Common Questions about Backdrops

If you have an upcoming performance, dance recital, or event that needs that final element to make your presentation unforgettable, a backdrop may be just the answer. Backdrops by Charles Stewart has been the leader in scenic design and backdrop rentals for over 120 years. We carry over 1,500 backdrops, drapes, lames, and scrims for your performance. Not only do we offer a huge variety of backdrops, we have experience that can help you answer all your performance questions accurately. Here are some of the more common things directors, producers, and prop masters ask us when it comes to our products and services.

 

  • What kinds of backdrops and sizes are offered at BCS?

 

Charles H. Stewart offers a wide variety of backdrops designed to accommodate most high quality productions for theatres, schools, dance recitals, corporate events, and the like. Many of our backdrops are inspired by Broadway performances and have been organized into categories that reflect this on our website. For example, our backdrops are searchable by category, show, or even customizable with your unique design in mind. In addition we offer drops in a variety of sizes for your stage. We can create a backdrop of any size to your exact specifications on a custom order. However, our standard sizes for backdrop rentals are mostly 18×42 or 15×36.

 

  • How are the backdrops hung and are they compatible with the equipment at our venue?

 

All of our backdrops come with grommets and tie lines spaced approximately 12-14 inches apart. We ask that you only hang the backdrops using the grommets and tie lines provided. Please do not pin, staple, tack, or tape the backdrops at any time. Our experts can talk to you about how these can be hung and how to do so safely.

 

  • What about rental periods and arrival dates?

 

Our rentals typically are on a week-by-week basis, starting on a Monday and ending on a Monday. If you would like to have the drop ahead of time (and it is available), we may be able to offer (but not guarantee) early delivery. We also offer limited partial week rentals. We use UPS shipping to guarantee tracking for prompt arrival and suggest our clients use the same method for return shipping as well. The shipping is a separate fee. If an emergency arises and you need the drop for a longer period call us immediately so we can make certain that another client does not need the drop.

 

If you have further questions about billing, shipping and backdrop options see our FAQ section on our website or call Charles H. Stewart at (978) 682-5757 – www.charleshstewart.com

Planning Your Broadway Trip!

If you love the theater like we love the theater, then you probably plan trips there as often as you can. However, if you are a novice to Broadway, then you may be looking for tips to get there, enjoy a show, and not break the bank, right? So if you want to head to New York City and see the bright lights of Broadway then here are some ideas on how to make the trip and leave your savings account intact. Let’s plan a Broadway trip!

Getting There – Depending upon the distance you have to travel, you may need to fly, take a train, subway, bus, or all of the above. Watch your favorite websites for the best deal on tickets until you think you have the best option available.

Accomodations – While there are hundreds of travel sites that offer discount hotel prices, we suggest you think outside the box because even the cheapest hotel room will run you quite a bit of money. Try something like staying on a friend’s couch or possibly Airbnb. If all else fails stay right outside of the city or across the river in Jersey for better rates.

Getting Tickets and What to See – Obviously as a theater lover you will want to catch a show or two while you are in town. Check out sites like: Playbill, TheaterMania, and BroadwayWorld. They are fantastic sites for show news and theatre insights to get you in the mood for Broadway!

While you are visiting Broadway, enjoy all there is to see! Remember to look for our backdrops and give us a shout if you see something you love!

 

Animation Adaptation Part 2

Here’s a second installment of animated comics, movies or shows made into musicals.

 

Pokemon

Pokémon Live! was a musical stage show that toured the United States on September 22, 2000 to January 19, 2001 including a run at Radio City Music Hall. Plans for some 2002 performances in the United Kingdom were also made,  but later canceled.  Despite that, Pokémon Live! was invited to perform in Dubai, U.A.E. at Al Mamzar Park in the duration of March 2001, coinciding with the annual Dubai Shopping Festival.  The musical was based on the Pokémon anime series, using similar characters, clothing, and story elements. Approximately 90 minutes in length, it told the story of Ash Ketchum, Misty and Brock as they travel to a contest to win the much sought-after Diamond Badge. The event turns out to be part of a plan by the evil organization Team Rocket and its diabolic leader Giovanni to take over the world. The music of the show consisted of songs previously released on the Pokémon anime soundtracks Pokémon 2BA Master and Totally Pokémon, as well as new songs.

