Category Archives: Musical Theater

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

 

Benefits of Supporting Community Theater 

In our last blog we discussed the grand opening of the Concord Youth Theater in Concord, Massachusetts. This theater was once the home of the iconic Captain America, Chris Evans. This small community theater was where Evans got his start and began his future career in the Marvel Avengers superhero films. It reminds us of why community theater is so important and why we should follow “The Captain’s” lead and support our local community theaters. 

Supporting a community theater can take many forms. Maybe you volunteer your time with young thespians, or maybe you take your artistic talent and create works of art in the form of props, lighting, music, or scenery for an upcoming musical or play. If time is short but you still want to show your support, monetary donations are always welcome to a theater in your town or region. Here is why: 

Nurturing New Artists and Actors

The ThoughtCo, the world’s largest education resource, reports that many successful actors, directors, writers, and choreographers have launched their careers in humble, small town playhouses. Just by attending and applauding, audiences give up-and-coming stars the positive feedback they need to continue their artistic pursuits.

Just like Captain America felt safe to try out his love of acting in a community theater so could the “next big name” in Hollywood or on Broadway, being on stage can help build the confidence and self esteem of some future actor who may want to go on in the field of the entertainment industry. 

Learning Valuable Skills 

Community theater is not just about learning to act, it can help build communication skills, leadership qualities, and open hearts and minds to understanding people who are different from us. Young and old alike can learn a new skill such as lighting, musicianship, or directing and learning from an older mentor who has been around the stage crew, lighting technology and instruments their whole lives. 

Local Marketing 

Getting involved in your local theater does not always need to be altruistic in nature. Maybe your small business needs to get its name out there. Supporting a theater company is a great way to advertise your services or products. Just think about it. What are people doing while waiting for a show to begin? They are flipping through the program reading the actors bios and seeing the local companies who are supporting the show. Your business name and logo could be seen by hundreds of people in just one weekend! So next time you go to a movie, see a play, or watch a musical, ask yourself where these actors got their “break.” Chances are it was a community theater. Support your local community theater today. Check out our Facebook page where we often post about local shows and theater options.

Captain America: Back to His Roots In Concord, MA 

It’s no secret that we love theater and acting here at Backdrops By Charles Stewart. But we love this local story more than anything! Chris Evans, the iconic Captain America of the Marvel Avengers superhero team, has returned to Massachusetts to help dedicate the new home of a youth theater company where, as a youngster, he practiced and honed his acting skills.

Evans, a Sudbury, Massachusetts native, returned to his roots a few weeks ago to the Concord Youth Theater (CYT), where he acted as a nine year old thespian. The CYT was once his home and he still considers it the place where he grew up and began mastering the talent that he practices in the widely acclaimed Avengers movies. 

The Concord Youth Theater is an Evan’s family second home. Chris’s mother, Lisa Evans, is the Artistic Director at CYT, his sister Carly is the Director of the current show Godspell, and his other sister Shannon is the Costume Designer. The family came together to celebrate the opening of the new permanent home of the Concord Youth Theater. Evans says that he will play the role of “advisor” in this family adventure. 

For several years the theater has moved from one location to another and has now found the funds and location that will allow them to have over 200 audience members for their shows.  

Evans took a few moments to dedicate the theater after he cut the ribbon at the Grand Opening in October. He stated that the theater was his home and where he made his start at what would be his future career. He felt that CYT was a safe place for him to take risks in a space where he could make mistakes. He is proud of his sisters and mom for all the work they put into this small community theater just outside of Boston. 

 

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

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. 

 

Top 10 Broadway Musicals of 2019

Since we’re on the back stretch of the year, let’s take a look at what the top grossing shows on Broadway were in 2019.  The numerical information here is informational only and was shown on BroadwayWorld.com and provided by The Broadway League.

