How Does Set Design Influence a Production?

When you’re hosting a production, the set in which you design is a predominant aspect in determining how your audience will perceive your show. Sometimes the best way to get exactly what you want means designing yourself. If you have resources to work with, consider these ideas.

There are many questions and factors that go into planning and designing a set. Budgeting details need to be worked out as well as available work hours for crew to get going. When purchasing supplies, you of course want to make the best decisions for most affordable price.

Designing a perfect set and making things look the way you imagined doesn’t have to be expensive and pricy. When you plan details out, you can categorize elements of the set design process: which things you can do yourself, which elements you are able to rent, and which you must purchase. Then, deciding what to spend money on and what to build yourself comes naturally, thinking so

Renting backdrops and props can be make building the set easier. You’re able to spend less by returning something you may not use again. Renting companies provide help, answer questions and take really good care of their equipment so you know you’ll be getting quality designs.  

A set is the elements of the stage in which the actors interact with. It must be the perfect medium between enough detail, and not too distracting. What goes into your set will be directly related to your production. The backdrop is a very important aspect of the set design in which choosing can be vital to a shows success. You wouldn’t want to choose something inappropriate that doesn’t match your theme, colors that are too distracting, something too dismal, etc.

Movable or mobile elements of your set will help make things easy to take down and thus make more time available for other efforts. When planning the design of a set, the most efficient and movable objects and props are the most ideal.

The more time and effort you spend planning set design, the more easily executed the show will seem. Productions will directly benefit from proper set planning, and finding the best ways to easily and effectively bring your ideas to life.

Next time you’re beginning to plan your next set design, consider how it may be beneficial for you to rent a backdrop from Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart. Call us at (978) 682-5757 or visit our website at

DO NOT Do This!

Here are a few things to keep in mind while renting backdrops.  More specifically, here are a few things you shouldn’t do when renting backdrops.  The big thing to remember is that you don’t own the backdrops.  Treat them as if you did, but remember that they are not yours and that other customers are waiting to possibly use the backdrops after you are finished renting them.  They want the backdrops in as mint condition as possible for their shows too.  So with that being said, here are some hints to avoid any damage and extra fees.

DO NOT nail, staple, tack, or pin the backdrops in any way.  It says this right on the contract!  Here’s what happens.  Nails, staples, tacks, and pins create holes.  The stress of the weight could rip that pin and create a huge problem.  Over time, the small holes from the pins and staples add up deteriorating the integrity of the fabric.  So no adding company logos or cardboard cutouts such as stars or clouds directly to the backdrops.  And no adding Velcro pieces either.

DO NOT cut or alter the backdrops in any way.  Again, it says this right on the contract.  Believe it or not, we have received backdrops back from customers literally cut into pieces.  We have also had backdrops returned with new additions painted on the backdrop that were not on the original design.  Remember, you don’t own these.  If the backdrop you see on our website does not fit your needs, then ask us if we have something else.  Do not take it upon yourself to change it because you think it would look better with your idea on it.  We design our drops to fit a myriad of different shows to satisfy as many customers as possible.

DO NOT lay the backdrops face down on the stage.  This was covered in a previous blog entry, but it can be mentioned again.  Always place the backdrops face up for hanging and folding.  This keeps the painted side clean.  On this note, DO NOT forget to sweep your stage before you lay the backdrops on the stage.  The backdrops are not to be used as a broom to sweep your stage.

If you need to add rope extensions to hang the backdrop, DO NOT forget to remove them when you are done.  Also, leave the original tie lines attached to the backdrop, which leads to my next point.  DO NOT cut off the original tie lines when removing the backdrop from the pipe.  There’s no need to tie sailor knots that are impossible to untie.  Simply tie the lines like a shoelace.  There are typically 40+ ties per backdrop.  The shoelace knots will hold.

While we’re talking about hanging the backdrops, if you need to use a cherry picker to hang the backdrop, DO NOT let the backdrop hit any of the greased parts on the machine.  Grease is impossible to remove or camouflage especially if you’re using a white scrim or cyclorama curtain.  Make sure there’s a person on the ground monitoring this.

