What is a Pre-Broadway Tryout?

When it comes to the commercial theatre, Broadway is undoubtedly the top destination. But, as usual, there’s more to the story. For starters, there are thriving theatre cities full of companies great and small operating all over the country. Washington, D.C. just so happens to be one of them. Furthermore, many of the big-budget smashes you see on Broadway began life elsewhere. Some were developed at regional theatres before making the trek to New York, while others were dropped into major cities for what we call a “pre-Broadway tryout.” What grand old institution just so happens to be a major stop for pre-Broadway tryouts? The National Theatre, of course.

This site explores The National’s proud record as the pre-Broadway stop of choice for some ambitious and groundbreaking works of theatre. Start out by taking trip down the Road to Broadway, where you can read our exclusive interview with Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning lyricist Sheldon Harnick. Then take a look at three of the biggest shows to pass through The National.

A Playbill from the original production of "Fiddler on the Roof."
A poster for the production of "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue."
A playbill cover for the original production of "M. Butterfly."

You can start with The Hit: Fiddler on the Roof, which examines one of American musical theatre’s signature works. The Miss: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue looks at a musical that fell apart despite seeming to have all the right ingredients. Finally, The Breakthrough: M. Butterfly touches on a controversial play that was a major milestone for Asian American theatre. Of course, you can also find your way around by visiting the menu at the top of the site at any time. Be on the lookout for our From the Archive sections, featuring prized items in The National Theatre Archives, and thought-provoking prompts under Consider This…

Looking for more about The National Theatre’s life through the years? Check out the previous site in our series, A Brief History of The National Theatre. The National Theatre Corporation’s Teens Behind the Scenes program is made possible through the generous support of Jacqueline Badger Mars. These sites are curated by dramaturg Jared Strange. To learn more about The National Theatre and the Teens Behind the Scenes program, visit the About the Program page.


The National Theatre Corporation is the 501(c)(3) non-profit entity responsible for the continued operation and preservation of The National Theatre. Donations to the National Theatre Corporation help fund necessary capital improvements and maintenance to preserve this historic facility. Additionally, contributions support free community and educational programming, and make possible the management of a vast, content-rich archive. To make your tax-deductible contribution to the National Theatre Corporation, please visit our secure giving website, with our thanks. 

The Nederlander Organization manages and programs the theatre, including the Broadway at The National series. The name “Nederlander” has been synonymous with great entertainment since 1912. Led by James L. Nederlander, President, the organization continues the tradition of operating iconic, historic theatres, as well as producing and presenting the best in theatrical entertainment and concert performances. To learn more, please visit Nederlander.com.