Category Archives: Backdrops

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. 

 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

 

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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. 

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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

 

The Importance of Introducing Children to Live Theater 

Most people who love theater think of it merely as their favorite form of entertainment. I mean, what’s not to love about escaping reality and getting pulled into the lives of the characters on the stage? But did you know that, while you are enjoying the show, you are also learning, connecting, and finding ways to relate to others? Theater, especially live theater geared towards children, can have more of an impact that just a fun afternoon out watching people recite lines, act, and playout characters. Read on to find out why theater is important for our younger learners. 

Immersion of Culture 

Through live theatre, audiences, both young and old, are immersed in stories about characters from every background imaginable. Characters who are a different race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and gender can teach children about what it is like in cultures around the globe, not just the small world where they live in. Imagine the positive impact that can have on a child who now has his/her eyes opened to what it is like to be someone from outside their cultural background. 

Creativity and Imagination 

As part of the audience asked to imagine Jack’s “beanstalk” growing out of the stage floor, or that a Big Bad Wolf can actually talk, takes some stretching of the imagination. This creativity requires that the audience thinks outside the box. This can translate into the nurturing of creativity and imagination that can be a valuable asset later in life. “Theatre is the single most valuable place where kids can explore the endless possibilities of their imaginations and what they can do,” according to Danica Taylor, a writer for the Rep Theater online

School Performance and Community Service 

Research from UCLA’s Graduate School of Education by Dr. James Catterall shows that students who are exposed to the arts are more likely to be involved in community service, and are less likely to drop out of school. Studies by neuroscientists have shown that both the left and right hemispheres of the brain need to be fully stimulated in order for the brain to utilize its true potential. This means that it is just as important to immerse children in creative activities that exercise the right brain, as it is to immerse them in scientific and analytic activities for the left-brain. (Source: Taylor, Rep Theater) 

Communication 

As students become involved in theater, not merely as a passive theater-goer, they learn the skill of communication both verbally and with body language. Imagine how fun it is to learn how to speak clearly so even the person at the back of the theater can understand your message. This skill is needed in almost every career industry imaginable. 

Why does your child learn while he/she is involved in theater? For some, it may be as simple as how to be a good audience member who pays attention and is courteous. Leave us a note on our Facebook page or on our website

broadway show

Don’t Miss These Late Fall Broadway Shows

Broadway is a beautiful place all year long. But something magical begins to take place during the late fall weeks that peek into the upcoming winter. The New York City streets begin to show signs of the holidays and the hustle and bustle seem more, shall we say, jolly. That’s why it is such a special time of year to head to the Big Apple and take in a show or two. 

There are so many great shows to choose from, and choosing one or more can be difficult. Here are a few that Playbill has noted as up-and-coming shows not to miss. So gather up your fall attire, make reservations at your favorite NYC dining spot, and get ready for a few months of theater. 

The Crucible 

The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, is playing at the Connelly Theatre with the first preview on November 8, 2019, and opening on November 21, 2019. Under the direction of Eric Tucker, The Crucible is a 1953 play by American playwright Arthur Miller. It is the dramatized and partially fictionalized story of the Salem Witch Trials that took place in Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1692–93. Miller wrote the play as an allegory for McCarthyism, when the United States government persecuted people accused of being communists. The cast includes Shirine Babb, Rajesh Bose, Truett Felt, Caroline Grogan, Paul Lazar, Susannah Millonzi, Arash Mokhtar, Ryan Quinn, Randolph Curtis Rand, Zuzanna Szadkowski, Shaun Taylor-Corbett, John Terry, and Eric Tucker. 

Evita 

Evita, by author Tim Rice and music by the acclaimed Andrew Lloyd Webber, begins its first review on November 13, 2019, with opening night on November 14, 2019. The musical examines the rapid and controversial ascent of Eva Perón, the First Lady of Argentina, until her untimely death at age 33. On the one-hundredth anniversary of Eva Perón’s birth, this presentation deepens your understanding of one of Argentina’s most adored and reviled figures. The director is Sammi Cannold and the cast includes Solea Pfeiffer, Maia Reficco, Enrique Acevedo, and Philip Hernandez. 

We Will Rock You

We Will Rock You opens November 14, 2019, at the Hulu Theatre at Madison Square Garden. The musical tells the tale of a group of Bohemians who struggle to restore the free exchange of thought, fashion, and live music in a distant future where everyone dresses, thinks and acts the same. Musical instruments and composers are forbidden, and rock music is all but unknown. The musical is based upon the songs of British rock band Queen with a book by Ben Elton.

Do you have a show you are dying to see? Comment on our Facebook page or in the comments below. Check out our Backdrops that will help make any show come to life. 

 

Overcoming The Stress of Tech Week 

The phrase “Tech Week” can cause even the most solid thespian to shudder in fear. The long hours, the fear of failure, and the stress can be enough to send you over the edge. What can you do to make this inevitable week less stressful? Read on to hear from others who have been there before and their suggestions to overcome the stress of the dreaded tech week! 