The show was successful, but it was largely ignored by critics. It has never received a video release, even though Pokémon’s official site contained a statement for quite some time implying that such a release would appear.  A cast recording CD of the show, however, had a limited release.

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

To capitalize on the Turtles’ popularity, a concert tour was held in 1990, premiering at Radio City Music Hall on August 17and sponsored by Pizza Hut. The “Coming Out of Their Shells” tour featured live-action turtles playing music as a band (Donatello, keyboards; Leonardo, bass guitar; Raphael, drums and sax; Michelangelo, guitar) on stage around a familiar plotline: April O’Neil is kidnapped by the Shredder, and the turtles have to rescue her. The story had a very Bill-n’-Ted-esque feel, with its theme of the power of rock n’ roll literally defeating the enemy, in the form of the Shredder (who only rapped about how he hates music) trying to eliminate all music. A pay-per-view special highlighting the concert was shown, and a studio album was also released.

 

Tarzan

Tarzan is based on the Walt Disney Animation Studios 1999 film of the same name. The songs are written by Phil Collins with a book by David Henry Hwang. The musical mostly follows the plot of the Disney film: Tarzan is raised by gorillas, meets Jane, a young English naturalist, and falls in love. Jane’s entourage plans to kill the gorillas, and Tarzan’s loyalties are tested.

The musical began previews on Broadway on March 24, 2006, and officially opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on May 10, making it the only Disney Theatrical production without an out-of-town tryout. Bob Crowley designed the sets and costumes and directed the original Broadway production; choreography was by Meryl Tankard and lighting by Natasha Katz.  Danton Burroughs, grandson of Edgar Rice Burroughs, attended the opening night party, as did Phil Collins.  The production was nominated for a Tony award for Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Natasha Katz). But, due to poor ticket sales, the show closed on July 8, 2007 after 35 previews and 486 performances.

 

Anastasia

Anastasia is a musical with music and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, and a book by Terrence McNally.  Based on the 1997 film of the same name, the musical tells the story of the legend of Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, which claims that she, in fact, escaped the execution of her family. Anastasia, who appears in the plot as an amnesiac orphan named Anya, hopes to find some trace of her family, but sides with con men who wish to take advantage of her likeness to the Grand Duchess.

The musical opened on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre on March 23, 2017 in previews and officially on April 24, 2017.  The musical was nominated for the Drama Desk award for Best Musical, among other award nominations.  The production was met with mixed reviews by critics, citing uneven subplots and an overly long running time as primary issues.

How to Be a Great Prop Master

The “property master”, often dubbed the prop master or mistress, is the person responsible for purchasing, acquiring, manufacturing, properly placing, and/or overseeing any props needed for a theatrical production. Sounds pretty straight-forward, right? Well, being a prop master is one of the most stressful yet rewarding jobs in theater. Prop professionals have a wide variety of skills and often are considered the “MacGyver” of the productions in that they have the ability to make a wide array of props out of seemingly nothing and on a limited budget. So how do these skillful professionals do it? Here are few hints on how to become a pro of the props.

 

  • Become an Expert Shopper – Most prop masters know where to find the best props, be it from a Goodwill store, a warehouse, or a recent purchase. Knowing where to buy the items and at the best price is one sign of being a pro.
  • Get Organized – Most prop masters are also professional organizers who know where to store each prop and how it can be accessed easily the next time it is needed. Create your own system of sorting and storing props, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a true prop master.
  • Know the Production – A great prop master knows the production inside and out, including the cues for each scenery change, and when each prop is needed on stage and from which side it should enter.
  • Be Able to Roll-with-it – An expert prop master has to know, when things get crazy on stage or disasters happen, that they need to roll with the punches and think on the fly to come up with viable solutions. Prop masters know how to do this intuitively and are not thrown off by last minute changes.
  • Be Aware of Safety – In many productions the props are so realistic that they may be dangerous. A good prop master is always aware of the safety measures needed to keep the actors and stage hands safe at all times. In such cases, it’s best practice to train the person(s) who will use the prop during the show.  

 

Prop masters may often go overlooked, but their skill and talent are what make the production go off without a hitch. If you are a prop master and want more information about our Backdrops by Charles Stewart, call (978) 682-5757, or visit our website at  www.charleshstewart.com.

 

Animation Adaptation

We’ve covered movies made into musicals and musicals made into movies.  Another interesting concept that has been quite popular is making animated series or movies into live action shows.  We all know Annie, Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid, and Lion King along with Shrek as well.  Here, we will look at some “lesser known” or less successful attempts at live action adaptations from animations.

 

Doonesbury

Garry Trudeau’s comic strip Doonesbury started in 1970. It began following the lives of a group of college students attending the fictional Walden College, though it ultimately became known for its political and social commentary. The strip was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning in 1975, the first daily comic strip to be given that honor.

The characters in the strip had remained perpetually of college age, but in January 1983, Trudeau announced he would take a nearly two-year hiatus from the strip to bring his characters to Broadway. And notably, the musical Doonesbury marked college graduation for his characters. Trudeau set to work writing the book and lyrics, while Elizabeth Swados provided the music. Doonesbury opened on Broadway November 1983 with a cast that included Mark Linn-Baker (You Can’t Take It With You), Gary Beach (The Producers), Lauren Tom (A Chorus Line), and Kate Burton (Present Laughter). The show received mixed notices and closed after 104 performances, but a cast recording preserved the score.

Doonesbury the musical remains important in the history of the Doonesbury comic strip; following the musical adaptation, Trudeau began illustrating his characters aging in near real-time. The Broadway musical was the turning point.

 

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Bono and The Edge, members of Irish rock super group U2, wrote the music and lyrics for this unique musical. David Campbell worked on the arrangements and Julie Taymor, Glen Berger, and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa wrote the book. The inspiration for this superhero musical came from the original comics by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, first published by Marvel Comics.

The plot follows Spidey’s love for Mary Jane and his rival the Green Goblin. Unfortunately, the set designs and productions the creators had imagined proved to be difficult to produce. There were technical problems and performers were injured on set. At the premiere, there were disruptions, which caused the reviews to be negative.

After the show officially opened in 2011, the response from the critics were still mixed but more positive than after the previews. This musical is the costliest Broadway production ever but also held the top slot on record box office sales after pulling in nearly three million dollars.

In 2012 Spider-Man was nominated for two Tony Awards, one Drama Desk Award, and five Outer Critics Circle Awards winning two of the latter for Outstanding Set Design and Outstanding Costume Design.

 

It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman!

Broadway’s first superhero musical was It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman!, which opened on Broadway in 1966. Superman—or Clark Kent—first took flight in the pages of a comic book in 1933. He made the jump to television with 1952’s Adventures of Superman, which became extremely popular and ran through 1958. By the time producers decided to adapt the character for a Broadway musical in 1966, Superman had become quite the hot property.

But the musical adaptation of the Superman franchise took quite a different spin on the story of Clark Kent. It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman!, with a score by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams (Bye Bye Birdie) and a book by David Newman and Robert Benton—who would also go on to co-write the screenplays to Superman and Superman II in 1978 and 1980, respectively—found a good deal of campy comedy in the Superman story. The musical dispensed with many well-known Superman characters—most notably Lex Luthor—in favor of new characters created for Broadway. In fact, of the characters in It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman, fans would only recognize Clark Kent/Superman, his love interest Lois Lane, and his boss Perry White.

Despite positive reviews, the original production had only a brief run of 129 performances. A drastically shortened version of the show was presented on TV in 1975, starring Lesley Ann Warren as Lois Lane. The show was revised again in 2010, premiering at Dallas Theater Center with a new book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa who re-introduced elements from the original comic. Ultimately, the show’s biggest success has been the song “You’ve Got Possibilities,” originally sung by Linda Lavin, which broke out and became a standalone hit (and can be seen in the current Broadway revue Prince of Broadway.)

SpongeBob SquarePants

SpongeBob has not yet opened on Broadway, although the musical adaption of this popular Nickelodeon cartoon show began previews on November 6, 2017. The stage adaptation, which tried out in Chicago, features many of the characters from the cartoon, but the story is completely original. The musical tells the story of SpongeBob and his starfish best friend, Patrick, and their efforts to save their underwater city of Bikini Bottom from Armageddon, in the form of an underwater volcano.

Unlike the other musicals on this list, SpongeBob flaunts an extensive list of writers. Kyle Jarrow wrote the book, and the score reflects a compilation of songs by pop and rock artists, including Sara Bareilles, John Legend, Cyndi Lauper, Panic! at the Disco, They Might Be Giants, David Bowie, and more. Tina Landau co-conceived and directed by Tina Landau the production with choreography by Christopher Gattelli.

Fans of the show eagerly anticipating its performances are in luck—the cast recording is now available.

Keys to a Successful Show

Whether you are putting on a show under the bright lights of Broadway, at a small community theater, or on the stage of a local high school auditorium, all directors and producers want their show be a success. They plan, think ahead, and schedule for every contingency. So how can you make your show a success? Let’s take a closer look at the keys to a successful show.

 

  • Create a Team – All successful shows have one thing in common – a team mentality. Be sure to lead your actors, prop masters, lighting experts, and all the other people that make the show what it is. Ask for input and listen to what is said. Be respectful of all team members’ talents and skills in their respective areas and realize that one person alone does not put on the show. Hire or appoint people whom you trust to all the important positions that will help make your show a smash hit from stage managers to choreographers, to music directors and so on.
  • Set Expectations – Set high expectations for your entire team about attitude, promptness, and respect for you and others in the show. Too many big egos can hurt even the greatest of plot lines.
  • Plan for Disaster – Success doesn’t mean that a show did not encounter troubles along the way, but rather that the team was able to overcome any issues that came its way, whether it was technical difficulties, sick actors, building issues, or any number of things that can throw a monkey wrench into production on show night. Plan accordingly and have a back up ready for every conceivable problem.
  • Learn – Technical aspects of every show can be confusing so get to know the people who control the technology that runs your show from lights to sound to moving props. Knowing how to use all the professional equipment will help stage managers make adjustments quickly if an emergency arises and will also help to manage crew members more effectively.
  • Don’t Ignore the LIttle Things – The adage that “the devil is in the details” is very true when it comes to show business. Take notes during rehearsals and be sure to incorporate the little details that bring the show together to form a masterpiece.
  • Have Fun – Some of the best shows are the ones where you can tell that the performance is a labor of love for all those involved.

 

Call Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart at (978) 682-5757 or visit our website at  www.charleshstewart.com for more guidance and stage backdrops that will make your show a successful show!

Dancing Movies–Part 3

Here’s one last look into movies using dance as its central theme.

Showgirls

(1995) Starring Elizabeth Berkley and Gina Gershon

Nomi (Elizabeth Berkley) arrives in Las Vegas with only a suitcase and a dream of becoming a top showgirl. She quickly befriends Molly (Gina Ravera), who works at the high-profile Stardust Hotel, and lands a job at a seedy strip club. A chance meeting with Cristal (Gina Gershon), the Stardust’s marquee dancer, and her powerful boyfriend, Zack (Kyle MacLachlan), brings Nomi one step closer to realizing her dream. But, as she ascends to the top, Nomi begins to wonder if it’s all worth it.

Step Up

(2006) Starring Channing Tatum

Tyler Gage (Channing Tatum) has been in and out of trouble for most of his life and after finding himself before the judge again, he is sentenced to 200 hours of community service mopping floors at the Maryland School of the Arts. He quickly catches the eye of Nora (Jenna Dewan), a gifted ballet student, who is trying to use hip-hop moves with her classical routines. After some initial hesitation, Nora convinces Tyler to help her with her dance routines and the sparks fly.  There are 6 movies in this franchise, and nobody knows why…

Breakin’ 2: Electric Bugaloo

(1984) Starring Lucinda Dickey, Adolfo Quinones, and Michael Chambers

Disappointed with her small part in the chorus line of a Los Angeles show, jazz dancer Kelly (Lucinda Dickey) quits and heads home. Her father (John Christy Ewing) disapproves of Kelly’s friendship with street dancers Ozone (Adolfo “Shabba-Doo” Quinones) and Turbo (Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers), and encourages her to pursue an opportunity to perform in Paris. Ignoring his wishes, Kelly teams up with her friends for a break-dancing benefit show to save an endangered community center.

Honey

(2003) Starring Jessica Alba

Honey Daniels (Jessica Alba) dreams of making a name for herself as a hip-hop choreographer. When she’s not busy hitting downtown clubs with her friends, she teaches dance classes at a nearby community center in Harlem, N.Y., as a way to keep kids off the streets. Honey thinks she’s hit the jackpot when she meets a hotshot director (David Moscow) who casts her in one of his music videos. But, when he starts demanding sexual favors from her, Honey makes a decision that will change her life.  You can also check out Honey 2 and 3…

And lastly, if you want a comprehensive history of dance in film—well up until 1985 at least—you might want to check out a documentary film called That’s Dancing.   Iconic figures such as Liza Minnelli, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly lead the viewer through this retrospective of classic dancing numbers throughout the films of the 20th century. From classical ballet to modern dance, the compilation features, clips, and never-before-seen footage from films such as “The Wizard of Oz,” “West Side Story,” and “Singin’ In the Rain.” Mikhail Baryshnikov also appears, commenting on the art of ballet and the responsibilities of the dancer.  And yes, I saw this when I was a kid!

Importance of Theater for Children

Are your children commonly exposed to art-rich experiences? Do you bring your child to live theater, or fear doing so because they may not behave or make it through the entire show? If you have not shared the experiences of local theater with your child or possibly taken them on a special trip to the lights, sounds, and magic of Broadway, then you may want to consider it this new year. There are countless studies and research that has been done to show that theater for children is critical to their academic, social, and emotional development. Here is a quick list of the benefits of exposing your child to theater from a young age.

 

  • Increased academic performance in school. “Study after study has shown that the arts are more than fluff. Longitudinal data of 25,000 students involved in the arts, conducted at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education by Dr. James Catterall, shows that consistent participation greatly improves academic performance and signi cantly bumps up standardized test scores. Students who make time for the arts are also more involved in community service, and less likely to drop out of school. And we’re not just talking about upper middle class kids. These facts remain, regardless of a child’s socioeconomic background.” (Source: Rose Theater Chicago)
  • Children who experience live theater and a wide variety of shows with characters that are different than them are more accepting than their less cultured peers of other people’s ideas, religions, sexual orientations, and cultures.
  • Children who visit live performances have lengthened attention spans.
  • Children who view a variety of theater shows have been shown to have increased empathy and understanding of the plight of others and act on that knowledge.
  • Theater fosters creativity and imagination, and allows children to think beyond the storyline.

 

Follow our blog and Facebook postings about opportunities for children to experience the joy of theater. Call Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart at (978) 682-5757 or visit our website at  www.charleshstewart.com for more guidance and stage backdrops that will make your show a hit!

Dancing Movies–Part 2

Continuing our look into movies using dance as the backdrop to the story, here are a few more that capture that theme.  I’ve also noticed that the decade of the 80s really tried to take advantage of the dance vibe producing many classics along the way.

Tap

(1989) Starring Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis Jr.

An ex-con just released from jail, Max Washington (Gregory Hines), is a veteran burglar, but he’s also a talented tap dancer. Reuniting with his girlfriend, Amy (Suzzanne Douglas), Max is approached by her father, Little Mo (Sammy Davis Jr.), about a new dance production. Max’s criminal past, in the form of his old buddy, Nicky (Joe Morton), also comes knocking, however, and he must decide between embracing dance and lapsing into his delinquent ways.

 Flashdance

(1983) Starring Jennifer Beals

Alex Owens (Jennifer Beals) is a beautiful young woman who works a day job in a steel mill and dances in a bar at night. When Alex discovers that her handsome boss, Nick Hurley (Michael Nouri), is both interested in her and supportive of her performing career, she renews her efforts to get accepted into a prestigious dance conservatory. Although Alex is frightened of failure, she is cheered on by Nick, as well as by her mentor, former ballet performer Hanna Long (Lilia Skala).

 Breakin’

(1984) Starring Lucinda Dickey, Adolfo Quinones, and Michael Chambers

Kelly (Lucinda Dickey) is a classically trained jazz dancer who’s tired of warding off her amorous teacher and hungry for a new outlet. When she befriends street dancers Ozone (Adolfo “Shabba-Doo” Quinones) and Turbo (Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers), she’s blown away by their unique and original moves. She soon volunteers to help them defeat a rival group of street dancers, learning break-dancing skills along the way and sharing some moves of her own.

Footloose

(1984) Starring Kevin Bacon and John Lithgow

Moving in from Chicago, newcomer Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon) is in shock when he discovers the small Midwestern town he now calls home has made dancing and rock music illegal. As he struggles to fit in, Ren faces an uphill battle to change things. With the help of his new friend, Willard Hewitt (Christopher Penn), and defiant teen Ariel Moore (Lori Singer), he might loosen up this conservative town. But Ariel’s influential father, Reverend Shaw Moore (John Lithgow), stands in the way.

 

Staying Alive

(1985) Starring John Travolta

Six years after his glittering triumph in the disco dance contest of “Saturday Night Fever,” an older and wiser Tony Manero (John Travolta) works as a serious dance teacher in New York City and dreams of making it on Broadway. Manero gets his shot when his girlfriend, Jackie (Cynthia Rhodes), gets him an audition for a daring new show called “Satan’s Alley.” Manero lands a part as a backup dancer and falls back into old habits as he lusts after Broadway bad girl Laura (Finola Hughes).

Lambada

(1990) Starring J Eddie Peck

After a long day of teaching entitled high school students in Beverly Hills, Calif., Kevin Laird (J. Eddie Peck) likes to spend the evening dancing the Lambada at Latin clubs. There, he’s known by the monicker “Blade,” and his libidinous dance moves have made him a local sensation. What’s more, he tutors some of the club’s underprivileged patrons in math. It may all seem innocent enough, but his future is threatened when one of his rich students, Sandy (Melora Hardin), spots him at the club.

Theater Etiquette

Are you a Broadway theater newcomer? Well, welcome to “the show” and get ready for some amazing theater! Are you nervous about what the proper behavior and attire is for Broadway theatre? Common questions that Broadway first-timers ask are: What is the appropriate attire for the theater? Are refreshments available at the theater? When do I applaud during the performance? Here are just a few of the tips we have for theater etiquette for your next visit to Broadway.

 

  • Dress for a night out. While there is no dress code for Broadway theater, it is not a gym or bar so, therefore, respect the work of the actors by dressing for the occasion.
  • Turn off your phone. Your ringtone or text message buzzing does not “go” with the music of the show.
  • Be quiet and courteous during the show including no talking, unwrapping cough drops, or singing along, even if you know the words!
  • Respect the space of others around you including staying within the boundaries of your seat and keeping your belongings in your area. Many a show has been uncomfortable for audience members if seat neighbors put their feet up or arms stretched out around their chairs.
  • Do not take photos or video of the show. The show is a professional production and should be treated as such.
  • Standing ovations happen often for exceptionally great shows. Feel free to show your love but don’t overdo it by whooping it up or screaming.
  • Save bathroom trips for intermission as the movement of the audience members can distract the actors.

 

If you want more etiquette ideas call Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart at (978) 682-5757 or visit our website at  www.charleshstewart.com for more guidance and stage backdrops that will make your show a hit!