Category Archives: Musical Theater

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. 

Clue 

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. 

Hamilton 

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. 

 

vaccine

What Does The Vaccine Mean For Broadway? 

Dare we say that the light seems to be shining at the end of the tunnel? Major Broadway theaters in New York and Off-Broadway theaters across the country have been holding their collective breath. Could the vaccine really mean it is the beginning of the end for the entertainment industry shutdown? 

Where Broadway Stands Now

Since March 12, 2020 all forty-one Broadway theaters have been closed. This does not even include the hundreds of Off-Broadway venues and community theaters that also shuttered their doors in response to COVID-19. 

After months of waiting, it was decided that ticket sales would be put on hold until May 2021. This has been a long, arduous wait for theater lovers, vendors, actors, and all the people employed either directly or indirectly by the entertainment industry. In fact, many small businesses that make their livelihood from this industry may not survive until that specified date. 

face with mask and virus imagesThe Dawn of Vaccines 

Starting with the MRNA Pfizer Vaccine in mid-December and the Moderna vaccine in late December, theater goers have seen a spark of hope. If audience members can be vaccinated then theaters can reopen, actors and support staff can be re-employed, and things could (dare we say it) go back to normal? 

The answer is not so simple according to the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci. There are quite a few variables that will need to be taken into account before we can be out of the woods and getting back to the activities we enjoy so much, such as attending a Broadway theater show. 

Fauci says opening theaters will depend “on the uptake of vaccines by the people of the country and specifically the people of New York.” He estimates that between 75 and 85 percent of people would need to get vaccinated before life could begin to get back to some semblance of normal. 

syringeWhere Americans Stand on the Vaccine 

A November poll from Gallup found 58 percent of Americans would get the COVID-19 vaccine when available. This number, of course breaks down by region of the country, ethnicity, and even political affiliation. 

Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, went on to state that if Americans, “get vaccinated through April, May, and June, and really do a full-court press to get everybody vaccinated, you can get back to normal, or at least approaching close to normal, as you get into the late summer and early fall.”

Continue to follow the rollout of this vaccine here and see how the success of this program will positively impact the theater and entertainment industry.

Can We Stump You With Broadway Trivia?

Missing Broadway like we are? If you can’t seem to get enough of the streaming services for Broadway shows, you may like our blog this month. Check out some of our questions below to see if we can stump you with some Broadway Trivia.

Check out these trivia categories. Which did you score the best? Can you stump your friends too? We have included the answers below so there will be no questions about who got it right!

Name the Broadway Show From these Lyrics

  1. “There’s a million things I haven’t done, but just you wait.”
  2. “Can you feel the love tonight?”
  3. “On the steps of the palace…”
  4. “A spoonful of sugar lets the medicine go down.”
  5. “Ah the intoxicating smell of the graveyard.”
  6. “Hey there, Teenage Baltimore! Don’t change that channel! ‘Cause it’s time for the Corny Collins Show!”
  7. “Sometimes, when someone has a crush on you, they’ll make you a mixtape to give you a clue.”
  8. “And when someone needs a makeover, I simply have to take over.”
  9. “Don’t go wasting your emotions.”
  10. “The plan is to spark this into a flame, but damn it’s getting dark, so let me spell out the name.”
  11. “In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee, in inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.”
  12. “We’re supposed to be all ladies and nurturing and care. Is that really fair?”
  13. Every man has his daydreams, every man has his goal. People like the way dreams have of sticking to the soul.”
  14. “Suddenly Seymour is standing beside you. You don’t need no makeup, you don’t need to pretend.”
  15. “Climb every mountain…”
  16. General Trivia
  17. Kristen Chenoweth won her one Tony Award in the Broadway production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown playing what character?
  18. What was the other musical based on the characters of Charles M. Schulz?
  19. The musical The Addams Family is based on The New Yorker cartoons of what artist?
  20. What was the sequel to the musical Annie?
  21. What type of aquatic creature is Spongebob Squarepant’s best friend?