Lastly, DO NOT get too close to the backdrops when they are hanging.  Performers should not get too close to the backdrops while on stage.  We don’t want them tripping over or grabbing on to the backdrops for fear that someone could get hurt.  If you have built sets, try to keep them as far away from the backdrop as possible.  When I get a backdrop back with a large rip on it, it is usually because it got caught on a built set, or it caught on the strip lights up high.  So, if you can help it, place your built sets as far away from the backdrops as possible and hang the backdrops as far away from the strip lights as you can so that they can’t get caught on that either.  I know it happens.  Just be wary of it.

These are basics to help keep our backdrops in good condition.  We know that 99% of the time any damage occurs it is not intentional.  We simply want our backdrops to last and to be in great condition for as long as possible and for as many customers as possible.

How To Fold and Pack a Backdrop

“Using a backdrop for my show makes scenery a whole lot easier than making my own scenery.  But I have no idea how to fold it back up to fit in the box.”  This is a common comment that we get here at Charles H Stewart.  So, I thought I would reiterate what comes with every backdrop we rent.  Instructions on how to fold and package a backdrop and why we do it this way.

When you open up one of our backdrops, you will see that the box is labelled in Sharpie pen on the ends with the id number and description of the backdrop that is inside the box.  Obviously, the backdrop is also marked with the same information.  You will also notice that the backdrop is wrapped in a plastic bag and that there are loose pieces of cardboard on the top and bottom of the box.  There is also a “How to Fold a Backdrop” instruction sheet and a “Caution: Save Plastic Bag” sheet in the box.  Lastly, on the outside of the box, there will be a plastic pouch.  Inside the pouch are your prepaid UPS return label(s). (In some instances, there will be no pouch with the return labels.  They will be emailed to you if this is the case.)

When you open the box to unfold the backdrop, you need to save all of these pieces for repackaging when you are done.  So save the box, the bag, the cardboard pieces, the instructions, and most importantly, the return labels.  If any of these should be misplaced, no worries.  Any box or bag will do for shipping.  And, we can always send new return shipping labels via email too.  It’s no big deal.

However, what is a big deal is that before you lay out the backdrops for hanging, please, SWEEP THE STAGE!  This keeps the backdrops from getting dirty.  Dirt is very difficult to clean off of scrims, cycloramas, and velours.  Also, make sure that the stage isn’t wet.  Water will also damage the backdrops.

So, you hang the backdrops and have your show.  Now, it’s time to take the backdrops down and pack them up for shipping.  Before you take them down, you have to do one important thing.  SWEEP THE STAGE!  And make sure the stage isn’t wet.  Also, please lay the backdrops on the stage with the painted side up and not face down.  Once again, this prevents the backdrops from getting dirty.

Here’s where those two instruction sheets come in handy.  First, you have to fold a backdrop.  We have a preferred way on how we like the backdrops folded, but we know that there are some very experienced stage hands that do not fold the backdrops the way we prefer.  That’s OK.  As long as it folded neatly and it fits in the box, we’re cool with that (just don’t roll it in a ball and stuff it in the box!).  But we like the backdrops folded accordion style because when the backdrop is folded and placed in the box, we can see the id number right on top for a quick check in especially during our busy season when time isn’t our friend.  Plus, our method is fast and only takes two people.  Basically, while the backdrop is face up on the stage, one person goes to the top corner and one person goes to the bottom corner on the same side.  While crouching down like a catcher, each person reaches out an arm length and pulls the backdrop to the corner.  Repeat this until the backdrop is about two feet wide.  The person at the bottom takes the bottom and folds it up to the top.  Repeat until you see the backdrop taking the shape of the box.

Once you are done folding, wrap it in the plastic bag.  Why?  The plastic bag protects the backdrop from dirt and more importantly dampness just in case the box itself happens to get wet.  If we get a backdrop back damaged due to wetness and it is not wrapped in plastic, then you will be responsible for the damage.  On top of that, if another customer is waiting for the backdrop and we cannot get it to them due to your negligence, then you would be responsible for lost rental charges while the backdrop is being repaired.  Now, this information isn’t meant to scare you.  But it is mentioned to show the importance of packing the backdrops up appropriately.

