an opening night is only half the story.  Who is in the audience, who is sitting with whom, and yeah, the best/worst dressed in the crowd, is a story unto itself.


The speech is one thing, and then all the supporters of the Chief have to listen to the reviews.  The official response from the opposing party is an entire other show in itself, and boy, those guys are more critical than if Ben Brantley and Frank Rich had a love child . . . that was adopted by Charles Isherwood and Hedy Weiss.


There’s another thing that Broadway and the State of the Union have in common.  Both are struggling to keep “attendance” up.  Less and less people are watching that speech, and while we’re having a banner year for butts in seats on Broadway this year, it’s been a problem in recent years.

Did you watch the speech?  I’m more interested if you didn’t . . . and why.  Comment below!


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  • Dara says:

    I didn’t watch the State of the Union because I was seeing a Broadway show! (If/Then)

    What better excuse is there than that? 🙂

  • Marshall says:

    Didn’t watch. Heard the storyline (talking points) prior to the speech. Knew Santa Claus (the President) would be talking about fluffy clouds and unicorns. Nice story, but his elves (Congress) will be striking. Who wants to hear an insincere monologue? Ruins the play. 🙂

  • Solange De Santis says:


    And if that isn’t enough – when the star gets to center stage, the Speaker says, “Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and distinct honor to present to you the President of the United States.”

    Both moments give me chills every time. Brilliant theater.

    And yes, I do watch the rest of the speech. If you hadn’t, you would have missed the best ad lib of the night: “Yes, I know ’cause I won both of ’em.”

    So it’s scripted but can also be unpredictable, like theater.

  • Rich Mc says:

    I watched it and would add:

    7. Well executed elements of fantasy often signal a successful run.

  • Jamie says:

    I didn’t watch it because a.) I was working. But I wouldn’t have watched it if I was off because b.) I didn’t know about it. I feel terrible even saying that, like I’m a bad citizen, but I had no idea. Poor advertising?? Or at least poor advertising to my gerneration?

  • Michael Landman says:

    I didn’t watch it because I was rehearsing The Foreigner. And I didn’t even know it was the Prez’ Opening Night until I got home late that evening – not sure if it’s because I’ve been immersed in rehearsals, or if there was less advertising/publicity this year?

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