Mike Mathews Elected Interim Artistic Director of Spanish Lyric Theatre

Spanish Lyric Theatre Logo

We are proud to announce that our Creative Director, Mike Mathews, has been offered and accepted the role of Interim Artistic Director for the Tampa, Florida-based Spanish Lyric Theater and SLT Productions. A professional, non-Equity musical theatre company embarking on their 56th season, Spanish Lyric Theater is the nation’s oldest Latin-based theatrical group and the longest-running theatre in the greater Tampa Bay Area. They have been the area standard for Broadway-style productions and a variety of stage shows in Central Florida since 1959. It is a great honor for Mike and one that he is very much looking forward to.

MIkeMathewsMike is well established in the theatrical community here in Florida. Having run the Salerno Entertainment Group since 2003, Mike has played the roles of Director, Set Designer, Performer, Mentor, and Chief-Cook-and-Bottle-Washer time and again. The Salerno Entertainment Group has organized and managed a multitude of touring musicals, as well as Las Vegas-style performances, and continues to do so to this day. Mike also finds time to rekindle his love of singing and acting several times a year, taking on roles in touring musicals presented by Stages Productions. It is these experiences that led the Board of Directors over at Spanish Lyric Theater to tap Mike when their current patriarch and Artistic Director, Rene Gonzalez, opted to step down.

Rene GonzalezBefore we continue, we must thank Rene for his years of dedication to both SLT Productions and the theatrical community in the Tampa Bay area. Mr. Gonzalez has dedicated time to both throughout his career  and has made an impact on countless lives and careers during his tenure. His work in and representation of the Latin Community in the Greater Tampa Bay area has impacted the cultural climate of Central Florida. His influence in the theatrical community has spread the craft  and diversified the productions offered to the community with his presentation of Spanish language productions and culturally rich Latin-themed stage shows and musical performances. Please join us in wishing Mr. Gonzalez the best of luck and prosperity in his retirement.

SLT Productions has a lot to look forward to moving forward. While details are currently being pounded out as Mike works with the current Board of Directors, we can assure you that there are plenty of productions to come. We cannot share any finite details today, but expect to see fresh Broadway musicals and Hispanic-themed productions, as well as other forms of productions from SLT Productions in the very near future. A heavy focus on utilizing Latin actors and stage crews, Spanish language scripts and historic venues is to be expected in the upcoming production season. Mike is looking forward to tackling this new project and helping to ensure that the history and culture of the Spanish Lyric Theater and SLT Productions are around for generations to come. He has a fantastic group of professionals to work with. They are truly a testament to the Tampa Bay area, transcending the theatrical community with their focus on Latin culture.

Largo Cultural Center Technical Summer Camp’s Backdrop Workshop

Summertime presents the theatrical community with the opportunity to pass along the tradition and know-how of the stage show to the next generation. In our neck of the woods there are a number of summer theatrical camps and performances geared towards the younger generations. These opportunities are good for more than just keeping youth focused in the summer. They give kids a direct outlet to express themselves and hone in on their skills.

students at the Largo Cultural Center Theatre Camp pose for a pictureOur team was recently fortunate enough to be able to take part in the Technical Theatre Production camp hosted at the Largo Cultural Center. We love this camp. Yes, camps that focus on acting and vocals are important, however the stage crew needs time to develop too! That is exactly what happens every summer at the Largo Cultural Center. The camp focuses on teaching kids everything from creating and arranging scenery to proper lighting. This year it all culminated in the kids taking part in a production of THE LITTLE MERMAID JUNIOR, acting as the stage crew.

The camp is organized and taught by Joe Ingrao, a veteran techie in the theatrical industry with years of experience teaching the craft. He ensures that the kids in his courses know the proper way to prepare a stage, set lighting and audio and how to do it all safely. Our Creative Director Mike Mathews, along with several members of our team, packed up a selection of stage backdrops and headed down to work with the kids. The day started with talks on how backdrops are developed and how to properly hang them, but it became a hands on experience very quickly.

students hanging a backdrop at Largo Cultural Center Theatre CampThe kids did everything from unpacking the drops, to installing them on the lift system and steaming out any wrinkles that may have set in while the drops were folded. They even learned to hang headers and legs, properly spacing them from the main drop and experimenting with adding depth to a staging area. The lesson didn’t stop there. Once the drops were properly hung the students learned to highlight aspects of a backdrop and to focus on particular portions of the stage with lighting.

