Category Archives: Backdrops

inside old stone caves

The Impact of Backdrops & Scenery 

Have you ever been to a performance and been absolutely drawn into the world that the characters and scenery have created for the audience? That’s the power of a good show. It can sweep you up and transport you to the time and place as set by the performance. Part of that is the scenery and backdrops utilized by the production crew. Part of it is the acting, blocking, and score performed by the orchestra. Let’s take a closer look at the impact that backdrops and scenery can have on any performance. 

trees and tall bushes garden backdrop

In one of our previous blogs, we examined the role of the backdrop in the overall success of a performance, whether it is done on a high school stage, at a community theater, Off-Broadway or under the bright lights of the Great White Way. “Backdrops provide the perfect and final element that ties the theatrical production together. From dance recitals to events and to the perfect scenery. Backdrops allow you to set the stage and enhance the decoration with the visual impact that makes a presentation unforgettable.” 

What is a Backdrop? 

According to ShowTex, the word backdrop refers to a large plain, printed or painted curtain hanging at the back of a stage or set. Originally used as a scenic element for theatres, backdrops now appear in all kinds of settings ranging from performances on stage to events, conferences, trade shows and more. Backdrop curtains are typically made from flame-retardant materials and sewn without fullness. They add depth to a stage and can turn a plain background into a lively scene when needed.

walkway backdrop

How Backdrops Can Change a Performance

Backdrops truly set the stage for every performance or presentation. The effect is that a backdrop can create a mood that ranges from a dark, scary tone to a bright, happy one and everything in between. For many performances, backdrops can be changed as the mood changes in the storyline. For some plays or musicals, the backdrop remains the same throughout. Those usually tell the story of a particular setting that remains constant or only slightly changes with set design. 

In concert with the music, lighting, and acting, a backdrop can become a part of the illusion of what is happening on stage. Backdrops often set more than just the mood, but can also set the time of day and season of the year depending upon the needs of each performance. Painted, printed and special design backdrops can create a season and time of day with the images they portray. 

Check out our custom and new backdrops that can set the stage and mood for your next performance. We have a wide array of options for rental and purchase, as well as special options for designing a truly unique backdrop for your performance. 

 

Broadway sign

What Hamilton Has Taught Us

Most people who experience a live theater production leave with a sense that they learned something, either about themselves or possibly the world around them. The characters, music, and dialog can add up to a moment of epiphany or understanding that few of life’s events can equal. 

One such production that has taken the United States by storm and is rich in life lessons, is the unlikely story of an American hero, politician, and statesman, Alexander Hamilton. In August of 2015, the hit show Hamilton premiered on Broadway. It has experienced an amazing run with productions in New York, Chicago, and London, with a traveling company that toured the U.S. 

Not only is the show wildly popular, but it is nearing the top 10 of highest grossing musicals of all time, and investors have seen returns of over 600%. These are not numbers that would be lost on our financially savvy Alexander Hamilton. 

revolutionary war image

Learn From the Past 

The story of Alexander Hamilton is filled with life lessons even though it is set in the late 1700s and early 1800s. One of the biggest lessons of the production is that we can still learn from what happened long ago. Our young country is still grappling with many of the same issues today. 

Take for example, the many instances in the production that makes references to the inequalities among immigrants, women, and people of color. The same theme of disenfranchisement and inequities can be seen in our nation today, as we struggle with how this pandemic is impacting people of color at a higher rate and how our nation has become divided in the protesting of brutality against men and women of color. 

theaterCombine the Old With the New 

Less than a decade ago, if someone had said they were going to write a musical meant for Broadway that would be set during the American Revolutionary War era, but set to contemporary rap and hip-hop-style music, they would have been laughed at. Lin-Manuel Miranda actually was laughed at as he described the production that was yet to be released. 

Yet, just five years after this production hit the stage, no one can imagine that this show would be anything other than spectacular! In fact, adults and children alike are singing the songs of Hamilton word-for-word. 

