Category Archives: Musical Theater

Small Town Street

Cue the Music for Your Production of Music Man

“We’ve got trouble! Right here in River City.” Can you hear the music? Feel the beat? If so, then you are as big a fan as we are of the Broadway classic – The Music Man.  

Does your school or theater group have the perfect fast-talking salesman to portray Harold Hill? If you’re putting on a production of the Music Man, you may be interested in the many backdrops we offer specific to this production. From Midwest town backdrops, to parks and quiet streets, Backdrops by Charles H Stewart is nationally recognized for its incredible design, high-quality durability, and ease of use.

River City from the Music Man

A Little Background on Music Man 

Set in rural Midwest America in the 20th Century, the Music Man follows the story of traveling salesman Harold Hill, who targets the innocent and naïve residents of a small midwest town in the 1910s. 

Hill turns out to be a con artist who travels from town to town pretending to be a professor of music from the Gary (Indiana) Conservatory of Music, class of ’05. His plan is to convince the townspeople that they need a boys marching band that will solve all of their problems. 

He takes money from the townsfolk to buy instruments, music, instructional materials, and uniforms for their young sons. However, in reality, he has no degree and knows nothing about music, and after all the materials arrive and are distributed, he absconds with all the money, never to be seen again.

Harold inadvertently falls for the town’s music teacher and faces the difficult decision to remain in town where he enriches the townsfolk with music. 

Small Town StreetAct I – River City, Iowa

Act I of Music Man is set mainly in the Town Square of River City, Iowa, where swindler Harold Hill begins his duplicitous journey to bilk the townspeople of their hard earned savings. It also takes place outside the town’s library and on the quiet streets of this tranquil midwest city. 

This River City Backdrop #2380 shows a quaint midwestern town with Victorian buildings lining the streets.  

RAdditionally, the River City Traveler Backdrop # 1260 shows the Barber Shop, Billiard Hall, and Bank of a typical American town. 

For scenes both inside and outside the town library, there are several backdrops to choose from including this backdrop with books, shelves, and beautiful windows. Library Backdrop #0351B

Library Backdrop

Act II River City High School Gym

Our meticulously-designed Music Man backdrop eloquently captures the midwest setting, transporting audiences through time.

Gymnasium backdropCheck out these school gymnasium backdrops and along the Small Town Streets #1014


A Spotlight on our “Grease the Musical” Backdrops

Is your school or theater group going nostalgic this year in your choice for a spring musical? If your group is itching to do the “Hand Jive,” or sing “Grease Lightning,” then we have the musical for you – the 1950’s lyrically catchy world of Grease the Musical! 

Despite being an ode to the “good old days” when things seemed simpler, Grease the Musical seems to also be timeless in its depiction of teenage romance, peer pressure, sexual evolution, and gang violence. 

Backdrops by Charles Stewart has a wide range of options for your theater group to choose from including: a 1950’s Soda Shoppe, a high school gymnasium, an outdoor carnival, and a 1950’s drive up diner/movie theater. 

Let’s explore the possibilities as we take your audience back to Rydell High of yesteryear. 

soda shoppe

The Story of Grease 

Originally written in 1972 by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, Grease tells the story of a group of young men known as “greasers” and young women known as the Pink Ladies. 

Greasers were a  youth subculture that emerged in the 1950s and early 1960s from predominantly working class and lower class teenagers and young adults in the United States. They often worked with their hands in the automotive industry and used hair grease that also lent itself to their apt naming. 

The story of Grease begins with the opening of the school year where Danny Zuko, Rydell High’s coolest greaser, returns to school after a secret summer romance with the new girl Sandy Dumbrowski. 

While the romance was sweet and innocent during the quiet summer months without the pressure of peers, Danny and Sandy must learn to navigate the blossoming relationship in front of the friends who expect a different, cooler Danny. 

High School

Rydell High School

The musical begins at the rebellious and gang-filled Rydell High School, where Danny and Sandy meet again after their romantic summer together. 

Danny impresses his Burger Palace friends with the physical aspects of the new relationship, while Sandy meets the Pink Ladies and woos them with the emotional aspects of the young love she experienced. 

“Summer Nights” is one of those songs that will stay with audiences long after the show has ended and our backdrop of the gymnasium and bleachers along with the exterior setting of the high school can transport viewers into the be-bop sensation known as Grease! 

Check out our exterior high school backdrop #2224 with columns and brick exterior and our interior gym backdrop #2352 with stairs, Americana bunting, and an old fashioned 1950’s feel. 


