In Its 105th Season, The Muny Will Continue to Dazzle Theatergoers
By Rachel Huffman
With every season, The Muny stages an eclectic mix of musicals that reflect the vitality and diversity of its audiences. The shows are enchanting, electrifying and empowering, and every night, there are free seats available on a first-come first-served basis, so everyone can experience the magic of live theater.
For more than 100 years, the outdoor theater has filled Forest Park with the sounds of Broadway, attracting out-of-town professionals as well as local talent for memorable musicals ranging from As You Like It (the very first production ever mounted at what would become The Muny) to Kinky Boots. Every season features first-rate productions that stir up audiences – think Chicago, Footloose, Jesus Christ Superstar, Legally Blonde and Matilda the Musical.
“[The Muny] is one of the greatest things St. Louis has ever created,” Mike Isaacson, artistic director and executive producer of The Muny, says. “It’s one of the most democratic theaters in the U.S., and it’s known around the world. The way that we present musicals puts us in our own category; there’s literally no one else that does what we do.”
For many Broadway stars, taking part in a production at The Muny is a bucket list item. “It’s a singular experience,” Isaacson says. “The core of that is the audience. You get to share your gifts with 10,000 people a night – there’s nothing like that.
“There’s a profound humanity in the way that we produce musicals,” he continues. “At the risk of sounding cliché, it’s magical, and that’s why artists want to be a part of it.”
For the 105th season, The Muny will – once again – present extraordinary productions with world-class talent, beginning with Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, an inspiring true story of a music legend. With a tapestry of creativity and innovation, Carole King paved the way for female artists for generations to come, and the musical’s Grammy Award-winning album features more than two dozen of her pop classics, including “It’s Too Late,” “You’ve Got a Friend” and “I Feel the Earth Move.” Beautiful will run from June 12 to 18.
From June 22 to 30, The Muny will present Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. With spectacular sets and costumes – and a touch of magic – the production brings all your favorite fanciful characters to life for an enchanting evening under the stars. Join Belle, the Beast, Mrs. Potts, Cogsworth, Lumiere and the rest of the fabled castle’s spellbound staff for an all-ages summer celebration.
“Each show has its own purpose,” Isaacson says. “Beautiful and Beauty and the Beast are very different ideas. We identify each production’s purpose and then determine the best approach to allow audiences to experience it.”
When piecing together a season, The Muny includes a title or two that will attract a new audience. Enter Chess.
Before Mamma Mia!, members of ABBA teamed up with Tim Rice to create the dynamic drama centered on the World Chess Championship, mirroring the 1980s Cold War tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The dazzling pop rock score, including hit single “One Night in Bangkok,” became a worldwide smash.
Chess makes its move to St. Louis – host of the first World Chess Championship – and onto the Muny stage for the first time, as the game’s long history continues to rise in popularity. In partnership with the Saint Louis Chess Club and World Chess Hall of Fame, The Muny will show Chess from July 5 to 11.
Next, The Muny will present a love story that has stood the test of time. In West Side Story, Tony and Maria find themselves in each other’s arms in a dance of romance, but can they escape the tensions in the streets?
The iconic rivalry between the Sharks and the Jets leaps onto the Muny stage from July 15 to 21. Tapping your toes to “Maria,” “Tonight” and “I Feel Pretty,” you’ll fall in love with this story all over again.
“This will be the ninth production of West Side Story in the history of The Muny,” Isaacson says, “but none of them have looked the same. We don’t pull anything out of a box; everything is created for today’s audiences.”
A delicious comedy for the heart of summer, Little Shop of Horrors will run from July 25 to 31. The campy thriller follows meek floral assistant Seymour on his quest to win over the love of his life, Audrey. Unfortunately, a total eclipse of the sun and a scheming man-eating plant take over Seymour’s life and threaten his dream.
Expect the unexpected from this production at The Muny. The hangry tale will feed your inner quirkiness, but remember: Whatever you do, don’t feed the plant!
After Little Shop of Horrors, we head to New York City’s East Village in the 1980s for Rent. A story of strength, revolution and survival, the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning musical teaches us to measure our lives in love. Rent will run from Aug. 4 to 10.
“At some of these shows, there will be hundreds of people who have never been to the theater,” Isaacson says. “It’s our responsibility to welcome them and to show them what’s possible.”
The 105th season of The Muny concludes with Sister Act from Aug. 14 to 20. Based on the smash-hit film, Sister Act is a divine musical comedy that proves nothing can stand in the way of sisterhood.
Disco diva Deloris dreams of fame and fortune, but is she prepared for the way she receives it? Featuring songs inspired by Motown, soul and disco, including “Take Me to Heaven,” “Fabulous, Baby!” and “Raise Your Voice,” the score is sure to raise your spirits.
St. Louis is lucky to have a cultural institution like The Muny, and we recommend seeing a show this season, whether it’s your first or 40th visit.
“The Muny is like a beloved family member who you make sure to see every summer,” Isaacson says. “Here, you’re going to have a night unlike any other.”