11 o'clock number

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11 o'clock number is a theatre term for a big, show-stopping song that occurs late in the second act of a two-act musical, in which a major character, often the protagonist, comes to an important realization. Recent examples include "Words Fail" in Dear Evan Hansen, "Work the Wound" in Passing Strange, and "Wake Me Up When September Ends" in American Idiot.[1] It was so named because in the days when musical performances would start at 8:30 pm, this song would occur around 11:00 pm.

Among the theatre community, there is some debate as to the characteristics of an 11 o'clock number, it often signifies a moment of revelation or change in heart of a lead character, although there are exceptions to this.[2] The 11 o'clock number is also differentiated from the finale in that it is not the final number in the show, but even this is not considered a requirement by some commenters.[3]

Other notable 11 o'clock numbers include "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" from Guys and Dolls, "Rose's Turn" from Gypsy,[4] "Brotherhood of Man" from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,[5] "Memory" from Cats,[6] "Gimme Gimme" from Thoroughly Modern Millie, "The American Dream" from Miss Saigon and, more recently, "I'm Here" from The Color Purple, "Always Starting Over" from If/Then and "She Used to Be Mine" from Waitress.[7]


  1. ^ "May I Have a Definition?", The Bad Boy of Musical Theatre blog, 2014
  2. ^ "'Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat:' An Unusual 11 o’clock Number". The Marquee, News and Views from MTI. Retrieved 23 June 2011.
  3. ^ Michael Musto (29 April 2011). "The Five Best 11 O'Clock Numbers in Broadway History". The Village Voice theater blog.
  4. ^ Ben Rimalower (19 July 2014). "'This Time For Me': The Essential 11 O'Clock Numbers". Playbill.com. Accessed 2015-02-02. Archived 2015-03-28.
  5. ^ Brendan Lemon (28 March 2011). "How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Al Hirschfeld Theatre, New York". The Financial Times.
  6. ^ Peter Marks (27 August 1999). "CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK; Theater's Thrill Rides". The New York Times.
  7. ^ Peter Marks (25 November 2013). "Eagerly awaited musical ‘If/Then’ is a winning blob, with many kinks to be worked out". The Washington Post.