Before you put the wrapped backdrop in the box, you need to do a couple of things.  First, place one of the cardboard pieces across the bottom of the box with the two instruction sheets.  Second, match up the labelled backdrop with the labelled box.  If you have rented multiple backdrops from us (we’ll call them backdrop # 0001 and # 0002), you want to make sure that backdrop # 0001 is in the box labelled # 0001 and that backdrop # 0002 is in the box labelled # 0002.  Third, after you put the backdrop(s) into the correct box, place the other cardboard piece across the top of the backdrop.  Close and seal the box.  Last, place the UPS return label on the boxes.  In the lower left corner of each return shipping label will be the corresponding backdrop id number.  So again, match the # 0001 label with the # 0001 box and the # 0002 label with the # 0002 box.  Now, you have matched the labelled backdrop with the labelled box and placed the matching return label on the box (# 0001 backdrop is in the # 0001 box with the # 0001 shipping label).  Why is this important?  Because sometimes we ask that you forward our backdrops to different locations.  We will make sure that your UPS return labels are addressed correctly, but if a backdrop is not coming back to Charles H Stewart, we want to make sure that you send the correct backdrop to the correct location.  We do not want you to place backdrop # 0001 inside the # 0002 box and vice versa.  Imagine you receive your backdrop.  You’re expecting backdrop # 0002.  You get the box, and it’s labelled # 0002.  But, you get to the theater on Friday night, open it up, and backdrop # 0001 is in the box.  Not good.  Just match the three numbers even if everything is shipping back to us!

Here are the two instruction sheets that are in each of our backdrop boxes:


Based on a True Story

Most Broadway musicals are works of fiction.  However, non-fiction stories make their way to the stage with regularity as well.  Well, at least, they are stories based on a true story.  Some of classics include shows such as Annie Get Your Gun, George M, Fiorello!, and The Unsinkable Molly Brown.  Some others that are classics or yet to be are as follows:


Hamilton: An American Musical

Probably, the most popular show presently running, Hamilton: An American Musical is a sung and rapped-through musical about the life of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, with music, lyrics, and book by Lin-Manuel Miranda, inspired by the 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton by historian Ron Chernow (I have read this book!). Notably incorporating hip-hop, rhythm and blues, pop music, soul music, traditional-style show tunes, and the casting of non-white actors as the Founding Fathers and other historical figures, the musical achieved both critical acclaim and box office success.

The musical made its Off-Broadway debut at The Public Theater in February 2015, where its engagement was sold out. The show transferred to Broadway in August 2015 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. On Broadway, it received enthusiastic critical reception and unprecedented advance box office sales. In 2016, Hamilton received a record-setting 16 Tony nominations, winning 11, including Best Musical, and was also the recipient of the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album and the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The prior off-Broadway production of Hamilton won the 2015 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical as well as seven other Drama Desk Awards out of 14 total nominated categories.



In keeping with the American Revolution theme, 1776 is a musical with music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards and a book by Peter Stone. The story is based on the events surrounding the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It dramatizes the efforts of John Adams to persuade his colleagues to vote for American independence and to sign the document.

It premiered on Broadway in 1969, earning warm reviews, and ran for 1,217 performances. The production was nominated for five Tony Awards and won three, including the Tony Award for Best Musical.  In 1972, it was made into a film adaptation and was revived on Broadway in 1997.



So let’s stay on the political front.  Evita is a musical with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice. It concentrates on the life of Argentine political leader Eva Perón, the second wife of Argentine President Juan Perón. The story follows Evita’s early life, rise to power, charity work, and eventual death.

The musical began as a rock opera concept album released in 1976. Its success led to productions in London’s West End in 1978, winning the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical, and on Broadway a year later, where it was the first British musical to receive the Tony Award for Best Musical.