Burger Palace & Soda Shoppe

Much of the musical happens in places where teens like to hangout such as the Burger Palace, Soda Shoppe, or Drive-In Movie theater. 

Check out our Soda Shoppe backdrop #1925 or the Bleacher Backdrop #1914 to set the stage for the rumbles between the boys or the auto shop performance of “Grease Lightning.” These locations are where the girls fawn over the boys, gang rumbles nearly occur, and one of the Pink Ladies discovers a potential pregnancy.

amusement park/carnival

The Finale

In the end, Danny and Sandy discover that they are willing to change for each other and the culmination of this high school angst plays out at the end of the year spring carnival. Our Amusement Park backdrop #1978 is perfect to end your performance on a high note and create lasting memories for your audience. 

Take a closer look at all of our Grease backdrops and how they can make your performance a success this year. 



Mamma Mia Fans Will Love Our Backdrops 

If you love music by the Scandinavian rock group ABBA, then you probably already love the musical Mamma Mia! From the lyrics of “Dancing Queen” and “Take a Chance On Me” to the scenic setting on the fictional Greek island of Kalokairi, Mamma Mia fans are delighted with performances that have audiences singing along and relating to the characters in some fun and interesting ways. 

In our extensive inventory here at Backdrops By Charles Stewart, we have quite a few backdrops for rent that will surely bring your Mamma Mia production to life.

The Story of Mamma Mia 

Mamma Mia tells the story of a 20 year old bride-to-be, Sophie Sheridan, who is trying to find her real father using her mother’s diary. Without the support of her mother, Sophie uses the personal and dated diary which indicates there are three men who could potentially be her biological father. 

With dreams of her father walking her down the aisle on her wedding day, Sophie invites all three men, without her mother’s knowledge, to the stunning Greek island to determine which is the actual father! 

As Sophie embarks on her journey to discover her true father, her mom and best friends join her as they spend the days leading up to the wedding unraveling the mystery. 

As the performance unfolds, it is clear that Sophie’s paternity will remain undetermined, but everyone involved agrees that they want to be a part of Sophie’s life.

Scenic Backdrops for Mama Mia 

Since the main portion of the story of Sophie, her mother, and her potential fathers takes place on a Greek island, many of our backdrops that show tropical beaches, sunset skies, and rocky shorelines would be perfect for the vast majority of the show. 

tropical island

Tropical Islands and Beaches

This Tropical Beach backdrop #2391 shows an ocean with blue skies, and tropical palms shading the beach below. 

Our Rocky Coastline backdrop #2410 shows a translucent seacoast and sky surrounded by rocky landscape. 

tropical beach

In addition to those options for an island scene, we offer many sky scenes such as Sunray Clouds Backdrop #2302, a Clouds Backdrop #2221, and a quiet Tropical Beach Backdrop #2317

Acropolis Greece

Greece Background 

To solidify the audience’s belief that the events of Mamma Mia are happening on a small Greek Isle, this backdrop of the Athens Acropolis is perfect for many of the scenes when the three fathers arrive at the island. 

The Acropolis Backdrop #2376 shows both the ruins of the building and a stunning blue sky. 

Greek home and streets

Greek Streets and Homes 

When the storyline brings us to the home of Sophie and her single mother, our Spanish Exterior is an obvious choice with its European and Spanish features common on many of the Mediterranean homes. This Spanish Exterior #0776 or Spanish Street #NO678  featuring stucco buildings are perfect for these scenes. 

If your theater group is planning a performance of Mamma Mia in the near future, talk to our team about which backdrops would be right for your needs. 


Did you know?

Broadway Trivia – Teen Edition 

Does your teenager think they know everything about Broadway musicals and shows? Do they sing the lyrics of Dear Evan Hansen, Wicked, and Hamilton incessantly? Well, here is a Broadway trivia quiz to keep your teen guessing (and learning). 

We know that many teens think they “know it all,” but can your teen answer these trivia questions about some of Broadway’s all time favorite teen shows? Stump your child today with some of these tricky quiz questions. 

Favorite Broadway Shows for Teens 

Teen-centric narratives have been a part of Broadway dating back many decades, some would say even to the beginning of theater itself. 

