Category Archives: Musical Theater

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. 

 

Eccentric Dance

(Certain portions of the following were taken from an article written in the LA Times by Susan King on 8/3/19)

Think of rubber-legged Ray Bolger in 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz” and 1952’s “Where’s Charley?”; long-limbed Charlotte Greenwood, whose trademark high kicks entertained audiences in such musicals as 1940’s “Young People” and 1955’s “Oklahoma!”; and the gravity-defying Nicholas Brothers — Fayard and Harold — whose leaps and astonishing splits were the high points of numerous musicals including 1940’s “Down Argentine Way” and 1941’s “Sun Valley Serenade.”

It was wacky and wild, dazzling to watch, funny and fearless. It wasn’t modern dance, and it certainly wasn’t ballet. The only word for it was “eccentric.”

On 8/5/19 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences shined a spotlight on eccentric dancing and how the art form has also played an important role in animation.

“What eccentric dance is, by definition, is very broad,” said dance historian Betsy Baytos, the curator and host of the evening, who is also an animator and eccentric dancer and choreographer. “It’s loose-limbed. It’s a pantomimic kind of movement, and it’s usually comic by nature. It’s essentially wrapped around the character.”  Since animated characters can have unique features and movements, choreographers must come up with over exaggerated steps that regular humans don’t make.

“We’re trying to convince you that there’re certain things our characters can do that you find illogical but look completely believable,” says animator Eric Goldberg.  “You have to animate a character with a certain amount of weight and intent and all the things that actually make it completely believable for an audience.”  Think of trying to incorporate the movement of a tail or the long neck of a giraffe.

The famous Nicholas brothers will be featured as well. Tony Nicholas, the son of Fayard, was excited to show Nicholas Brothers home movies that evening because they are “something to behold.” He screened some “exciting new footage we have discovered that no one has ever seen.”

So while Hollywood has honored more traditional styles of dance like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and Gene Kelly to the John Travolta disco and Fame and Flashdance to Footloose and High School Musical, it’s nice to see the art of the eccentric dance get it’s due.

Can Theater Effect Change? 

Every revolutionary idea began somewhere. A small flicker, a spark really, that can set the world ablaze. Musicals and theater productions can be that spark, that initial light that can start a revolution. That revolution can change the world. 

Theater has been motivated by the change that writers and directors need and want to see in the world: whether it is racial inequality, poverty, diversity, homelessness, marriage equality, women’s rights, human rights, or a whole host of other social issues. Part of telling a story on the stage is entertaining the audience, another part is enlightening the audience or teaching the audience about what is happening around them. Whether they choose to see it or not is their choice. But for some, the story starts a change in them that sparks action. 

Theater can change the world one performance at a time. For as long as theater has existed, since the time of the Greeks and Romans, the stage has been used to express opinions and gather public opinion. Theatergoers can gain empathy for the characters that are on stage and understand how “the other half” lives. For example, The Diary of Anne Frank and The Sound of Music probably gave the audience a point of view that they had never considered before, that of a family being hunted by the Nazis or wooed by the Nazis to join the Third Reich military machine. 

Theater productions can pose questions about the role of our government such as in Hamilton. Racial divides, immigration, and the underbelly of politics are just a couple of the topics that can open the eyes of theatergoers. Add in the music, fully developed characters, and a script that can touch the soul, and a theater production can most certainly spark a revolution in mind and spirit in the people who attend and later talk about the production. 

What products have you seen that have touched you or changed your thought process? I can remember seeing Annie as a young child and realizing that not all children have an easy life and that there will always be people richer than me and poorer than me. Tell us about your experience in theater and how it changed you. 

 

The Perfect Setting for Your Show

When it is important to set the stage or the mood, backdrops are the perfect item. From the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans, theater has been a way to express ideas and emotions. Theatrical renditions range from tackling the most controversial issues and historical events to depicting real life drama, fantasy or romance. The creativity involved in these endeavors is unrivaled. Great care is taken to create the most lifelike of scenes or to evoke a particular emotional response. The backdrop and the scenery are the canvas on which the drama occurs. This essential element transports the viewer to another place and time as the events unfold. Backdrop rentals can help to accentuate many functions.

Backdrops come in a variety of forms. This can range from a basic curtain to elaborate theatrical scenery. Backdrop rentals can be used for stage shows, weddings, photo shoots, and other special events. Muslin backdrops come in a variety of colors and shades. These can be hand painted or reversible for a variety of options.

The sky is the limit when it comes to choosing the best backdrop rentals for an occasion. Beautiful scenic backdrops of locations from the US to Europe to Asia to Africa are available. Exotic scenes from the jungle, the pyramids or an enchanted forest can also be had. Backdrops from a Broadway musical or scenes simulating a dance club are also popular. Religious backdrops can enhance the depth of any religious function, lending a more spiritual energy to the occasion. There are also holiday specific backdrops that can make any day special. You can even design your own custom backdrop, but these you would have to purchase.

Backdrop rentals are just a Google search away. Many options are available online with a vast array of choices that will suit any occasion. When confirming the booking, we may require a deposit with payment in full due prior to shipping. It is possible to hold your choice until you make a final decision. Backdrops are the responsibility of the customer from the time that they are rented until they are returned. Care should be taken with backdrop rentals. A clean dry surface is required for handling. Sharp objects can rip or tear the backdrops, resulting in costly repairs, so be careful when opening the box the backdrop arrives in. The backdrop of your dreams can make your special occasional a day to remember.