This has been followed by a string of professional tours and worldwide productions and numerous cast albums, as well as a major 1996 film of the musical starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas. The musical was revived in London in 2006, and on Broadway in 2012, and toured the UK again in 2013–14 before running for 55 West End performances at the Dominion Theatre in September–October 2014.


Catch Me If You Can

Catch Me If You Can is a musical with a libretto by Terrence McNally and a theatrical score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. It follows the story of a con artist named Frank Abagnale Jr.  A majority of the plot is borrowed from the 2002 film of the same name starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, which in turn was based on Abagnale’s 1980 autobiography.  Abagnale lived his life as a former confidence trickster, check forger, and impostor between the ages of 15 and 21.  He became one of the most famous impostors ever, claiming to have assumed no fewer than eight identities, including an airline pilot, a physician, a U.S. Bureau of Prisons agent, and a lawyer. He escaped from police custody twice (once from a taxiing airliner and once from a U.S. federal penitentiary), before he was 21 years old. He served less than five years in prison before starting to work for the federal government.

After a tryout musical performance in Seattle in 2009, Catch Me If You Can opened at Broadway’s Neil Simon Theatre in April 10, 2011. The production received four Tony Awards nominations, including one for Best Musical, winning Best Actor in a Musical for Norbert Leo Butz.  The show closed on September 4, 2011 after 32 previews and 170 performances.

Common Questions about Backdrops

If you have an upcoming performance, dance recital, or event that needs that final element to make your presentation unforgettable, a backdrop may be just the answer. Backdrops by Charles Stewart has been the leader in scenic design and backdrop rentals for over 120 years. We carry over 1,500 backdrops, drapes, lames, and scrims for your performance. Not only do we offer a huge variety of backdrops, we have experience that can help you answer all your performance questions accurately. Here are some of the more common things directors, producers, and prop masters ask us when it comes to our products and services.


  • What kinds of backdrops and sizes are offered at BCS?


Charles H. Stewart offers a wide variety of backdrops designed to accommodate most high quality productions for theatres, schools, dance recitals, corporate events, and the like. Many of our backdrops are inspired by Broadway performances and have been organized into categories that reflect this on our website. For example, our backdrops are searchable by category, show, or even customizable with your unique design in mind. In addition we offer drops in a variety of sizes for your stage. We can create a backdrop of any size to your exact specifications on a custom order. However, our standard sizes for backdrop rentals are mostly 18×42 or 15×36.


  • How are the backdrops hung and are they compatible with the equipment at our venue?


All of our backdrops come with grommets and tie lines spaced approximately 12-14 inches apart. We ask that you only hang the backdrops using the grommets and tie lines provided. Please do not pin, staple, tack, or tape the backdrops at any time. Our experts can talk to you about how these can be hung and how to do so safely.


  • What about rental periods and arrival dates?


Our rentals typically are on a week-by-week basis, starting on a Monday and ending on a Monday. If you would like to have the drop ahead of time (and it is available), we may be able to offer (but not guarantee) early delivery. We also offer limited partial week rentals. We use UPS shipping to guarantee tracking for prompt arrival and suggest our clients use the same method for return shipping as well. The shipping is a separate fee. If an emergency arises and you need the drop for a longer period call us immediately so we can make certain that another client does not need the drop.


If you have further questions about billing, shipping and backdrop options see our FAQ section on our website or call Charles H. Stewart at (978) 682-5757 –

Planning Your Broadway Trip!

If you love the theater like we love the theater, then you probably plan trips there as often as you can. However, if you are a novice to Broadway, then you may be looking for tips to get there, enjoy a show, and not break the bank, right? So if you want to head to New York City and see the bright lights of Broadway then here are some ideas on how to make the trip and leave your savings account intact. Let’s plan a Broadway trip!

Getting There – Depending upon the distance you have to travel, you may need to fly, take a train, subway, bus, or all of the above. Watch your favorite websites for the best deal on tickets until you think you have the best option available.

