How Much Do Broadway Actors Make?

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Photo Source: Helen Maybanks/Matthew Murphy/Joan Marcus

Whether portraying a dueling founding father on “Hamilton” or a doomed laborer in “Hadestown,” it’s many a theatrical actor’s dream to make it to the Great White Way. But how much can they expect to get paid for the achievement? Beyond the compensation of a standing ovation, Broadway actors earn varying amounts of money depending on their role and experience.

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What determines how much a Broadway actor makes?

Purlie Victorious

Leslie Odom, Jr. in “Purlie Victorious” Photo by Marc J. Franklin

Stage actors in the U.S. have minimum earnings established by the Actors’ Equity Association. Beyond these minimums, Broadway actor earnings might be impacted by the size and scope of the role, exclusivity, the actor’s reputation, the show’s budget, and any negotiations for cut-of-pay. 

Size and scope of role: The principal cast—lead(s) and ensemble—generally receive a higher salary, since they have more lines to memorize and convey the general storyline. 

Additional duties: Actors may earn more if their duties in the show go beyond just acting. Chorus roles, understudies, swings (understudies for multiple roles), dance captains, assistant dance captains, and fight captains receive additional pay. Even moving a set piece during the show can result in a few extra bucks at the end of each week.

Exclusivity: Signing a rider, or a year-long exclusivity contract, can give actors a little something extra. 

Celebrity status: Recognizable actors such as Matthew Broderick, Idina Menzel, Julia Roberts, Nathan Lane, Daniel Radcliffe, Patti LuPone, and Hugh Jackman usually earn much more than anyone else on the stage, since celebrities tend to bring in the crowds.

Broadway fame: Although not quite mainstream celebrities, veterans of the Broadway stage may earn more than their colleagues.

Budget: Higher-budget productions can afford to pay their talent better than lower-budget ones.

Cut: Although rare, Broadway actors may earn a cut of the box office—a percentage of ticket sales on top of their weekly salary—if involved in the development process or they are celebrities.

How much do Broadway actors usually earn?

Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in The Producers

Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in “The Producers” Credit: Paul Kolnik

Generally, the average Broadway salary for non-celebrity actors is between $45,000 and $220,000 per year, depending on the run of the show or their contract length in an ongoing production. The current Equity weekly minimum salary for Broadway actors is $2,439 per week. Additional minimum weekly earnings include:

  • Swings (understudy for multiple roles): $116.15, or $20 if partial swing
  • Understudy (lead): $60
  • Understudy (chorus): $17.50
  • Chorus Role: $25
  • Dance captain: $464.40
  • Assistant dance captain: $232.30
  • Fight captain: $100
  • Rider: $80 for the first 6 months, $40 for second 6 months, plus a $2,600 end-of-year bonus

Celebrity Broadway salaries tend to be vastly larger. For example, Lane and Broderick allegedly each earned $100,000 a week for being in “The Producers.” Jackman and Daniel Craig allegedly earned $40,000 a week for “A Steady Rain,” but they also received a percentage of the ticket sales, bringing it closer to $100,000.

How do Broadway actors get paid?

McKenzie Kurtz, Alyssa Fox, and the Company of WICKED

McKenzie Kurtz, Alyssa Fox, and the Company of “Wicked” Credit: Joan Marcus

Broadway actors receive their payments from the production company putting on the show. The company might use a payroll service, but ultimately the money originates from the producers and then makes its way to the actors.

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