The lesson here is that by combining the old (historic lessons of the revolution) with the new (musical styles) one can learn deeply about an age that set the tone for our country. Forbes Magazine online stated that, “In Hamilton, a familiar story and an old theatrical genre gets a new perspective with a multi-cultural cast and contemporary music performed at a rapid-fire pace (if Hamilton was sung at the pace of a typical musical, the show would be almost six hours long). On stage, the cast is dressed in period costumes from the neck down, but their hair, their attitudes, and their vocal tone, are very much now.”

No matter what lesson you walked away from Hamilton with, you can probably bet that each theatergoer learned a little about how they feel about our country’s history, immigration, race relations, and the role that women play in all of this. Let us know what you took away from Hamilton in the comments or on our social media page.  

 

sheet music and piano keys

Get Your Theater Fix Through Streaming Services 

Are you missing the joy of going to the theater? The excitement of getting dressed up, heading into the city, and waiting for the curtains to go up has been lost the last few months. With no way to get a theater fix until 2021 theatergoers are looking elsewhere to get their theater fix. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, famous Broadway faces were known to record in tandem on Zoom and other video conferencing software to entertain in the face of the stay-at-home orders. Now that the virus has continued to spread, with no vaccine expected in the near future, theater lovers have shifted to streaming services such as Amazon Prime, Disney+, and Netflix to view their favorite shows. 

Broadway theater

Where Can I Find Theater Streaming? 

Word is spreading fast that Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon are offering some unique theater moments. Some television stations are even trying to prepare for potential live theater as they have done in the past. And what’s not found streaming may eventually be made into a Broadway-musical-turned-television-hit soon. 

While streaming is most certainly not the same as seeing a show in person surrounded by hundreds of other theater lovers, it will have to do for the time being. 

phone music

What’s Streaming Now? 

As of July Amazon is offering several streaming options for thespians to get their much needed theater fix. According to Playbill online, Guys and Dolls, Reefer Madness the Musical, Flower Drum Song, Hello Again, Sweeney Todd, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is currently streaming on Amazon. 

On Netflix there are several adaptations of Broadway shows that have come to life on the screen. Jersey Boys, Westside Story, and Fiddler on the Roof are top among audience choices. While these movie versions are not quite the same as seeing it live, it may be enough to hold over even the most diehard theater buff. 

We would be remiss if we did not mention the live streaming of Hamilton on Disney+ or that HBO Max is offering viewings of Chicago, Cabaret, Hairspray, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and Little Shop of Horrors. Stay tuned to our blog to find what shows are coming out next and when we can expect Broadway and Off-Broadway to get back into the swing of things. 

When theaters reopen there will be much to rejoice about, but until then let’s enjoy some of the offerings from our small screen partners at Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, and HBO. 

 

popcorn in red and white striped container

The Inside Scoop on the Drama Desk Awards

Just because we have been reporting that the lights on Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters have gone dark doesn’t mean that the theater industry has dimmed its lights altogether. On June 13, 2020 the entertainment industry telecast the 65th Drama Desk Awards, which celebrates the best of Broadway, off-Broadway and off-off Broadway.

The awards, which were postponed due to COVID-19, were televised in a different format thanks to producers at NY1. Drama Desk Awards executive producer and Broadway Brands CEO, Matt Britten commented that, “Though these are challenging times, we knew we wanted to find some way to honor this year’s Drama Desk Award nominees and recipients, as well as to bring some small sense of normalcy and hope to New York’s theater community,” He went on to say, “I want to thank NY1, as well as the team at Joey Parnes Productions, for stepping up to make this happen for the New York theatre community and theatre fans everywhere. Good things happen when you work with good people.”

musical on stage

As usual, there was a large list of nominees for awards including: Outstanding Play, Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Revival of a Play, Outstanding Revival of a Musical, Outstanding Actors/Actresses in a Play/Musical, Outstanding Director, Choreography, Music, Lyrics, Book of a Musical, Orchestrations, Scenic Design, Costume Design, Lighting, Projections, Solo Performance, and Wig and Hair Design.