Accomodations – While there are hundreds of travel sites that offer discount hotel prices, we suggest you think outside the box because even the cheapest hotel room will run you quite a bit of money. Try something like staying on a friend’s couch or possibly Airbnb. If all else fails stay right outside of the city or across the river in Jersey for better rates.

Getting Tickets and What to See – Obviously as a theater lover you will want to catch a show or two while you are in town. Check out sites like: Playbill, TheaterMania, and BroadwayWorld. They are fantastic sites for show news and theatre insights to get you in the mood for Broadway!

While you are visiting Broadway, enjoy all there is to see! Remember to look for our backdrops and give us a shout if you see something you love!


Animation Adaptation Part 2

Here’s a second installment of animated comics, movies or shows made into musicals.



Pokémon Live! was a musical stage show that toured the United States on September 22, 2000 to January 19, 2001 including a run at Radio City Music Hall. Plans for some 2002 performances in the United Kingdom were also made,  but later canceled.  Despite that, Pokémon Live! was invited to perform in Dubai, U.A.E. at Al Mamzar Park in the duration of March 2001, coinciding with the annual Dubai Shopping Festival.  The musical was based on the Pokémon anime series, using similar characters, clothing, and story elements. Approximately 90 minutes in length, it told the story of Ash Ketchum, Misty and Brock as they travel to a contest to win the much sought-after Diamond Badge. The event turns out to be part of a plan by the evil organization Team Rocket and its diabolic leader Giovanni to take over the world. The music of the show consisted of songs previously released on the Pokémon anime soundtracks Pokémon 2BA Master and Totally Pokémon, as well as new songs.

The show was successful, but it was largely ignored by critics. It has never received a video release, even though Pokémon’s official site contained a statement for quite some time implying that such a release would appear.  A cast recording CD of the show, however, had a limited release.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

To capitalize on the Turtles’ popularity, a concert tour was held in 1990, premiering at Radio City Music Hall on August 17and sponsored by Pizza Hut. The “Coming Out of Their Shells” tour featured live-action turtles playing music as a band (Donatello, keyboards; Leonardo, bass guitar; Raphael, drums and sax; Michelangelo, guitar) on stage around a familiar plotline: April O’Neil is kidnapped by the Shredder, and the turtles have to rescue her. The story had a very Bill-n’-Ted-esque feel, with its theme of the power of rock n’ roll literally defeating the enemy, in the form of the Shredder (who only rapped about how he hates music) trying to eliminate all music. A pay-per-view special highlighting the concert was shown, and a studio album was also released.



Tarzan is based on the Walt Disney Animation Studios 1999 film of the same name. The songs are written by Phil Collins with a book by David Henry Hwang. The musical mostly follows the plot of the Disney film: Tarzan is raised by gorillas, meets Jane, a young English naturalist, and falls in love. Jane’s entourage plans to kill the gorillas, and Tarzan’s loyalties are tested.

The musical began previews on Broadway on March 24, 2006, and officially opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on May 10, making it the only Disney Theatrical production without an out-of-town tryout. Bob Crowley designed the sets and costumes and directed the original Broadway production; choreography was by Meryl Tankard and lighting by Natasha Katz.  Danton Burroughs, grandson of Edgar Rice Burroughs, attended the opening night party, as did Phil Collins.  The production was nominated for a Tony award for Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Natasha Katz). But, due to poor ticket sales, the show closed on July 8, 2007 after 35 previews and 486 performances.



Anastasia is a musical with music and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, and a book by Terrence McNally.  Based on the 1997 film of the same name, the musical tells the story of the legend of Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, which claims that she, in fact, escaped the execution of her family. Anastasia, who appears in the plot as an amnesiac orphan named Anya, hopes to find some trace of her family, but sides with con men who wish to take advantage of her likeness to the Grand Duchess.

The musical opened on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre on March 23, 2017 in previews and officially on April 24, 2017.  The musical was nominated for the Drama Desk award for Best Musical, among other award nominations.  The production was met with mixed reviews by critics, citing uneven subplots and an overly long running time as primary issues.