Instructor points out damage on Road to Oz backdrop As in any good training session the children learned about how to avoid mistakes.  One of the most impactful demonstrations of what not to do was the installation and review of one of TheatreWorld’s Road to Oz backdrops.  This backdrop had been used by a TheatreWorld client who put intense theatrical lighting too close to the backdrop in an attempt to create a visual effect.  Joe carefully explained what and how the damage was created, but more importantly he explained that if our backdrop had not been properly treated with approved Flame Retardant materials the entire backdrop could have ignited and caused serious issues for the facility and audience.

TheatreWorld's Castle on the beach backdrop at the largo Cultural CentertheatreWorld's Coral Kingdom backdrop at the Largo Cultural CenterPrior to the conclusion of this day of learning the youth team installed the TheatreWorld backdrop show package that was deployed for Largo’s performance of THE LITTLE MERMAID JUNIOR. As you can see the students did a wonderful job hanging the drops and preparing the stage for the show. The performances were the result of a lot of hard work from the team at Largo Cultural Center and the kids who opted to spend a portion of their summer learning about the technical aspects of the theatrical arts. The day with the kids let us reminisce about our summers spent at theatre camp. Camps like this one are a great opportunity for learning and  creating lifelong memories. Rick and Terri of Stages Productions, the theatrical team that worked with the actors for the production, have once again done an excellent job with the camp’s annual production.


NUTCRACKER Backdrop Suite Now Releasing!

This past spring our Creative Team began the process of reimagining the scenery needs for what is often considered to be the preeminent ballet of the holiday season. They started by studying productions of THE NUTCRACKER that date back over a century. The goal was to create a suite of TheatreWorld Signature Series NUTCRACKER backdrops that combined the history and flare of traditional presentations with modern theatrical aesthetics. The end result is a show package of gorgeous drops that hint at both the Victorian and Baroque periods while satisfying the imagery needs of the ballet with a modern approach to design and vivid colors.

We are excited to be able to introduce the first 5 of 12 unique designs that will support productions of THE NUTCRACKER as well as a variety of additional holiday themed shows and events. The initial backdrops will all be available in TheatreWorld’s Traditional Stage size, 40’ x 18’, with nearly half of the designs also being produced for Large Stages, measuring in at 48’ x 20’. As robust as this new package is the initial designs are being produced in limited quantities, so please order early to ensure availability for your production dates.

Our Glass Palace Foyer backdrop was designed for the opening scenes of THE NUTCRACKER. It features an elegant foyer built of hardwood and perfectly crafted windows that reveal a winter wonderland outside. Your onstage imagery transitions seamlessly when used in conjunction with our Nutcracker Christmas Tree drop. The hardwood framed windows and snow topped firs that are featured in the Glass Palace Foyer are re-scaled and included in our Nutcracker Christmas Tree drop, reinforcing that the room has grown by a feat of magic.

TheatreWorld's Glass Palace Foyer backdrop for THE NUTCRACKER

Our NUTCRACKER Christmas Tree backdrop is “bigger than life”. By design the Christmas Tree and presents have been enlarged. This visually accommodates the famous “fight scene” where the Nutcracker and his Toy Army battle with the Mouse King and his rodent followers. This backdrop will easily support your dancers portraying both armies, making the “growth” of the toys and rodents that much more believable from a visual standpoint.

TheatreWorld's Nutcracker Christmas Tree backdrop for THE NUTCRACKER

The Christmas Present Legs were designed to work accordingly with the Christmas Tree backdrop. The legs feature larger than life presents, a variety of popular toys, and even a gingerbread house for the Gingerbread Army. All of the imagery is sized to accommodate the perspective that the dancers are in fact the size of toys. This theatrical leg package can be used to mix up your on-stage imagery, add depth, or to widen your stage.

TheatreWOrld's Christmas Present Legs

Our Winter Solstice backdrop portrays a classic winter night with a full moon and beautifully detailed snowflakes. This backdrop was designed to support scenes that take place in the Land of Snow. As with many of our other holiday and winter backdrops that provide imagery for woodland snow scenes this drop is sure to be a go-to for a variety of holiday themed recitals and events.

THeatreWorld's Winter Solstice backdrop depicting general winter imagery for THE NUTCRACKER

In keeping in tune with necessary imagery our team has developed our Classical Kingdom of the Sweets backdrop. Inspired by the set design concepts of the traditional Russian ballet offerings this backdrop delivers fantasy based imagery with a good dose of class. All of your favorite sweets make a cameo, along with set pieces that are painted into the backdrop, leaving the stage itself to the art of dance.