Show                                                                                                                                          Gross

Hamilton:  Showing at Richard Rogers                                                                       $111, 490,804

Lion King:  Showing at Minskoff                                                                                    $78,948,000

Wicked:     Showing at Gershwin                                                                                    $62,490,896

To Kill A Mockingbird:  Showing at the Shubert                                                    $62,100,280

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2:  Showing at the Lyric      $59,852,778

Aladdin:  Showing at New Amsterdam                                                                        $51,730,060

Frozen:  Showing at St James                                                                                          $45,497,898

Dear Evan Hansen:  Showing at the Music Box                                                        $45,281,312

Ain’t Too Proud:  Showing at Imperial                                                                         $38,753,669

Mean Girls:  Showing at August Wilson                                                                       $38,492,610

 

No real surprises here, I guess.  However, highest grossing doesn’t mean the most people saw the show.  When you look at the actual number of seats sold, there is some slight shifting.  Obviously, ticket prices contribute to the figures, but all of these shows performed around the same number of times, which was in the 285-290 range, with the exception of Ain’t Too Proud, which only performed 216 shows.

# Seats Sold

Wicked:                                                                                                                               516,477

Aladdin:                                                                                                                              485,734

Lion King:                                                                                                                           483,021

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2:                                                462,270

Frozen:                                                                                                                                 456,350

To Kill A Mockingbird:                                                                                                   417,959

Phantom of the Opera:  Showing at Majestic                                                        396,857

Hamilton:                                                                                                                               385,751

Mean Girls:                                                                                                                        336,557

King Kong:  Showing at Broadway                                                                             329,206

 

Interesting that  Hamilton was the highest grossing show of the year so far, but they haven’t had the largest audience.  Of course, some of this has to do with the fact that Hamilton has been running since 2015 while Harry Potter debuted in 2019.  On the flip side, Phantom first debuted in 1988 and still put more fannies in the seats than Hamilton.  The classics never get old as evidenced by King Kong having a top 10 attendance figure for the year.  Although the musical debuted in 2018, King Kong has been around since 1933.  Everyone knows the story, and like I said, the classics never get old.

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. 

 

Theater Traditions 

Baseball players use the same lucky bat, football players don’t change their game day socks, and for years I have not stepped on sidewalk cracks for fear of breaking my mother’s back. Superstitions run deep in some people, but none more than theater people who have a long list of unique theater traditions. 

Theater folk are a fiercely superstitious breed and they follow certain traditions to ward off bad luck and make each production go smoothly. Some traditions are rooted in historic theater lore, while others actually seem to make pretty good sense. Check out some of our favorite theater traditions. 

 

Break A Leg 

One of my favorite theater traditions that has made its way into mainstream American life is the phrase “Break a leg.” This means good luck even though it sounds horrible. In Shakespeare’s time, ‘break’ meant ‘bend’, so to ask someone to ‘Bend the Leg’ meant to take lots of bows at the end of a performance. Then there are the die-hard thespians who believe that there are theater ghosts or fairies who like to cause mischief by or wreak havoc on your production. So saying the opposite is better luck than wishing someone good luck. Go figure! 

 

Flowers Before a Performance

You should never give a reward before the event has occurred, therefore giving flowers before a performance is another no-no in the lore of theater traditions. To give a bouquet of flowers to the actors, director, or producer before the end of the show would, again, tempt the fates. 

 

Terrible Dress Rehearsal Means a Great Performance

For this superstitious belief, I really think it is a way of chasing away the night before performance anxiety and nerves. Many actors really believe that all the things that go wrong (and there are usually a lot of things that go awry) during the last dress rehearsal are a good omen of the opening night. Most likely, this lore came from tired cast members who are nervous about the upcoming show and need that adrenaline boost of the opening night to shoo the worries away! 

 

The Ghost Light 

For decades crew members have been leaving on one light – the ghost light – to ward off bad spirits after each performance. Many believe this superstition came from too many people tripping over props and other items left behind the curtain. Others believe it is the ghost of the first actor, Thespis, who is haunting the stage at night. 

Does your theater group have any unique traditions? Share them with us and let us know where the traditions came from. We love to hear all the great superstitions.