According to Broadway Direct, an online source for shows and tickets to some of Broadway’s most popular performances, there are many shows that appeal to the teen age group but none such as: Wicked, Mean Girls, Beetlejuice, and Dear Evan Hansen

Wicked, based loosely on the Wizard of Oz, helps teens look at issues such as identity and morality, while a show like Dear Evan Hansen examines the problems that are encountered when a teen gets caught up in lies trying to fit in. Mean Girls explores the troubles of teens navigating the cliques of high school. Beetlejuice is perfect for teens who feel like the odd man out and are looking for a way to make the most of their life, or afterlife. 

Times Square NYC

Stump Your Teen 

Here are a few questions from musicals and shows that you can use to quiz your teen. 

  1. Where does Hairspray take place? Baltimore
  2. Which song is NOT from WickedPopular, Defying Gravity, Dancing Through Life or A Change in Me
  3. Which Disney film has NOT been turned into a Broadway musical?  Beauty and the Beast, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Aladdin or The Little Mermaid
  4. Which of these is NOT a rock musical? School of Rock, Hamilton, Rent, or Rock of Ages
  5. Which musical was not based on a film?  Dear Evan Hansen, Pretty Woman, Young Frankenstein, Legally Blonde the Musical
  6. Spamalot was based on what show? Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  7. Mamma Mia is based on the music of which Swedish pop group? ABBA
  8. Which smash hit musical tells the story of the founding fathers of the United States? Hamilton
  9. What is the name of the carnivorous Venus flytrap plant in Little Shop of Horrors? Audrey II
  10. The musical West Side Story, which tells the story of rival gangs in New York City’s Upper West Side, is based on which Shakespeare play? Romeo & Juliette
  11. What was Disney’s first Broadway musical? Beauty & The Beast
  12. Which musical features a group of drama students at New York’s High School for the Performing Arts? Fame 
  13. Which Disney musical features the song ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’? Mary Poppins
  14. Name the Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony-award-winning composer of musicals such as Cats, Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar. Andrew Llyod Webber 
  15. Which musical, adapted from a novel by Victor Hugo, features characters such as Jean Valjean, Cosette and Javert? Les Miserables


smiling dad and daughter

Does Theater Make Us Better People? 

In a May 2021 Op-Ed article in the Los Angeles Times, authors Steve Rathje, Leor Hackel, and Jamile Zaki made the case that experiencing the magic of theater makes us collectively better people. We love this concept and wanted to explore this a bit further now that the theater industry is coming back after 18 months of being shut down due to the coronavirus. 

holding hands

Why Theater Makes Us Better? 

According to Rathje, Hackel, and Zaki, theater makes us better people because, “it is a vital way to build psychological skills — especially empathy, or our ability to share, understand and care about others’ emotions.”

At the heart of their article they pose the question, “Can watching theater actually build people’s capacity to care?” There’s actually some scientific research that has been done that supports this idea. 

In a nutshell, over 1,600 surveys were given to theatergoers before and after performances in two major cities; New York City and Portland, Oregon. 

The viewers watched either “Skeleton Crew,” written by Dominique Morisseau or “Wolf Play” by Hansol Jung. The former being about auto workers in Detroit at the start of the financial crisis and the latter revolving around the struggles of a a lesbian couple trying to adopt a child. 

In both cases the surveys were meant to determine if empathy for the auto workers or lesbian couple increased due to experiencing the show based on those stories. 

The findings were exactly what the authors believed, theater can make us better, more empathetic, caring people. “After seeing the plays, we found that audience members expressed more empathy for the groups depicted onstage and changed their attitudes about a wide range of political issues.”

The study even showed a change in behavior for the theatergoers who increased their donations to a charity. The way this part of the experiment works went as follows: 

  • Audience members were given the option to donate some of their payment money to a charity. 
  • The more they gave to a charity the less they would receive in the form of a gift card. 
  • After seeing the plays, audience members donated more to charity regardless of whether the charity was related to the plays.

couple at sunset

Psychologists Weigh In 

Historically, psychologists have believed that theater has the power to teach about current topics, help viewers change their attitudes, build psychological skills, and reduce prejudice. 

Psychological skills such as empathy, compassion, and sharing can be built just by merely experiencing a show. The authors of the LA Op-Ed explained theater as a sort of “empathy-gym” where the brain is taught to strengthen the skills of empathy and compassion towards others by experiencing what they feel through a show or musical. 

Additionally, theater can help change our attitudes and reduce prejudices just by “walking in someone else’s shoes” during a performance. The experience allows people to understand someone else’s circumstances and experience life from someone else’s perspective. 

What do you think? Can theater help us become better, more empathetic people? Drop us a line below and let us know your thoughts. 


