A son of Nureyev, who in turn was sired by Northern Dancer, out of the mare Tree Of Knowledge who won the 1974 Hollywood Gold Cup, Theatrical was bred by Bertram & Diana Firestone at their Gilltown Stud in Kilcullen, County Kildare, Ireland.
Racing at age three on the turf, under jockey Michael Kinane he won the 1985 Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial and finished second in the Irish Sweeps Derby to Law Society. Late in the year he was sent to the United States to compete in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Aqueduct Racetrack in New York City where he finished a very disappointing eleventh. Theatrical returned to race in the 1986 Turf and in a race where the heavily favored Dancing Brave finished fourth, Theatrical was beaten by a neck in finishing second to Manila. In 1987, Theatrical was brought to the United States and conditioned by new trainer Bill Mott. Under the future Hall of Fame trainer, the colt won the Hialeah Turf Cup Handicap, the Turf Classic Invitational Stakes and defeated Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Trempolino to win the Breeders' Cup Turf and claim the Eclipse Award for American Champion Male Turf Horse.
Retired, in 1988 Theatrical stood at stud at Hill 'n' Dale Farms near Lexington, Kentucky. He has sired 18 Grade I stakes race winners and his progeny have earned more than $65 million in purse money. Among his progeny, Theatrical sired Media Puzzle, the 2002 Melbourne Cup winner, and Royal Anthem, whose wins include the Canadian International Stakes (1998) and the International Stakes (1999)