How to Be a Great Prop Master

The “property master”, often dubbed the prop master or mistress, is the person responsible for purchasing, acquiring, manufacturing, properly placing, and/or overseeing any props needed for a theatrical production. Sounds pretty straight-forward, right? Well, being a prop master is one of the most stressful yet rewarding jobs in theater. Prop professionals have a wide variety of skills and often are considered the “MacGyver” of the productions in that they have the ability to make a wide array of props out of seemingly nothing and on a limited budget. So how do these skillful professionals do it? Here are few hints on how to become a pro of the props.


  • Become an Expert Shopper – Most prop masters know where to find the best props, be it from a Goodwill store, a warehouse, or a recent purchase. Knowing where to buy the items and at the best price is one sign of being a pro.
  • Get Organized – Most prop masters are also professional organizers who know where to store each prop and how it can be accessed easily the next time it is needed. Create your own system of sorting and storing props, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a true prop master.
  • Know the Production – A great prop master knows the production inside and out, including the cues for each scenery change, and when each prop is needed on stage and from which side it should enter.
  • Be Able to Roll-with-it – An expert prop master has to know, when things get crazy on stage or disasters happen, that they need to roll with the punches and think on the fly to come up with viable solutions. Prop masters know how to do this intuitively and are not thrown off by last minute changes.
  • Be Aware of Safety – In many productions the props are so realistic that they may be dangerous. A good prop master is always aware of the safety measures needed to keep the actors and stage hands safe at all times. In such cases, it’s best practice to train the person(s) who will use the prop during the show.  


Prop masters may often go overlooked, but their skill and talent are what make the production go off without a hitch. If you are a prop master and want more information about our Backdrops by Charles Stewart, call (978) 682-5757, or visit our website at


Animation Adaptation

We’ve covered movies made into musicals and musicals made into movies.  Another interesting concept that has been quite popular is making animated series or movies into live action shows.  We all know Annie, Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid, and Lion King along with Shrek as well.  Here, we will look at some “lesser known” or less successful attempts at live action adaptations from animations.



Garry Trudeau’s comic strip Doonesbury started in 1970. It began following the lives of a group of college students attending the fictional Walden College, though it ultimately became known for its political and social commentary. The strip was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning in 1975, the first daily comic strip to be given that honor.

The characters in the strip had remained perpetually of college age, but in January 1983, Trudeau announced he would take a nearly two-year hiatus from the strip to bring his characters to Broadway. And notably, the musical Doonesbury marked college graduation for his characters. Trudeau set to work writing the book and lyrics, while Elizabeth Swados provided the music. Doonesbury opened on Broadway November 1983 with a cast that included Mark Linn-Baker (You Can’t Take It With You), Gary Beach (The Producers), Lauren Tom (A Chorus Line), and Kate Burton (Present Laughter). The show received mixed notices and closed after 104 performances, but a cast recording preserved the score.

Doonesbury the musical remains important in the history of the Doonesbury comic strip; following the musical adaptation, Trudeau began illustrating his characters aging in near real-time. The Broadway musical was the turning point.


Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Bono and The Edge, members of Irish rock super group U2, wrote the music and lyrics for this unique musical. David Campbell worked on the arrangements and Julie Taymor, Glen Berger, and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa wrote the book. The inspiration for this superhero musical came from the original comics by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, first published by Marvel Comics.

The plot follows Spidey’s love for Mary Jane and his rival the Green Goblin. Unfortunately, the set designs and productions the creators had imagined proved to be difficult to produce. There were technical problems and performers were injured on set. At the premiere, there were disruptions, which caused the reviews to be negative.

After the show officially opened in 2011, the response from the critics were still mixed but more positive than after the previews. This musical is the costliest Broadway production ever but also held the top slot on record box office sales after pulling in nearly three million dollars.

In 2012 Spider-Man was nominated for two Tony Awards, one Drama Desk Award, and five Outer Critics Circle Awards winning two of the latter for Outstanding Set Design and Outstanding Costume Design.


It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman!