Movie Posters

  1.  What Broadway smash hit is portrayed in this image?Les Mis
  2. What toe-tapping, street-dancing musical is portrayed in this image?West Side Story
  3. Can you tell what Broadway hit show this poster is portraying?Fiddler on the Roof
  4. What was the last Broadway musical Rodgers and Hammerstein created, which starred Mary Martin and debuted in 1959?
  5. A helicopter was the unforgettable set piece of this musical, which opened in 1991.

Answers:

  1. Hamilton
  2. Lion King
  3. Into the Woods
  4. Mary Poppins
  5. The Addams Family
  6. Hairspray
  7. Avenue Q
  8. Wicked
  9. Mama Mia
  10. Hamilton
  11. Rent
  12. Mean Girls
  13. Pippin
  14. Little Shop of Horrors
  15. The Sound of Music
  16. Sally
  17. Snoopy! The Musical
  18. Charles Addams
  19. Annie Warbucks
  20. Starfish

Movie Posters

  1. Les Misérables
  2. West Side Story
  3. Fiddler On The Roof
  4. The Sound of Music
  5. Miss Saigon
guitar

Most Popular Show Tunes from Broadway 

It’s happened to all of us at one time or another. We get a song stuck in our heads and it takes quite a while for it to work itself out. Sometimes just humming the tune can cause others in our vicinity to also get hooked on the tune. Do you have a favorite show tune that has stayed with you long after you saw the production on Broadway? If so, read on to hear about the most popular show tunes over the years. 

woman singing

Most Listened to Soundtracks

It will come as no surprise that the top- ranking soundtrack that is most listened to on Spotify. The winner is the Broadway hit musical, Hamilton by a long shot according to digital music service giant. The top song from that soundtrack is “Alexander Hamilton” followed by “My Shot” both of which are featured at the beginning of the show and then the refrain is repeated in different versions throughout the entire performance. 

According to TicketSource online, the Broadway show Dear Evan Hansen comes in second on the list of highly popular soundtracks. Top on the list of songs most listened to on that track is “Waving Through a Window,” “Sincerely Me,” “ You Will Be Found,” and “Anyone Have a Map?”

Not to be left behind is the soundtrack from the musical Wicked. Songs such as “Defying Gravity,” and “Popular” are top among fan favorites. 

American revolution image

Most Catchy of All Time 

While you may recognize the show tunes mentioned above as lyrics and tunes that you have come to love more recently. Many theater lovers also like to categorize tunes that have stood the test of time and have continued to be “catchy” even years after they first were first heard. 

According to theater bloggers, and theater lovers some of the most beloved songs over the past few decades include hits like: “Memory” from the musical Cats, “My New Philosophy” from You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, the theme from the Phantom of the Opera, the Chorus Line’s famous “I Hope I Get It,” and Les Miserables, “Do You Hear the People Sing.” 

What is your favorite show tune? Is it from a recent show or one from a few years ago? Check out our Facebook page to drop us a comment on your favorite Broadway musical soundtrack or song. We bet many of you know them by heart and have gotten them stuck in your head repeatedly. 

Guitar Photo by Richard Clyborne of MusicStrive

Disney castle

Backdrops for Children’s Theaters 

Does your local or community theater love producing children’s theater?. Well, now that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for this global pandemic in the way of a vaccine, it is time to start preparing for your productions in 2021. From the Wizard of Oz to Aladdin, Pinnochio to Little Mermaid, Charles Stewart Backdrops offers a wide variety of backdrops to make your performance look professional and polished. 

Nutcracker scene on stage

Theaters Are Getting Creative 

Theaters across our nation are getting very creative in the ways that they are keeping theater going even in the midst of this COVID-19 outbreak. Some productions are taking place outdoors in parking lots with theater-goers hunkered down in the cars, while other theaters are going forward with virtual productions. It is vital to social and emotional growth that youngsters are able to be a part of a production no matter how it is produced. 