Most Popular High School Musicals & Plays – Part 2

Last week we explored the most popular high school musicals including: The Addams Family, Mama Mia, and Beauty and the Beast. Now we shift our sights toward plays that have ranked in the top 10 according to an NPR Education Performance poll

One of these delightful shows may make it on your short list for this year’s performances. Enjoy our resources and remember that our backdrops coordinate with major shows to make your scenery come to life. 

Sherlock Holmes

Top Ranking Plays 

There are so many great plays out there that deciding on one for your group of teens can be a long and difficult process. Here are three of the top ranking plays that your group may fall in love with including: Clue, Almost, Maine, and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream.  We have included general information on the number of cast members and ensemble requirements for your planning purposes. 


Based upon the Hasbro board game and the 1985 Paramount movie of the same name, Clue is a beloved murder mystery story with a comedic twist. According to Broadway Licensing, Clue tells the story of a dinner party gone wrong when the host turns up dead.

The main characters, Wadsworth, the butler, Miss Scarlett, Professor Plum, Mrs. White, Mr. Green, Mrs. Peacock and Colonel Mustard race to find the killer as the body count stacks up.

Almost, Maine 

Set in a remote and mythical town, Amost, Maine is a series of nine short plays that examines the themes of love and loss. The main characters, residents of Almost, Maine, find themselves falling in and out of love in various and sometimes hilarious manners. 

Almost, Maine set box office records and has been adapted into a book of the same name. Your students are sure to love this quirky and thoughtful play. 

Casting for this play is flexible and can range from four main actors taking on several parts or 19 actors taking individual roles. 

A Midsummer’s Night Dream 

In this Shakespeare play, the theme of love resurfaces again and again. Set in Athens, Greece, the plot of this complex play revolves around the planning of the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta

Subplots, (and there are many,) follow two Athenian lovers and a group of amateur actors rehearsing for the wedding day, who find themselves in a forest inhabited by fairies. 

Like every great Shakepearian play, there is conflict, love, and eventual resolution, sometimes with hilarious outcomes. Your students will love the challenge this complex layered play will provide. 

Even with the pause from last year during the pandemic, high school musicals and plays are as popular as ever. Check out the lists from Playbill that rank the top musicals and plays. You are sure to find one that fits the skills, size, and depth of the acting provided in your school. 


high school musical

Most Popular High School Musicals & Plays – Part 1

Oh, how we have missed traditional high school musicals and play performances coming out of the nation’s secondary schools this past year. This type of performance is often a young person’s first outlet or foray into expressing themselves or their art. In fact, many young people get the theater “bug” during their high school years and go on to act for years to come. 

According to a study released by NPR Education Publishing, there are ten top shows that rank as the best musicals and plays for high school level performances. This takes into account the size of the cast, skill set needed, and popularity of the storyline. Theater groups, directors, and producers may want to utilize some of these findings as they begin their search for the perfect show this fall or winter. 

Let’s take a look back at some of the most popular high school plays and musicals to give you inspiration to plan your next performance. 

Top Ranking Musicals 

In the category of highest ranking musicals, the top three include: The Addams Family, Mama Mia, and Beauty and the Beast. Just hearing those names has my toes tapping and some catchy lyrics spinning around in my head. 

The Addams Family 

A comedic marvel, the Addams Family celebrates the quirky differences that every family experiences. The story unfolds as daughter, Wednesday, brings home a “normal” boy who must impress her parents as he begins to date their special daughter. The Addams family requires 10 major roles with a flexible ensemble. The licensing belongs to Theatrical Rights Worldwide

Mama Mia 

Set on a beautiful Greek island, Mama Mia tells the story of a young bride-to-be trying to determine who her real father is. The bride discovers that three men are possible matches to be her true father. The story is told using the hit songs by 1970’s singing group ABBA. 

The cast includes 13 main parts with singing roles and a large ensemble that will need dancing and choreography skills. If this musical sounds like it is one your students would love, the licensing belongs to Music Theater International

Beauty and the Beast 

This favorite musical explores the true meaning of loving someone for what is inside rather than just their appearance. Beauty and the Beast follows the unlikely love story of a village girl who was determined to save the life of her father from the grotesque Beast. She then finds out that everyone has a story and that the Beast is no beast after all. 

The cast includes 12 major roles and a very large ensemble with dancing and choreography skills. If your theater group is interested in this show it is licensed by Music Theater International

Want the complete list of rankings for high school musicals? Check out these resources that can help you determine your shows this year. Don’t forget to check out our scenery and backdrop options that correspond to each show. 