TheatreWorld's Classical Kingdom of the Sweets backdrop for THE NUTCRACKER

Our Teams are currently hard at work finalizing and painting the remainder of TheatreWorld’s NUTCRACKER suite. In coming days and weeks our backdrop rental inventory will have additional selections including: 2 Baroque Ballroom backdrops, 2 Victorian Ballroom backdrops, and 2 styles of Victorian Parlor backdrops. All of these upcoming designs are scheduled to be in inventory by the end of the summer and will be available for the upcoming holiday season. We have a sneak peak at the upcoming Baroque Ballroom backdrop in the form of our official artist’s sketch. We may change a nuance or two, but the image below sums up what we have in mind for a high-end baroque interior. With this many imagery options you are sure to be able to share this classic holiday ballet with imagery that meets your exact vision.

Baroque Ballroom artist's sketch

While THE NUTCRACKER has been a main focus for our Creative Team, they have also developed entire show packages to support THE ADDAMS FAMILY and MARY POPPINS (expect MTI to release the rights to MARY POPINS this fall) this summer. They have also developed an array of individual backdrop to strengthen the available imagery for popular theatrical, dance and event themes. Feel free to visit our Latest Backdrop Page to see what’s new!

NBC’s Upcoming PETER PAN THE MUSICAL Gives Theatre Another Outlet

With all of the media options out there when it comes to entertainment musical theatre has a ton of competition. It has even lead some to wonder what is in store for stage productions in the future. That is exactly why we are so glad to hear about NBC’s plan to share a live production of PETER PAN THE MUSICAL on prime time television. NBC did something similar last year with THE SOUND OF MUSIC, and it is great to see that public response has lead to the decision makers at NBC making it happening again.

Peter Pan logoNBC aired a rendition of PETPER PAN THE MUSICAL in 1955 after the original run on Broadway was so well received. It featured Mary Martin and Cyril Richard from the Broadway production, and drew in 65 million viewers. That’s a great number today, in 1955 an audience of that size constituted the largest television audience for a single program at the time. Based on NBC’s success with THE SOUND OF MUSIC last December they have green-lighted yet another opportunity for Peter, Wendy and the rest of the gang to share the production on national television.

Christopher Walken was casted as Captain Hook earlier this month. Walken is a great choice as he is not only an accomplished in Hollywood, but also has an extensive number of theatrical credits. Just this week it was announced that Allison Williams of HBO’s Girls has been casted for the lead role of Peter. This keeps the tradition of female leads playing Peter Pan alive and likens the upcoming production to traditional presentations of the script. There are theories on casting female leads in this production ranging from symbolism representing Peter’s resentment of ever becoming a man, to English laws forbidding children on-stage after 9PM during original runs of the show, to the role being too vocally demanding for a younger actor. In either case NBC has selected Williams who does have at least some stage credits to her name. It was rumored that Miley Cyrus was being sought out for the role, but no word on whether NBC was planning on a “twerking” Peter Pan. The rest of the cast is yet to be announced and most likely yet to be cast.

We are beyond excited to see that musical theatre is being shared via more mediums. It is a good sign for the Arts and is just another way that theatre is staying alive and making its mark even as technology advances. No word yet on who will serve as Creative Director or otherwise develop the sets, but as it is a network television production they are sure to be stunning. What we do expect is for this production to kick start a trend in PETER PAN production in the spring of 2015 as a result of the fan fervor that the television airing will create. If you are planning on sharing the tale on stage selections from our PETER PAN backdrop suite have been featured on a Pan themed CBS production in the past. Like us, we are sure that you will be tuned in to the live performance this coming December. Oh, and if you had any questions on whether Allison Williams can handle the vocals check out the clip below.


Injecting Your Vision Into THE WIZARD OF OZ With Set Design

Lincoln High SChool's production of the WIZARD OF OZTHE WIZARD OF OZ is one of the most popular productions in all of musical theatre.  The story is known and loved by audiences of all ages. Directors have access to four, yes four, different scripts that allow them to share this production in a way that meets the capabilities of their cast, and best shares their vision of Dorothy and her trip to and from the magical Land of Oz. With an abundance of scripts, professional costume options, and no limit to the extent to which Stage and Lighting Designers can utilize lighting, set pieces and WIZARD OF OZ backdrops, this is one production that can truly be tapered to your exact vision.