Broadway’s first superhero musical was It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman!, which opened on Broadway in 1966. Superman—or Clark Kent—first took flight in the pages of a comic book in 1933. He made the jump to television with 1952’s Adventures of Superman, which became extremely popular and ran through 1958. By the time producers decided to adapt the character for a Broadway musical in 1966, Superman had become quite the hot property.

But the musical adaptation of the Superman franchise took quite a different spin on the story of Clark Kent. It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman!, with a score by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams (Bye Bye Birdie) and a book by David Newman and Robert Benton—who would also go on to co-write the screenplays to Superman and Superman II in 1978 and 1980, respectively—found a good deal of campy comedy in the Superman story. The musical dispensed with many well-known Superman characters—most notably Lex Luthor—in favor of new characters created for Broadway. In fact, of the characters in It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman, fans would only recognize Clark Kent/Superman, his love interest Lois Lane, and his boss Perry White.

Despite positive reviews, the original production had only a brief run of 129 performances. A drastically shortened version of the show was presented on TV in 1975, starring Lesley Ann Warren as Lois Lane. The show was revised again in 2010, premiering at Dallas Theater Center with a new book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa who re-introduced elements from the original comic. Ultimately, the show’s biggest success has been the song “You’ve Got Possibilities,” originally sung by Linda Lavin, which broke out and became a standalone hit (and can be seen in the current Broadway revue Prince of Broadway.)

SpongeBob SquarePants

SpongeBob has not yet opened on Broadway, although the musical adaption of this popular Nickelodeon cartoon show began previews on November 6, 2017. The stage adaptation, which tried out in Chicago, features many of the characters from the cartoon, but the story is completely original. The musical tells the story of SpongeBob and his starfish best friend, Patrick, and their efforts to save their underwater city of Bikini Bottom from Armageddon, in the form of an underwater volcano.

Unlike the other musicals on this list, SpongeBob flaunts an extensive list of writers. Kyle Jarrow wrote the book, and the score reflects a compilation of songs by pop and rock artists, including Sara Bareilles, John Legend, Cyndi Lauper, Panic! at the Disco, They Might Be Giants, David Bowie, and more. Tina Landau co-conceived and directed by Tina Landau the production with choreography by Christopher Gattelli.

Fans of the show eagerly anticipating its performances are in luck—the cast recording is now available.

Keys to a Successful Show

Whether you are putting on a show under the bright lights of Broadway, at a small community theater, or on the stage of a local high school auditorium, all directors and producers want their show be a success. They plan, think ahead, and schedule for every contingency. So how can you make your show a success? Let’s take a closer look at the keys to a successful show.


  • Create a Team – All successful shows have one thing in common – a team mentality. Be sure to lead your actors, prop masters, lighting experts, and all the other people that make the show what it is. Ask for input and listen to what is said. Be respectful of all team members’ talents and skills in their respective areas and realize that one person alone does not put on the show. Hire or appoint people whom you trust to all the important positions that will help make your show a smash hit from stage managers to choreographers, to music directors and so on.
  • Set Expectations – Set high expectations for your entire team about attitude, promptness, and respect for you and others in the show. Too many big egos can hurt even the greatest of plot lines.
  • Plan for Disaster – Success doesn’t mean that a show did not encounter troubles along the way, but rather that the team was able to overcome any issues that came its way, whether it was technical difficulties, sick actors, building issues, or any number of things that can throw a monkey wrench into production on show night. Plan accordingly and have a back up ready for every conceivable problem.
  • Learn – Technical aspects of every show can be confusing so get to know the people who control the technology that runs your show from lights to sound to moving props. Knowing how to use all the professional equipment will help stage managers make adjustments quickly if an emergency arises and will also help to manage crew members more effectively.
  • Don’t Ignore the LIttle Things – The adage that “the devil is in the details” is very true when it comes to show business. Take notes during rehearsals and be sure to incorporate the little details that bring the show together to form a masterpiece.
  • Have Fun – Some of the best shows are the ones where you can tell that the performance is a labor of love for all those involved.


Call Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart at (978) 682-5757 or visit our website at for more guidance and stage backdrops that will make your show a successful show!