Determine Your Point People

There is nothing worse when things go south on stage during tech week than having too many people add their thoughts and suggestions. Be sure to have one or two people who are level headed, patient, and knowledgeable to handle the hundreds of questions that can come up during the week. Save your sanity and let your actors know who the appropriate person is to handle each type of question. 

TheaterFolk online suggests, for example, who is the most likely person to know where a missing pair of pants might be? Who should be contacted if one of the stage lights burns out? Whom should students check with if they need help reviewing their entrances and exits? (If you answered the costume head, the lighting designer/operator, and the stage manager, then you would be right!) These are your point people and they are worth their weight in gold.

Plan Breaks 

Tech week can be one really long week. It is tempting to try to power through it and get as much done each day as possible but you will see burnout happens. We suggest planned breaks at intervals that are decided upon before you start this crazy week. Encourage your group to get up, stretch, go outside, have a quick bite to eat, and clear their heads. Being inside all week working on lighting, tech, and props can make you feel detached from the rest of the world. Taking even a few minutes of self-care during this busy week can put you in a better place than the one where you are tired, hungry, and losing patience. 

Schedule it Out 

Tech week for professionals means lots of hours doing what you love and getting paid for it. For students, tech week means balancing school work and theater prep. Be sure to schedule out time to get your studying done as well as complete that homework. You may also want to plan your meals and sleep time as well. It may seem ridiculous to plan it out but tech week brings new meaning to marathon lighting sessions and rehearsals. The more you can block out time for other important things in your life, the better. 

Are you crazy during your tech week? How do you handle the stress and balance your life during this time? Give us some suggestions in the comments section and let us know your tips of the trade. 

 

Movies that Began on Broadway 

In this age of Marvel movie crossovers and watching characters from one superhero film show up in another one, we have become accustomed to the idea of crossovers. But did you know that Broadway theater shows have been making the leap from the stage to movies for years before it was “in?” 

As a child growing up in the ‘80s, I had lots of musicals that would come spinning out of my mouth as I played with friends or concentrated on my homework. After seeing Annie on stage, I was a “hard knock kid” for months and months. I knew the lines and characters arguably better than the actual actors. 

Fast forward a few decades and I brought my sons to Annie at the local movie theater. My kids loved it as much as I did but boy was it a culture shock to see how they adapted it to our modern, tech-savvy lives of today. The songs and the premise were the same, but the cultural and social aspects were completely different… not bad, just different. 

Lots of Broadway shows have been adapted for movies in our society today. Two of my favorites are Grease and Mamma Mia! Again, the songs were the same but each was shifted just enough that you could tell that Hollywood had put their stamp on it. 

Depending upon your generation you may remember different Broadway shows before they became screen hits. For example, my mom’s generation remembers West Side Story, My Fair Lady, and Les Misérables before they were adapted. Who knows, younger generations may someday remember Hamilton on stage if it ever gets sent to Hollywood. 

What is your favorite Broadway show that was remade in Hollywood? Tell us in the comments and tell us whether you liked the remake or not. 

 

Using Backdrops

There are many ways to enhance the appearance of a scenic production such as a video shoot, stage play, theater production, or party event. Backdrops help add the ambience for the mood that you are trying to set. Because of their size, they serve the purpose of continuing the theme you are going for without being too over the top where the scenery seems out of place.

Choosing a backdrop rental company that has several different sceneries to choose from can be a difficult task, which is why you should go straight to Backdrops by Charles H Stewart!  Needless to say, one thing that you should ask about the backdrop that you have in mind would be how heavy they are and the material it is made of.  Ideally, the best backdrop should not be too heavy for convenience reasons as you will most likely be hanging and packaging the backdrops yourself.  The best material when choosing a realistic backdrop would be one that is 100% polyester cotton fabric, which is what our DreamWorld Collection is painted on, or ones painted on muslin, which is what our Stewart Collection is painted on.  These are lightweight fabrics that are easy to handle.

One type of event that would welcome a backdrop would be in an environment in which a lot of photography is going to take place in. Dances, charities, or galas are examples of events that a nice formal backdrop would be more than welcomed in pictures. For example, if you are hosting a dance that has a Hawaiian theme, there are several backdrops that you can browse such as tropical or beach scenes that would supplement your Hawaiian environment. We do have many smaller photography size backdrops in our DreamWorld Collection labelled DreamWorld Small.

As mentioned, there are many ways that you can improve or modify an area to fit your event. There are many different backdrop rentals to choose from and a few different sizes that can assure proper placement as well as appropriate background setting. Aside from party events, most backdrops from Charles H Stewart are used by production companies that are setting up a stage performance whether it’s a Broadway Musical or dance recital or play. Because of the flexibility of backdrops, they can be replaced and switched in a matter of minutes.  So using multiple backdrops can make your life a whole lot easier.  Full stage backdrops are obviously larger than photography backdrops since the area needed to cover is larger.  But with the lightweight fabric they are made with, this is not an issue.

Backdrops are easy to use, and they are the easiest way to transform your stage or event into whatever setting necessary to transport your audience to where they need to be.