In addition to these awards, the Drama Desk honored lifetime achievements and special awards during the telecast including awards for ensemble, individual awards, and for those who have contributed their life’s work in the industry.

The awards were hosted by Frank DiLella and the pre-recorded show aired June 13 during a special presentation of NY1’s “On Stage.” It was live streamed on NY1.com and DramaDeskAwards.com. As a result of the truncated theater season, only shows that opened prior to the shutdown were eligible.

Times Square NY

The televised awards ceremony was meant to be a boost to the theater industry and shine some much needed light on the plight of those whose careers came to an abrupt end when Broadway shut down in March of this year.

For a complete list of the nominees and winners of the Drama Desk Awards check this link as published in Variety Magazine online. To follow the latest on Broadway and Off-Broadway events and a hopeful reopening by the end of the year follow our blog or our Facebook page.

walkway backdrop

How Backdrops Add to Any Performance or Presentation

While we wait for the theater industry to reopen across the globe, we thought it might be a good chance for us to highlight how our backdrops can add to every performance, whether you are a small community theater, one of the famed theaters in New York Cities Broadway district, or one of the many businesses that use our backdrops for your professional presentations. 

desert backdrop

What are Backdrops? 

Backdrops are a large plain, printed, or painted curtain hanging at the back of a stage or set. Historically, these parts of the stage dressings are used as scenic elements of any theater production. Now backdrops appear in all kinds of settings ranging from performances on stage to events, conferences, trade shows, and more. 

Backdrop curtains are typically made from flame-retardant materials and sewn without fullness. They add depth to a stage and can turn a plain background into a lively scene when needed.

Our clients are generally theaters across the country, but we also do business with trade shows, business presentations, dance recitals, night clubs, photography, and television performances. While our primary products are large format backdrops, we also offer a growing selection of valances (or borders) and legs.

hall backdrop

The Benefits of Backdrops 

Theatrical backdrops can set the perfect tone, setting, and atmosphere for any performance. A properly chosen backdrop can create the illusion of another reality depending upon the setting needed for a performance. Audiences can be taken into an entirely new reality when they hear the music, see the backdrop, and follow the storyline. 

Backdrops used in professional business settings can add to any presentation by allowing for the continuation of a brand, creating a professional look to a presentation area, and by drawing the attention of the audience to the key speakers. Backdrops can not only engage the audience but also contribute to the theme you are promoting at a particular function. 

Backdrops also play an important role in professional photography. It can make the difference between a memorable photo and one that is merely one-dimensional. They help to make a photo memorable. A backdrop can add dimension and depth to a photo. Some of the popular backdrops used in photography include; painted canvas, paper backdrops, muslin backdrops, and textural backdrop. 

Overall backdrops are similar to a supporting actor or actress. They help make any performance or presentation rise to a better level. They add depth and dimension, as well as create the illusion of whatever scene you are trying to set. Check out our backdrops by color, category, show, or for those that are new to our collection for your next event.  

 

Times Square NYC

Hurdles for Broadway to Bounce Back 

Have you ever heard the old adage, “The show must go on?” In the theater world this means that regardless of what happens, the performance will forge ahead. 

Often this phrase refers to continuing the show even if issues persist that could ruin a production such as: an actor forgetting their lines, lost props, lighting difficulties, audio issues, acts of nature, or any number of problems that can pop up in the middle of a performance. In most instances this phrase is a sign of the grit, determination, and positive attitude embraced by the theater community. Unfortunately, even the strength of the theater can not compete against a global pandemic. 

Chicago Musical

The Current State of Broadway 

Due to COVID-19, the 41 houses of Broadway in New York City shuttered their doors and the house lights have gone dark. Nearly two dozen New York City shows have been halted. Across the nation, similar news can be reported in major theaters and community productions. 

Not much stops theater productions from forging ahead, except for maybe a fast spreading virus that thrives in closed environments. As of mid-March most theaters across the country shut down live performances. Initially, Broadway theaters had hoped to open by April 12, 2020 only to push that date back due to the fact that New York City was the epicenter of the virus at the time. The new date was then June 7 of this year. That date has come and gone wth no opening occurring. The latest date being floated is currently September 6, 2020. 

This new Labor Day schedule has even the most optimistic of theatergoers questioning the reality of the date for opening. It’s not that patrons are not anxious to get back to their favorite form of entertainment. In fact, an industry survey conducted by Shugoll Research in early April revealed that 41 percent of NYC theatergoers are eager to return to the theaters when they are reopened. While that number may seem high there are some substantial issues that will potentially delay or stop altogether the reopening process for the “Great White Way.” 

Hamilton sign

Major Hurdles to Opening 

If theaters across the nation hope to open this year, before a vaccine is viable, there are a couple of major issues that will need to be addressed. 

Theaters are historically areas deemed to be close quarters. Chairs are lined up in close proximity in order for as many patrons to see the performance as possible. Orchestras that provide the live music are generally at the front of the theater in an orchestra pit. Actors and stage hands generally are huddled along the cramped wings of the theater until their cue is given to enter the stage. 

These conditions are not ideal for preventing the spread of the coronavirus. In fact, social distancing is a huge problem in most theater venues. 

Owners of some of the largest theaters across America are facing issues of how to keep both actors/stage hands as well as patrons socially distant during a performance. The answer may lie in spacing out the audience, creating larger prep spaces behind the curtain, and decreasing the number of performances weekly to allow for sanitation between shows. All of these solutions are costly and take quite a bit of effort. 

Another major issue that theaters are facing is one of demographics. Nearly 16% of theatergoers are over the age of 65. This is the highest risk category for the transmission and serious illness for the virus. The percentage climbs even higher if we remove tourists from the equation according to a report in MarketWatch online. 

Stay tuned as we anxiously await guidance from federal and state officials as to how our beloved theaters will tackle these issues and how we, as patrons can help. Visit our Facebook page to see more of how you can get involved. 

 

theater

Remembering Our Favorite Musical Shows 

As we discussed in our last blog, going to the theater or local playhouse is not going to be a reality anytime in the near future. Industry insiders don’t anticipate being able to open theaters for many weeks, if not months. Our world has changed, and losing our entertainment outlet is just a small fraction of the way that life has quickly shifted. 

In an effort to keep the lights on Broadway shining, at least in our hearts and minds, we thought this would be a good time to review a few of our favorite musicals and what we loved about them. 

lion drawing The Lion King 

Ranking as one of the highest grossing musicals of all time, The Lion King is a favorite of all ages. The adaptation of the Disney classic is known for its score, fantastic acting, and above all, the stunning costumes that appeal to audiences all over the country. 

Wicked

One of only a few Broadway shows to earn more than $1 billion, Wicked remains the second most successful production of all time. Based loosely on the Wizard of Oz, Wicked is a spectacular show that captures the imagination of every audience that has the privilege of seeing this masterpiece. 

Mama Mia 

One of our personal favorites is the smash Broadway hit Mama Mia. Based on the hit songs from musical group ABBA, Mama Mia ran for 14 years which ranks it as the ninth longest running performance and fourth highest earner.

revolutionary war imageHamilton

Who hasn’t heard of this musical? Hamilton has taken the country by storm and the lyrics of the songs are known by children and adults alike. According to ShowBiz online, “This unique story of our Founding Fathers is an unlikely hit for Broadway as it includes a combination of rap, R&B, hip hop, soul, and show tunes along with non-white actors portraying the main characters. Tickets are sold out for eternity, proving that a little ingenuity was just what Broadway needed.”

