Eleven o’clock numbers have long been beloved musical theatre tunes, as they are remembered as the big, showstopping numbers of the show. And that’s exactly the point! In the beginning of the musical theatre genre, writers wanted to leave a lasting impression on the audience that would have them leaving the theatre humming a tune from the show. The writers were smart to incorporate the tune almost at the end of the production so it would stay fresh in audiences’ minds as they left the theatre. If a show started at 8 p.m., these songs were usually inserted at the 11 p.m. mark — hence the name, “11 o’clock number.”
This idea has since evolved. The songs still leave a lasting impression, but now they’re not always placed at the end of the show. In terms of plot, the songs often serve as a way for major characters to come to an important realization or turning point.
Here are 11 of our favorite 11 o’clock numbers for women: