Popular Holiday Performances (Pt. 2)

The holiday season has a significant way of joining people of different backgrounds and from different communities together. Holiday productions are one way to do just that. Below is a continuation of the most popular holiday productions to look for in a community near you!

Miracle on 34th Street

This Meredith Willson musical is based on the movie Miracle on 34th Street. Both film and musical follow the life of a single mother who has done her best to teach her six-year-old daughter about the fake romantic notions that come with the holiday. All of this changes, however, when a neighbor tries to pursue the mother by becoming friends with the daughter.

Holiday Inn

Although all multiple other holidays are depicted in this musical, it is still a great winter holiday performance! Story follows a farmer who was a former dancer, who transforms his farmhouse into an inn that opens only during the holidays. He wines up falling in love with an aspiring singer and tries to convince her to stay with him in the Inn.

“The Chanukkah Guest”

This is a classic holiday story by Eric A. Kimmel about an old woman who feeds a friendly bear her famous potato latkes without realizing it. The production carries a heartwarming message and features music like “The Magic Dreidels,” “Hanukkah Lights in the Big Sky” and “Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins.”

It’s a Wonderful Life

This Frank Capra Film, based on The Greatest Gift, is transformed into a musical production while still following the story of a suicidal man whose guardian angel takes into a journey to see how different the world would be if he had never been born.

Madeline’s Christmas

Madeline’s Christmas is one of the great holiday musicals for all families. It follows Madeline and her boarding school friends as they prepare to go home for the holidays. Unfortunately, they all catch the flu right before Christmas but are taken into an unexpected adventure!

With the many more holiday productions out there, there are some other ones that were not mentioned. Which, other holiday productions are you excited to see?

Popular Holiday Performances (Pt. 1)

 

December is an exciting month for many reasons, one being holiday performances! Every year, schools and communities perform one of many holiday productions. There is no better season for all communities to come together like that of the holiday season. Because of this, we have compiled a two-part blog of popular holiday productions to look out for in communities near you to help you get into the festive mood. Follow along to discover the popular holiday performances.

“A Christmas Carol”

This is a Charles Dickens’ classic story of a bitter old man, known as Scrooge, who is visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. With each visit, Scrooge is taken into a journey, from his past, his present and future. Through these journeys, Scrooge is transformed into a kinder, more generous man.

“Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas”

This is a musical rendition of Dr. Seuss’ classic holiday story. It brings the book to life as it takes the audience on a journey along with the Grinch as he learns about all the great things Christmas truly has to offer. Classic songs like “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “I Hate Christmas Eve” are featured in the musical.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas”

With the many commercial traditions, it can be easy to lose track of what Christmas is really all about. Just like in the real world, this musical rendition of A Charlie Brown Christmas follows Charlie and the Peanuts gang as they discover the true meaning of Christmas.

“The Nutcracker”

Although it doesn’t fall under the musical category, the ballet performance is definitely a true holiday classic. The story is based on E.T.A. Hoffman’s “The Nutcracker and the King of Mice.” It follows the dream of a young German girl where a Nutcracker prince takes her in a journey through the enchanted forest wonderland.

“Elf the Musical”

Like the movie Elf, the musical is based on the story of a young orphan child named Buddy who is raised by Santa’s elves after crawling into his bag of gifts.

After finding out that he is a real boy, he travels back home to meet his family and attempts to make them and all other New Yorkers believe in Santa.

If you are holding one of these productions, or any other, and need help deciding on a backdrop, visit our website or call Backdrops by Charles H Stewart!

The Nutcracker Ballet Production Fun Facts

The Nutcracker is a traditional holiday ballet production enjoyed by many all around the world, a different take on E.T. A. Hoffman’s “The Nutcracker and the Kind of Mice.” The production follows the dream of a young German girl named Clara and a Nutcracker prince. After defeating the King of Mice, the prince takes her on journey through the enchanted forest. Since the holiday season is fast approaching, we thought this post would transition you into the holiday mood. Here are a few fun facts that you may not have been aware about before:

In Germany, nutcrackers are traditionally gifted to children because it is believed that they can protect families and bring good luck to their homes.

The production was first premiered in Russia,1892 and didn’t make its first full appearance to the United States until 1944.

The composer Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky, was not as big of a fan of the score he composed as the audience is today. He believed that  his composition for Sleeping Beauty was better.

The roles of Clara and the Nutcracker Prince were first played by children.

The Instrument featured in “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” is called a “celesta.” Because it was a new instrument at the time, Tchaikovsky kept it a secret until the first performance in order to add a unique sound.

As a result of The Nutcracker being a popular production, we have compiled a list of suggested backdrops available in our warehouse that could be used in different scenes in The Nutcracker. Click here to check it out and contact Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart for more information on them!

How to Care for Muslin Backdrops

 

In the past, we have written about the different types of backdrops and the purpose for them (click here to see). One of the most popular types of backdrops is the muslin backdrop. Muslin backdrops are large woven cotton that are dyed and, many times, contain paintings on it. Because of this, it may be difficult to figure out how to properly store, wash, and treat wrinkles without running the painting or the dye in it.

Here are a few tips on caring for a muslin backdrop to help guide you towards the right direction:

How to properly store it:

Folding these backdrops can cause creasing and even wrinkles, so you want to avoid having to do so. Instead, try rolling it up to minimize the creases. If possible, hang up the backdrop. This is the best way to avoid any creasing or wrinkle.

How to wash it:

Some may use the washer machine in the cooling setting with fabric softener to wash out the backdrop. If there happens to be a stain on the backdrop, your best bet is to avoid putting it through a machine wash. The safest way to remove a dirty stain is to use a washcloth with soap to get rid of it.

How to treat wrinkles:

The best way to get rid of the wrinkles on a muslin backdrop is by hanging it up and allowing for gravity to do its job. If you don’t happen to have the time to wait around for gravity to do its thing, you may also use a steamer. When using a steamer, though, avoid placing the steam head right up against the fabric and rubbing it. Whatever you do, avoid using an iron at all cost. Using an iron can damage the appearance of the backdrop, creating shin spots and, overall, damaging the fabric.

Taking the proper care for your backdrop is very important. For further information or reassurance on how to care for your backdrop, contact Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart!

HOLIDAY SHOWS…Thanksgiving Edition

With Halloween over, it’s time to look at the next holiday on deck…Thanksgiving.  Now, when you think of holiday shows, Thanksgiving themed ones don’t usually come to mind.  I know there are mentions of Thanksgiving in some Broadway shows such as the Thanksgiving revue performed within South Pacific.  But there are some others as well.  Some are full productions.  Some are short plays or skits meant to be performed by elementary schools.  We’ll take a look at a few here.

The Humans

The 2016 Tony Award winner for Best Play by Stephen Karam, The Humans revolves around the Blake family gathering at Thanksgiving at the run-down Manhattan apartment in Chinatown of Brigid Blake and her boyfriend Richard. Brigid’s parents, Erik Blake and Deirdre Blake, arrive from their home in Scranton, Pennsylvania, to have dinner with Brigid, Richard and Aimee, their other adult daughter. Brigid is a musician and Aimee is a lawyer, living in Philadelphia. Aimee has recently broken up with her girlfriend and has developed an intestinal ailment. Also present is Erik’s mother Fiona “Momo”, who has Alzheimer’s Disease. The parents are unhappy that their daughters have left home and have abandoned their religion. The family members must deal with “aging, illness, and a changing economy”. (A CurtainUp Review, March 2, 2016)

John

John takes place in a Gettysburg, Pennsylvania bed and breakfast the week after Thanksgiving. It follows a cheerful innkeeper, a young couple struggling to stay together and the thousands of inanimate objects watching.  Annie Baker’s new play is all dolled up for a ghost story. A young couple arrives at a bed & breakfast in Gettysburg, Penn., run by an eccentric old dear with a creepy doll collection. Her spooky house could be haunted by Civil War dead and the dolls might be possessed by spirits — or not. In any event, it’s a great setting for the scary story that the Pulitzer-winning writer promises to tell and we long to hear. But as one would-be storyteller sheepishly admits, “I can only do build-up to scary, not scary itself.”  Sadly, that’s the problem here. (Variety Magazine, Aug 2015)

First Thanksgiving

This is a short 15 minute play written by Robert Reed typically performed by children in second and third grade.  The play begins with the journey of the Pilgrims to the New World in their cramped vessel: The Mayflower. When the Pilgrims arrive in America they establish the Plymouth Colony. By the spring, the survivors are shown by friendly local Wamponoag Indians how best to plant crops. When the harvest is gathered, the grateful Pilgrims decide to give thanks for their bounty and invite King Massasoit, who arrives with vension as a gift and 90 of his tribe. The feast lasts for 3 days and the celebrations include: displays of musketry and archery, dancing and games. However, who has to do all the cooking? Moreover, who’s going to do the washing-up?

Terri and the Turkey

Written by Wade Bradford, the play is set on Thanksgiving Day. The play presents Thanksgiving from Tom´s standpoint. Tom is the family´s turkey. Nobody really wants to kill him when it comes to it. The responsibility to chop the turkey´s head off passes from Grandpa to Dad, from Dad to Son and from Son to Daughter. When, finally, the son´s sister decides to do it. Tom, stressed because of his impending death, faints and need medical service. In the end, they agree on sparing his life and they go for pork chops, which scares the family´s pig….

The Turkeys Go on Strike

Bad Wolf Press with Ron Fink and John Heath bring you this short play meant to be performed by 2nd to 6th graders as a compliment to any school’s Thanksgiving celebrations.  Thanksgiving is in danger of being cancelled because of some extremely dissatisfied poultry. While negotiations go on around the clock—an event covered by TV reporters and influenced by ambitious members of the Squash family—students learn about the historical origins and the real meaning of the holiday.

Free Birds

Here’s a bonus for entertainment purposes only since this is a movie from 2013 and not a stage production.  But, it has to do with Thanksgiving, so I thought it tied in nicely to the theme here.  Free Birds is an animated film where a lucky turkey named Reggie gets pardoned by the President to live a carefree lifestyle, until fellow fowl Jake recruits him for a history-changing mission. Jake and Reggie travel back in time to the year 1621, just before the first Thanksgiving. The plan: Prevent all turkeys from ever becoming holiday dinners. Unfortunately, the two birds encounter colonist Myles Standish, out to capture feathered friends for all the hungry Pilgrims.  Maybe it could be turned into a stage production.  Maybe.

There are many more short plays and skits for kids and a number of more religious themed skits about life for adults.  This was just a sample of a few current Broadway productions and popular children plays/skits.

Top Scary Musicals: Part 2

As promised, here are the rest of the 5 creepiest musicals to get you into the Halloween spirit for this month.

Carrie The Musical

This musical follows high school outcast Carrie who has telekinetic powers. In the musical she is bullied until she ends up engulfing everyone around her in flames.

The Addams Family

This follows the Addams Family’s Princess of Darkness, Wednesday Addams, as she falls in love with a young boy from a “normal”  and respectful family. After the Addams family decides to hold a dinner party for Wednesday’s “normal” boyfriend and his family, everything changes!

Wicked

For those of you who may have already watched this before, you probably don’t think this is very creepy, at all. This musical simply tells the story about a misunderstood witch who develops a friendship with another witch named Glinda, which later backfires. Maybe not so creepy, but definitely a good musical to watch for Halloween spirit.

Dracula: The Musical

This is a suspenseful gothic romance musical about Dracula, who while on a quest for new blood ends up falling in love with unrequited love, Mina.

Jekyll and Hyde

While searching for a cure to help his father’s mental illness, Dr. Jekyll unleashes his dark side, committing murders as Dr. Hyde. Creepy, right?

Are there anymore musicals we haven’t mentioned? Let us know in the comments below!

Top Scary Musicals: Part 1

 

October is about all things Halloweeny. In honor of the Halloween month, we decided to highlight 10 of the creepiest musicals. Because there are so many, we will be splitting these into two blog post. Some may seem creepier to some than to others, so we are listing them in no particular order. Enjoy!

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

This musical follows a couple who has been caught in a storm and ended up in the home of a mad scientist who unveils to them the muscle man, Rocky Horror, his new creation. Overall this is a classic horror musical that has developed a worldwide cult following over the years.

Bat Boy: The Musical

This musical tells the story of a half boy, half-bat that grows up with an adopted family and learns how to be a normal boy but still has a hard time fitting in. Throughout the course of the musical, there is a lot of blood, murder and tragedy while sticking to a touching story.

Sweeney Todd

After Mrs. Lovett, a pie shop owner, is wrongfully sentenced to prison, a homicidal barber helps her get back to the judge who had sentenced her by providing her with meat for her meat pies. Creepy, isn’t it?

Phantom of the Opera

Although this classic musical is portrayed a romantic production, it still conveys some spookiness. Think about it; a masked man haunts a theater for a long time and ends up falling in love with an actress. If that isn’t creepy, then I don’t know what is.

The Little Shop of Horror

This follows the story of a florist who finally finds his chance for romance with the help of a man-eating plant that needs to be fed blood!

Most of these musicals can be found in film forms, so if you’re looking to get in the Halloween spirit, check them out. Stay tuned for the next 5 scary musicals!

 

UDMA Worcester Trade Show Recap

Our booth at UDMA Worcester 10/1-2/16
Our booth at UDMA Worcester
10/1-2/16

We exhibited at our first trade show this past weekend at the UDMA, United Dance Merchants of America, show in Worcester MA at the DCU Center.  And, I mean our first trade show ever!  We had no idea what to really expect, but we had a great time.  We met new people and caught up with old friends.  For the past three years or so, I was told by a good friend of ours, Jane O’Donnell, owner of the Center for Performing Arts right here in North Andover, that we should attend this show.  It had always been in New York (New Jersey), and we balked at the idea.  But, this was the first year that UDMA had the show in Worcester, and there was no way that I was going to let the opportunity pass since it was going to be right in our back yard.

I had a special banner made that was going to be used on the front of our exhibit table, and I was going to hang one of our smaller backdrops behind us.  Unfortunately, the backdrop didn’t work (it was too tall), so I had to use the table banner behind us as you can see in the photos.  It looked great, but I’m going to have to have a special backdrop made just for the trade shows, which we will probably continue to attend.  I was really disappointed the backdrop didn’t work, but you live and learn.  Like I said, we had no idea what to expect.

The set up.
The set up.

On our table we had a sign-up sheet for potential customers to give us their information in order to send them a coupon for use on their next order.  Now, you have to have attended the show and sign our sheet to get this special coupon!  If you have that coupon, don’t forget to call and order your backdrops!  We also had some gifts for the attendees as did most of the exhibitors at the show.  We had candy and mints, emery boards with our logo on them, and stress balls with our logo on them as well.  I gotta tell you!  I was surprised at how popular the stress balls were!  I’m gonna have to get more of those, I think.

I brought my tablet and files with me too.  I was able to show new customers our website and how easy it is to maneuver around the site.  I took a couple of orders from some long-time customers.  They figured they were there.  Why not take care of it face to face!  I thought I would get more orders, but again, I didn’t quite know what to expect.  Most were there to get information and ideas.   We were both amazed at the costume companies.  They took up entire rows and had hundreds of costumes on hand for people to try on and order on the spot, which is what most of the studio owners did.  What a business!

Some of the other exhibitors.
Some of the other exhibitors.

In addition to the costume companies and backdrop rental companies, there were videographers, dance competition companies, dance magazines, dance accessory and supply companies, and software companies offering dance specific programs to name a few.  It was literally what the title says—dance merchants of all kinds.

As I mentioned, we saw long time customers at the show.  And I have to thank them for the kind words about me.  My mom helped me out over the weekend, and needless to say, she was very proud when she heard the comments.  We also made new friends that had never

From l-r: Nancy Stone, Pam Christo (mom), and Art Stone
From l-r: Nancy Stone, Pam Christo (mom), and Art Stone

rented backdrops before and who, I hope, will give backdrop rentals a try.  You’ll see how very easy they are to use.  And, hopefully, we can start a new relationship.