Broadway has brought so many of us joy, laughter, and an emotional connection to others, that it would be hard to choose just one show that was everything to everyone. We would love to hear what your favorite Broadway show or musical is and why. Drop us a line in the comments or visit our Facebook page and tell us your thoughts. 

 

Broadway theater

What’s Coming to Broadway This Spring?  

Are you looking forward to scoring tickets to a Broadway musical this spring? Well, you’re not alone in that aspiration. Millions of theatergoers will flood New York City and other major hubs hoping to catch their favorite musical on stage. 

This year should prove to be a banner year for musicals along the “Great White Way.” Some shows that are successfully running will still be a big draw for tourists and NYC visitors. Shows like Wicked, Hamilton, Dear Evan Hanson, and Mean Girls will continue to shine. Some musical newcomers and revivals may shock us all with the scenery, costumes, and amazing musical scores. 

theater

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 

This revival of Edward Albee’s classic drama will star Rupert Everett, Russell Tovey, Patsy Ferran, and two-time Tony winner Laurie Metcalf, marking her fifth consecutive season on Broadway. This show will begin at the Booth Theater at the beginning of March with an official opening night slated for April 9th. 

Playbill explains that this musical explores the complexities of a marriage when, “a college professor and his wife invite a younger academic and his wife over for drinks after a late-night party, leading to an evening of sadistic games, attempted seductions and shattering revelations.”  

Mrs. Doubtfire 

Based on the movie by the same name, this musical follows the story of a recently divorced, out-of-work actor, who will do just about anything for the chance to spend some time with his children. He disguises himself as a nanny, Euphegenia Doubtfire, whose persona begins to take on a life of its own. 

The show is packed with all the hilarity you can expect from a cross-dressing, Scottish nanny who learns more than he bargained about his children and himself. 

Directed by Jerry Zaks, the musical starts performances March 9 at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. The official opening night is slated for April 5th. 

theater

Plaza Suite 

This marriage comedy starring real-life husband and wife Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, follows the story of three couples, all played by Broderick and Parker. This revival of the Neil Simon original follows a long, married couple seemingly doomed for a break up, high school sweethearts, and a mother and father of a bride who are ready to celebrate their daughter’s wedding, if only they could get her out of the bathroom. 

It’s been 20 long years since Parker and Broderick have been on stage together. Directed by John Benjamin Hickey, the play starts its limited run at the Hudson Theatre March 13 ahead of an April 13 opening.

What shows are you looking forward to this spring? Drop us a line in the comments to check out our Facebook page for more spring shows. 

 

theater

Hidden Lessons of Popular Musicals 

Hamilton, Mama Mia, Kinky Boots, and Wicked are just a few of the popular Broadway musicals that have graced the stage along the “Great White Way” in the last few years. These musicals are more than just a combination of fantastic dancing, singing, and plot lines. They have hidden lessons that make theatergoers think about long after they have left the hall. Here are a few of the hidden, yet important, lessons that musicals are teaching audiences. 

stage

Wicked

The life of the wicked witch of the west as told in the musical Wicked, is filled with life lessons about friendships. The strongest message is that friendships are truly everything in life. The well-developed characters explain that some friendships run so deep that they imprint upon you and can change your life for the better. The musical also shows through actions that even though friends may critique one another, the best of friends will always be your biggest fans and most staunch supporters in life. 

Another important life lesson that we could all use a reminder about is the idea that looks are not everything. Take for example the relationship between Glinda and Elphaba. Glinda isn’t keen on Elphaba at the start of the story because she was very obviously green, and Glinda’s sparkly, pink and girly sense of style really wasn’t Elphie’s cup of tea either. They eventually discover that it’s what’s inside that counts. 

These lovely life lessons are paired with incredible music, amazing scenery, and costumes that help promote it to the level of being one of the most popular musicals of the west end. 

Hamilton

Hamilton 

If you are lucky enough to score tickets to the famed Hamilton, then you will be delighted with life lessons from the moment the curtain goes up until it goes down at the end of the night. Hamilton tells the story of forgotten American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton and his ascent out of poverty and to power against the backdrop of the American War of Independence.

