Category Archives: Musical Theater

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. 

 

sorry we're closed sign

How We Can Help the Theater Industry 

As of March of this year, most theaters across the country closed their doors. The social distancing guidelines put forth by most state governments required that gatherings of more than just a few people would be banned. This was a devastating, but necessary blow for the theater industry in every state. 

In order to bounce back once the threat of transmission has been lowered, our favorite community theaters, summer theaters, and major metropolitan theaters will need our help. You may be wondering how you can help from the safety of your home? There are a few ways that you can get involved that can help financially and emotionally support this once thriving entertainment industry. 

open guitar case

Donate to a Fund 

One of the easiest ways that theater lovers can help support the industry from the comfort of their homes is by donating to programs specifically designed to support the industry. According to Broadway.com, the Actors Fund may be a good choice. The Actors Fund may sound like it’s just for actors, but it’s actually for anyone who works in entertainment. Its resources include mental health counseling, emergency financial assistance, and primary medical care. The tax-deductible donation will go towards helping people in the industry get back on their feet and be able to get healthcare that they may need at this time. 

Look for similar entertainment groups that help support actors and people in the industry in your region. You may be able to volunteer your time as well as make monetary contributions, depending upon the needs that your state and region has. 

Forgo Refunds 

Another way theatergoers can help is by not asking for a refund for future shows. If you had plans for this summer to see a show or two, ask for a rain check or credit so you can use the money for a show in the future instead of requesting your money back. This way you are not taking needed financial support away and you will still be able to see a show once all of this is over. 

capitol building

Contact Your State Reps 

If you have little resources and can not donate at this time, there is still some action that will only take a few minutes of your time. Call your state representative and request that those in the entertainment industry (such as those that do freelance and contract work) be eligible for medical and other relief benefits that they normally would not qualify for. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents backstage workers, has created a page that lets you send a letter to your reps telling them to provide financial relief to entertainment professionals.

 

musical production

Can You Get a Broadway Fix From Home? 

With the coronavirus keeping us all away from large gatherings like the movies, malls, and theaters, it may feel like a dismal time for thespians and musical fans. 

We’ll let you in on a little secret. You can get your Broadway fix from home! 

The theater arts world has been hit hard by the current world health crisis. In March of this year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, along with governors across the country took precautions to stop the spread of the virus by closing large gatherings like the ones we are accustomed to seeing along the famed “Great White Way”, and at movie theaters from coast-to-coast. 

broadway show

Gatherings of more than a few people have been banned and theaters have taken it a hit financially, not to mention the mental toll on theater lovers who find joy in this form of entertainment. 

Thankfully, the wonder of modern technology and the innovation of talented singers and actors has enabled many of us to enjoy the musicals and shows right from the safety of our own homes. 

The Power of Technology 

Using videoconferencing, many of our Broadway stars are entertaining patrons directly through the technologies we’ve all come to love including Zoom, Google Meet, and Skype.  For instance, on a recent John Krasinski show entitled “Some Good News,” the former “Office” actor set up a Zoom chat with a young fan named Aubrey for the show. Part way through the show he surprised her when Lin-Manuel Miranda, star of the famed Broadway show Hamilton, “crashed” the call along with a cast of characters to sing their smash hit, “Alexander Hamilton.” 

Instances of these live video chats are popping up all over the internet and surprising viewers with new and acoustic renditions of our favorite Broadway songs from musicals across all genres. 

For more viewing options through the Actors Fund on YouTube or their website

musical

Theater at Home 

If finding a Zoom conference with your favorite Broadway actors isn’t your thing, you may want to try Broadway Theater in your home. Recorded performances can be found online at BroadwayHD (a Netflix form of Broadway), Metropolitan Opera Live Streams, and some amazing one-on-one video chatting opportunities are available at Broadway Plus. Most of these options are free or at least offering free trials for those interested. 

Don’t let this brief intermission (of sorts) keep you from enjoying your favorite theater experiences. Check back with us for more updates on theater openings and opportunities. 

 

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. 

 

mental health

How Theater Can Improve Our Mental Health 

The world is still grappling with the global Coronavirus pandemic. Lives have been lost, businesses shuttered, and our sense of safety and security has been all but ripped away. Now, maybe more than any other time in our history, is a time to think about ways to improve our mental health. 

Being quarantined due to this virus can be a claustrophobic feeling for many, while others thrive upon the idea of not having to go anywhere or do anything. We all respond in different ways. 

Our mental health most definitely will be impacted over the next days and weeks, or even potentially months. One thing to keep in mind as we all learn what our new “normal” is about to become is that there are some outlets that can help. 

Exercise, meditation, reading, movies, and yes, theater can help improve our mental health. In no way are we condoning visiting a theater. But as we await the days when venturing out to Broadway becomes feasible again, watching televised versions will have to do. 

How can theater and other self-care activities help boost your mood? Here are a few ways… 

hands connectingA Feeling of Connectivity

At a time when we are each feeling a sense of loss of our normal lives, at least for now, it is important to connect with others. Theater, even if it is pre-recorded or the movie version of a Broadway hit, can still help us connect. It will let you know that you are not alone in this. We will all get through this, and anything else that comes our way… together. 

According to Thrive Global, “One of the chief obstacles that many individuals struggling with mental health issues often have to overcome is a sense of isolation or of being judged for their condition. Through theater, however, they can help build strong bonds with others and create a strong sense of community. “

Healthy Expression 

Theater allows us to see that emotions are ok and that expressing them is healthy and normal. Watching one of your favorite characters on stage, a screen, or on the pages of a book can help you experience emotions that maybe you couldn’t come to grips with or couldn’t put a name to. This healthy expression of emotions is crucial to maintaining positive mental health. 

heartAbility to Relate Feelings 

Theater can help individuals who are struggling psychologically and give mental health professionals a glimpse into the nature of their injuries, which can help them better understand how to heal them. Being able to relate how you are feeling to a scene, character, or play can help others understand what you are feeling inside. 

We look forward to the days ahead when theater will once again become an outlet for our emotions and we all navigate this uncharted territory. Stay safe and be well. 

 

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. 

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. 

 

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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.