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. Examples include "So Long Dearie" from Hello, Dolly!, "Rose's Turn" from Gypsy, and "Work the Wound" from Passing Strange.[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.[2]

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.[3] 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.[4]

Other notable 11 o'clock numbers include "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" from Guys and Dolls[3], "Memory" from Cats[5], "Brotherhood of Man" from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying[6], "Gimme Gimme" from Thoroughly Modern Millie[4], "Another National Anthem" from Assassins[7], "The American Dream" from Miss Saigon, "I'm Here" from The Color Purple[8], and "Always Starting Over" from If/Then.[9]


  1. ^ "May I Have a Definition?", The Bad Boy of Musical Theatre blog, 2014
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ a b "'Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat:' An Unusual 11 o’clock Number". The Marquee, News and Views from MTI. Retrieved 23 June 2011.
  4. ^ a b Michael Musto (29 April 2011). "The Five Best 11 O'Clock Numbers in Broadway History". The Village Voice theater blog.
  5. ^ Peter Marks (27 August 1999). "CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK; Theater's Thrill Rides". The New York Times.
  6. ^ Brendan Lemon (28 March 2011). "How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Al Hirschfeld Theatre, New York". The Financial Times.
  7. ^ Gordon, Robert (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Sondheim Studies. Oxford University Press. p. 91. ISBN 9780199909278. Retrieved 7 August 2018. 
  8. ^ Schulman, Michael (17 December 2015). "The Top Ten Showstoppers of 2015". The New Yorker. Retrieved 7 August 2018. 
  9. ^ Peter Marks (25 November 2013). "Eagerly awaited musical ‘If/Then’ is a winning blob, with many kinks to be worked out". The Washington Post.