Choosing the Best Script 

The most popular versions of THE WIZARD OF OZ are based on the storyline shared in the cinematic adaptation first released in 1939. Licensing for these adaptations is available from Tams Witmark. If you have an older cast then you will select either the MUNY version or R.S.C. version of the show. Both include all of the musical numbers made famous by the movie, however they differ slightly in their presentation.

  • The MUNY version contains the key elements and plotlines of the movie, but is geared towards being performed on-stage. The presentation calls for fewer effects and the script is written to be designed and performed as a traditional stage show. If you have a high school aged cast this may be the script for you.
  • The R.S.C. version embraces the movie and brings it to life on-stage. It requires more technical effects and is more demanding vocally for your chorus and actors. If you have a larger casts, more advanced vocalists, and a fly system available then this is your WIZARD OF OZ.

If you have a young cast, then you still have two scripts to choose from. One from Tams Witmark and another from Musical Theatre International.

  • Tams Witmark’s WIZARD OF OZ – Young Performers’ Edition is ideal for Directors who have middle or grade school aged casts. The script is reduced to a one hour run time, yet it still contains critical scenes, popular musical numbers, and the feel of the film version.
  • Musical Theatre International licenses the Prince Street Players version of THE WIZARD OF OZ. This script is part of MTI’s Theatre for Young Actors collection making it ideal for Directors with grade and middle school aged casts and crews. It is important to note that this version is based upon the original book, and as such does not contain all of the musical numbers and finite details associated with the film.

Key Scenes to Make Your Mark

Auntie Em’s Farm

TheatreWorld's Black and White Prairie Farm backdrop used in WIZARD OF OZ opening scenes.

Our Black and White Prairie Farm is a popular choice for Auntie Em’s Farm.


TheatreWorld's Black and White Prairie Farm backdrop with gold lighting

With proper lighting and a fly system our Black and White Prairie Farm has a new visual tone.

One of the first decisions that you will have to make is how to set the initial scenes that take place in Kansas. If you are sharing the Tams Witmark version and want to mirror that exact presentation then your opening scene(s) will be presented in black and white. Grayscale set pieces and costumes can be used in tandem with black and white stage backdrops to easily pull this off. TheatreWorld’s selection of WIZARD OF OZ backdrops contains a variety of black and white backdrops, from a full on farm up to general agricultural fields, to support scenes based in Kansas. If you want a different feel then you can opt for color in your opening scenes. Many Directors have combined vibrant set pieces and colorful backdrops (all of our black and white backdrops for WIZARD OF OZ are also available in color) to give their rendition of the show a modern update.


The Haunted Forest

TheatreWorld's Hanted Forest backdrop used in a IZARD OF OZ production by Brookville High

Our Haunted Forest backdrop was designed for THE WIZARD OF OZ & has supported many productions.

Stage Productions Family Theatre usinf TheatreWorld's Extremely Dark Forest backdrop

our Extremely Dark Forest backdrop is highly suitable for the Haunted Forest.


Dorothy and company’s trip through the Haunted Forest also allows Directors and Set Designers to put their own touch on the show. While our Creative Team has designed a drop specifically to support a traditional view of the Haunted Forest, many directors opt to search our selection of forest backdrops in order to find the imagery that speaks to how they envision the Haunted Forest. While the “darker” designs almost always win out some Directors have opted for realistic looking forestry, and added “haunted” elements via set pieces and stage lighting. When it comes down to it the visuals are yours to control and present as you see fit. Creating the exact sets that you have in mind is a fully attainable goal.

The Wicked Witch’s Castle

TheatreWorld'sDragon's lair backdrop used in a production of WIZARD OF OZ

Our Dragon’s Lair backdrop used in combination with targeted lighting creates a unique Wicked Witch’s Castle.


Depending upon your vision our Phantom’s Grotto backdrop may be ideal for the Wicked Witch’s abode.

When it comes to the Wicked Witch’s Castle Directors and Stage Designers have even more free range. Some select a traditional castle interior while many opt for background imagery with a darker tone to mirror that of the Wicked Witch herself. Everything from our brick-laden Dragon’s Lair to our subterranean Phantom’s Grotto backdrop have both been selected to set the scene of the Witch’s Castle. While the Prince Street Players version is most technically set in a dungeon, the latter drop is a popular addition to Tams Witmark versions as well.

Even the most classic scripts can be tailored to meet your vision. When a Director or Stage Designer adds their perception of the storyline to the on-stage imagery then they have made their mark on the script. THE WIZARD OF OZ is yet another production that allows you to show off your artistic prowess. Musical theatre is based in creativity, shouldn’t your sets be an extension of yours?