We had some old friends stop by too.  Rhee Gold took some time out of his hectic schedule to come say hello as did Nancy and Art Stone.  They were very pleased that we were there contributing to the scene and also had very nice things to say.  My mom goes way back with all three of them. It was a chance for mom to help me out, have fun, and reacquaint with old friends.  My mom is a retired dance teacher and knows all of these people through her years in the business.  She wishes that some of the companies in attendance were around when she taught such as the on-line recital ticket ordering programs.  But, alas, the technology did not exist. She said it would have made her life so much easier.

All in all, we are so glad that we attended this show.   It was a wonderful experience.  We hope to see you all at some of these shows in the future.  And remember, “We’ve Got Your Backdrop!”

Greg

Rhee Gold and mom
Rhee Gold and mom

 

 

 

 

What is Puppet Theater?

Many may already be familiar with this form of theater, but for those of you who have never before seen a puppet theater, it is exactly what it sounds like. It is a theatrical show performed by humans using different types of puppets. According to research, puppetry has existed for over 3000 years and was used in theater before human actors.

In its beginning, puppets were used by the church in Medieval Italy. They performed morality plays in order to teach the community moral life lessons. Later on, puppets were being used for performances of William Shakespeare’s plays instead of human actors. During the 20th century, puppetry was used for the entertainment of adults. Puppets would be used to touch subjects and take action that would otherwise not be appropriate on television or movies.

Today, puppetry is much more popular in the children community. They are used on television and theater performances to appeal to children and families in order to teach moral life messages. Puppetry is also used in therapy in order to help children to better explore and express their fears and feelings.

There are many different types of puppets from Hand Puppets to Carnival Puppets. Let’s explore some of these in more detail:


Hand Puppets A.K.A. Glove Puppets:

There are two versions of hand puppets. One version is the one without a moveable mouth, which simply requires three fingers –one for the neck and two for each arm. The other version is one with a movable mouth, which then requires four fingers for the upper mouth and a thumb for the jaw.


Marionettes:

These are string puppets, which require much more work than the hand puppets. Marionettes are usually made up of eight strings but may sometimes be made up of 30 strings. Each string is used to help bring the puppet to life and to imitate the human movement.


Carnival Puppets:

These puppets are –of course- seen in carnivals during street spectacles. They are full body large puppets, usually decorated in bright colors and glitter or gems.

Countries that Banned Dance

Last month (August 22), we shared a Facebook post about countries that have banned ballet dancing (Germany, Sweden, Japan, Kuwait, Iran, Afghanistan). Well, we have decided to dig deeper into more details on why these countries have banned dancing all together. Some countries, like Germany and Sweden, have banned dancing for a specific period of time or under specific conditions.

 

Germany:

Germany’s banning of dancing is more of an anachronism issue than an actual threat to society or dancers. Dancing, especially in public, is only banned during Easter weekend and Christmas Eve as a respectful act for the Holidays. Although this happens to be a national law, some 3 of the state’s only abide by the rule for a portion of the day. Some of Germany’s states even prohibit public display of music all together.

 

Sweden:

Sweden is another country where its banning of dancing is more of an anachronism issue rather than a threat to dancers. Unlike Germany, however, the public dancing is prohibited all year round. If bars, clubs, or restaurants wanted to offer a dancing safe heaven, they would need a dancing permit. The reason for this is because authorities believe dancing creates chaos and must be regulated.

 

Japan:

After WWII, Japanese authorities banned dancing since nightclubs tended to turn into “hotbeds for prostitution.” In order for clubs to allow dancing, they also have to apply for a dance permit. Even though this has been in the books for many years, some authorities tend to be more flexible to the rules.

 

Kuwait:

Kuwait’s strict views against dancing are believed to be “symptoms” of the Islamist past. Dancing, including jumping and head banging, is prohibited even at concerts. Fans of artist are limited to swaying and hand clapping at concerts.

 

Iran:

Post Iranian Revolution, women have been banned from dancing in public, co-ed dance, and wearing  costumes that expose skin.

 

Afghanistan:

Afghanistan has banned public dancing many years ago and listening to music all together. However, some areas allow bacha bazi (boys for play) in private homes.