There are so many little life lessons as well as grand sweeping ones in this musical that it’s hard to know where to start. Overall, the inspirational message to audiences is that now is the time to take your shot no matter what the risks. You have but one life so take your chance and make it happen for yourself. 

Believe it or not, fans of this particular musical have written fan sites on what they learned from this production, the characters, and the public’s reaction to it. Here’s just a quick overview of what some fans say are the biggest takeaways to Hamilton. 

  • Excuses are a waste of time in life.
  • You are responsible for your own education.
  • Believe in yourself, before you expect other people to believe in you.
  • Pride can literally kill you. Be humble to be truly brilliant.
  • Sacrifice leads to greatness

Dear Evan Hanson 

Evan Hansen is the story of a young man who suffers from severe social anxiety. On the first day of senior year, he writes himself a letter as per his therapist’s recommendation. This awkward teenager craves communication and connection with others. 

He, unfortunately, assists with promoting a huge lie that hurts many people. Evan must come to the very tough realization that he needs to accept himself for who he is before others will do the same. He sings the message powerfully: “All I ever do is run so how do I step in, step into the sun?” While the lesson is one our younger selves could have benefited from, even adults can learn something about loving themselves from this hit musical. 

What hidden messages does your favorite musical promote? Drop us a line in the comments or on our Facebook page

 

New York City Broadway

Best Love Stories on Stage

There’s really no better place to find a romantic story, love triangle, or a story of unrequited love than on Broadway. Some of our favorite backdrops here at Charles H. Stewart are those that involve love stories. Check out our list of the best love stories that made it to the big stage. 

Phantom of the Opera 

Okay, okay, this love story is more of a love obsession between the masked man and soprano opera singer, Christine. However, this show has a thirty year history of making the audiences fall in love all over again. Legendary songs like “Music of the Night” and “All I Ask of You,” can capture the audience each-and-every-time. We rank this musical as one of our favorite love stories that grace the “Great White Way.” 

Phantom of the Opera

Waitress 

This complicated love story stars Jenna, a genius pie-making waitress who is in an abusive marriage, pregnant, and stuck in a small town. While the story does focus on her growing romance with the town’s new doctor, it is also a story of Jenna’s growth as a person. With music from the fabulous Sara Bareilles including, “You Matter to Me,” “Love Song,” and  “Brave,” this show is a true hit. 

Mama Mia! 

For those Abba lovers, this musical, set on a Greek Isle is all about finding which of the three former lovers is the true father to Donna Sheridan’s daughter.  The sequel, Here We Go Again is equally as silly as the original Mama Mia but ridiculously fun to be a part of even as an audience member. 

Scene from Mama Mia

Legally Blonde 

Follow the zany story of Elle Woods who has been dumped by her college beau, when she really thought a marriage proposal was definitely forthcoming. Elle’s simple plan, that plays out on stage, is to prove to her ex-boyfriend that she is not too cheerful, enthusiastic, or…blonde, for lack of a better way to put it. She enrolls at Harvard Law School and proves to herself that she is more than just her looks. Her budding romance with Emmett, the teacher’s aid, is simply adorable. 

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

Last but not least, we have Moulin Rouge, a musical that is made up almost completely of pop hits from the past two decades. Moulin Rouge is a jukebox romantic comedy based on the hit 2001 Baz Luhrman film of the same name. The story follows the epic, doomed love affair of Christian, a penniless writer, and Satine, a performer at the Parisian nightclub, Moulin Rouge. Christian falls hard for Satine the second he sees her, and a few songs later, he’s won her over. Unfortunately, a wealthy patron of the nightclub also has an interest in her. His money is the only thing keeping the club open. 

What is your favorite Broadway love story? We love so many but would love to hear about yours! Drop us a line in the comments or on our Facebook page