Frozen soap bubble

Frozen Fans Delight in Our Backdrops 

Are you or your children super fans of Disney’s Frozen movie? If so, you may spend your days turning normal conversations into songs from the wildly popular 2013 movie. If your kids can’t just “Let It Go” you may need to find an outlet for their obsession in the form of a Frozen themed birthday party or summer get together with friends. Here are a few ideas on how to use our Frozen themed backdrops for your next gathering. 

deer in snowy woods

You May Be A Frozen Super Fan If…

Sure, we all loved Frozen! Who doesn’t love a story about resilience, sisterhood, true love, and, of course, a movie with a singing snowman named Olaf? 

Some of us go a little beyond just loving the movie and step over into being a superfan. You may be a Frozen super fan if: 

  • Knocking on a door without saying “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” is difficult.
  • You want to be both Elsa and Anna. 
  • You find it difficult to say “Okay, bye” without adding in the next lines from the movie. 
  • You name your winter snowman Olaf. 
  • You create castles out of ice in your free time. 
  • The idea of a reindeer as a pet sounds like a good idea. 
  • Your search for signs of Frozen in other Disney Movies. 
  • Kristoff is your dream guy. 
  • You recognize the voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, and Santino Fontana anywhere.

ice palace

Backdrops for Your Frozen Party, Dance Performance or Cosplay

If you’re planning a party centered around Queen Elsa’s Ice Castle or Anna dancing around the streets of Arendelle, our backdrops can help you set the stage for the perfect snowy scene. 

From the cobblestoned streets of a European village, to the snowy backdrop of the hills above Arendelle to the famous Ice Palace that Elsa retreats to, we have the perfect backdrops for your next Frozen party or local musical. Not only are our backdrops easy to set up and take down, but they make the perfect addition to parties, bar/bat mitzvahs, theater groups, and dance performances alike. 

Add your own costumes to our breathtaking backdrops and the children and adults will be amazed how a theater or backyard can be transformed into a place of magic and wonderment! 

Frozen, the movie, is considered by some critics as Disney’s best animated film since the studio’s Renaissance Era. If you or your children love Frozen as much as we do, check out our backdrops of a European city street, our snowy tree backdrops, the Ice Palace and more on our backdrops page. 


Disney castle

Our Favorite Broadway Children’s Shows

While the lights on Broadway may still not be shining, we still can enjoy the memories of shows that kept us singing, toe-tapping, and smiling for days and weeks after. Children’s Shows are most especially enjoyable to remember as they hold a bit of innocence and youth that has been missing for the past year. 

Here are some of our most favorite children’s shows on Broadway to get us in the mood to hopefully welcome back theater in our lives within the next year. 

African lion face image

The Lion King 

What’s not to love about the story of an adorable lion cub named Simba coming to age and learning lessons of life such as the value of friendship and self-reliance. Not only is the story line relatable but the sets are visually amazing. The unique puppetry and incredibly moving score from Elton John and Tim Rice put it right at the top of our “must see” list once theaters reopen. If your organization or theater is planning a production of Lion King, check out our backdrops that could make your show come to life. 

Aladdin The Musical 

Did you know that 10 million people around the world have already seen the musical Aladdin? If you have not had the chance to experience the singing, dancing, and amazing costumes you need to schedule your opportunity as soon as you can. The set and costume designs alone are enough to draw in any audience member. In fact, one costume is so elaborate that it has over 8,600 Swarovski diamonds on it! Check out our Arabian and desert themed backdrops for your next Aladdin production. 

palm trees and red carpet moroccan oasis

Dear Evan Hansen 

The Tony Award winning show, Dear Evan Hansen, is a show about community and connection. This dramatic show resonates with older children and teens as it tells the tale of fitting in and the angst of being true to yourself. Dear Evan Hansen tells the story of a young man with social anxiety disorder who so yearns to make a connection with his peers that he fabricates a relationship with a deceased student to become closer to the boy’s family. Go as a family and discuss the issues of mental illness, teen suicide, and the overwhelming feeling of the need to belong. 


If you are looking for a show for the whole family, this is the one to see! Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop musical has inspired people of all ages and walks of life. This non-stop production gets the whole family interested in our Founding Fathers and the early years of our nation. The choreography and lyrics are addictive enough to find yourself singing about being Alexander Hamilton or not missing out on Your Shot! 

When the curtains finally go up on Broadway once again, start looking to support the theater industry by scheduling one of these wonderful shows.