Top Children’s Shows 

According to Children’s Theater Plays online, some of the most popular plays and musicals currently are the traditional shows that we all grew up loving such as: The Wizard of Oz, Finding Nemo, Grease, the Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, and of course the Disney fan favorites. Maybe we are all craving a bit of the familiar and the comfort of a storyline that we can follow along with easily or have songs that we can sing along with. 

forest with dirt path and streamBackdrop Options for Children’s Shows 

Under the Sea Backdrops 

One of our most popular backdrops that can be used in a variety of shows is the “Under the Sea” backdrop. From Little Mermaid, to Finding Nemo, to SpongeBob Squarepants, our under the ocean themed backdrop can bring the audience right into the action by making it appear as though the action is happening beneath the water. Add to that the expertise of lighting professionals and the stage can seemingly be under the sea! 

Storefront Themed Backdrops 

Mom and Pop shops seem to be the setting for many plays and musicals, and Charles Stewart has a few options for backdrops to set the scene for each of these. Whether you are staging Geppetto’s wood carving shop in Pinnochio, or the famous flower shop seen in Little Shop of Horrors, Charles Stewart has the backdrops that can transport audience members into the action in each show. 

Tropical Backdrops 

Who doesn’t love the beach and a tropical destination? Broadway shows that have been adapted for children’s theater have produced some fan favorites such as Tarzan, Mamma Mia, and Treasure Island. Charles Stewart can create a tropical paradise at your location using high- quality backdrops to set the scene on a beach with palm trees and beautiful blue skies. 

Check out our categories on our website that can get your imagination going and your creative juices flowing for your next children’s performance. 

 

scales of justice

Can Post-COVID Broadway be a Fairer One? 

In theaters across the nation, stages are barren and the lights have gone dark for more than six months now. Coronavirus has all theater-lovers yearning for a time when the lights will shine again, the curtains will go up, and the theaters will come back to life. 

It will happen. 

But when it does happen, many theater insiders are wondering if it will be a more equitable theater industry and one that is fair to all levels of the production experience regardless of race, gender, or position.

For decades, theaters have faced inequality in regards to race, gender, and even a livable wage for some of the non-performing members of the community. According to Backstage online, “extended pause in the theater industry thanks to COVID-19 has made space for overdue conversations and examinations of the financial, racial, and production systems that have long fueled Broadway. New York City’s once-thriving theater business hopes to reopen with a renewed focus on equity.” 

musical on stage

Issues of Race

Like many industries during this coronavirus crisis, questions have come to the forefront of our minds about the racial inequalities that exist in our country. In recent months, existing groups like the Broadway Advocacy Coalition have set forth new initiatives focused on dismantling racism (and, specifically, anti-Blackness) in theater. 

Many theater members are encouraging further study of the scope and pervasiveness of anti-Blackness and racism in the American theater. BIPOC, which stands for blacks, Indigenous and people of color, are asking for ongoing anti-racism training, union production teams made up of at least 50% BIPOC individuals, and a publicly available study examining pay disparity between BIPOC and white union members. 

signs of gender

Gender Issues 

Not only do people of color have fewer opportunities in the theater industry but, so too do women. Often when they do get hired, they often are hired on lower-paying contracts. According to the Actors’ Equity Association’s first-ever diversity study, made public in 2017, men out-earn women on Broadway, and the majority of them are white. 

Pay Scale Inequities 

The closing of Broadway and theaters across the globe will inevitably bring a need for pay cuts and  tightening  the proverbial financial belt. Sadly, the reductions will not be equal. Here is a simplistic example of how pay cuts across the board would be very unbalanced. For example, let’s say someone is making $10,000 a week and someone is making $400 a week, taking 50% of both of their salaries is not a viable and equitable economic solution. In New York City, $5,000 a week is still more than livable in a way that $200 a week is not. 

“Wages should be cut in an equitable way—people who make more money can live their lives with a higher percentage of that money taken away,” he says. “The way we talk about cutting wages across the board invariably will be used to justify not giving certain workers a livable wage.” (Source: Backstage

It is important that we take this pause in theater to closely examine these issues and make adjustments that are meaningful and achievable.