The Muny | St. Louis Public Radio

The Muny

Sarah Bockel performs as Carole King in "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical," which returns to the Fox Theatre March 12 through 17.  March 12, 2019
Joan Marcus

When “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” opens its 2019 North American tour at the Fabulous Fox Theatre Tuesday evening, it will be a bit of a homecoming for stage producer Paul Blake.

Blake, who joined host Don Marsh on Tuesday’s St. Louison the Air, spent 22 years as executive producer at the Muny. He left the Forest Park summer stage after the 2011 season while he was putting “Beautiful” together, and he told Marsh that his experience at the Muny was vital to developing the show.

“Had I not been at the Muny for 22 years, 'Beautiful' would not be what it is. Those years educated me so much,” he said.

Ken Page reprised his role as Old Deuteronomy in The Muny's 2010 production of "Cats," a role he originated the musical's 1982 Broadway debut.
The Muny

Ken Page, whose career took him from The Muny to Broadway and the big screen, will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award Monday from the local Arts and Education Council.

Page is known for creating the character of Old Deuteronomy in the Broadway debut of the iconic musical “Cats” and as the voice of Oogie Boogie in Tim Burton’s film “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

During a nearly 40-year career, the Fontbonne University graduate has played hundreds of roles in film and on stages in New York and St. Louis.

The old stage at The Muny is already gone, and construction of a new one is in progress. 1/1/19
Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio

The Muny is on track to finish most of its planned renovations in time for the start of the 2019 season in June.

The outdoor theater in Forest Park has so far announced $42.7 million in donations toward its $100 million goal, managing director Kwofe Coleman said.

The Muny acknowledged a gift of $20 million from James and Elizabeth McDonnell of JSM Charitable Trust in August, and 12 gifts of $1 million each in December.

Kennedy Holmes performed a cover of the song "Confident" in the live finale of "The Voice" on Monday night.
Tyler Golden | NBC

For her fans in St. Louis, it was a tragedy that Kennedy Holmes did not win "The Voice" last week. But for the 14-year-old singer, she said she feels like she still won big.

After all, Holmes got to learn from the best, including Mariah Carey, Kelly Rowland, Blake Shelton and Jennifer Hudson, who was her coach for the nationally televised singing competition.

RhonniRose Mantilla, wearing a red dress, rehearses Thursday night for an upcoming community production of West Side Story in July.
Monica Mileur | COCA

Famed Broadway lyricist and composer Stephen Sondheim dismissed complaints that white actors should not be cast to portray people of color.

He made his remarks as a guest on Thursday’s episode of St. Louis on the Air.

The issue is freshly in the news with the cancellation last month of a student production of the 1957 musical “West Side Story” after Latino cast members complained that the director cast white actors to portray key Puerto Rican characters.

The Muny box office sells tickets for its 100th season, which has drawn criticism for its production of "Jerome Robbins' Broadway." June 30, 2018
Brian Heffernan | St. Louis Public Radio

The boos launched by a group of protesters mid-show at the Muny two weeks ago are continuing to reverberate. Actors and directors of color in St. Louis say it’s time for theaters to stop casting white actors to portray people of color.

A group of visiting theater artists decry the first show of the season at the Muny. 6/16/18
via Facebook

Updated on June 18 at 1:50 p.m. to include the Muny's written response — A group of theater artists visiting St. Louis for a professional conference staged a demonstration during the performance at the Muny on Friday night, objecting to what they described as offensive elements in “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway,” a revue of scenes from famous American musicals.

The group, which numbered about 15, booed in unison during an excerpt from the musical “The King and I.” Muny employees quickly led the protesters away and and ejected them from the venue.

Demonstrators objected to the portrayal of a character from Burma (now called Myanmar) by a white actress. They also decried other parts of the show as displaying inappropriate cultural appropriation.

The Muny is looking to extend its lease to 2071, and free up some funds earmarked for parking lot upkeep. A city fund for that purpose has a surplus of approximately $180,000.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

The Muny is one step closer to extending its stay in Forest Park. The Board of Alderman’s Parks Committee voted 4-0 Thursday to extend the outdoor theater’s lease to 2071 and make other changes. The full board is expected to give final approval before its summer recess in mid-July.

The Muny’s lease with the city had been set to expire in 2031. The early extension will help the organization secure donors for its $100 million capital campaign,  Dennis Reagan, Muny president and CEO, told board members.

The Muny is looking to extend its lease to 2071, and free up some funds earmarked for parking lot upkeep. A city fund for that purpose has a surplus of approximately $180,000. 6/14/18
The Muny

Directly behind the stage at the Muny on a recent morning, workers were hammering, sawing and welding together sets that will appear onstage this season, in some of the theater’s seven productions.

“As we’re performing one show at night we’re actually building two to three other shows during the day,” said Sean Smith, the operations director for the outdoor theater. “We’re finishing up sets for the opening on Monday but then we’re also looking at the next few shows, building for ‘The Wiz,’ which is coming up next.”

As it begins its 100th season this week, the Municipal Theater Association of St. Louis has one eye on the past. But it has another on the future, in the form of series of planned renovations due to be completed after this summer season and before the 2019 campaign.

Curator Sharon Smith notes that roughly 55 million people have attended shows at the Muny in Forest Park over the course of the outdoor theater’s 99 seasons thus far.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

As the Muny marks its centennial season of outdoor musical theater, another Forest Park mainstay is also celebrating the milestone – with “Muny Memories: 100 Seasons Onstage.” That show opens Saturday at the Missouri History Museum.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh offered listeners a sneak peek at the new exhibit, which explores the Muny from many different perspectives. Joining him for the discussion was curator Sharon Smith.

The Muny's 100th season includes several favorites that will return to the stage of the outdoor theater.
Provided | The Muny

The Muny outdoor theater today announced a 100th season that honors its St. Louis heritage, classic musicals and the African-American rendition of Dorothy’s journey into Oz.

The banner season includes several favorites such as “Meet Me in St. Louis.” Muny-goers last saw the musical about the tribulations of a St. Louis family against the backdrop of the 1904 World’s Fair nine years ago.

Jazz St. Louis Executive Director Gene Dobbs Bradford
File photo | Dennis C. Owsley

The Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis will honor two performing arts advocates with lifetime achievement awards during the 2018 St. Louis Arts Awards.

Actor and singer Nicholas Rodriguez will take the stage this Wednesday and Thursday in this year's edition of Muny Magic at The Sheldon with a show titled, "My 70s Show – A Night with Nicholas Rodriguez."
photo provided

Singer and actor Nicholas Rodriguez is no stranger to St. Louis. He’s also effusive in his love for the city and The Muny, where he’s performed in five productions since 2010.

Rodriguez most recently portrayed the Tin Man in last year’s Muny production of The Wizard of Oz. He also has played the title role in Tarzan and Beast in Beauty and the Beast.

“It’s awesome. More than any theater I’ve worked with in the country, The Muny just takes such great care of us,” Rodriguez told St. Louis on the Air contributor Steve Potter.

Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company

PNC Bank will distribute $1 million over the next four years to help fund arts groups in the St. Louis region.

The grants, part of PNC's Arts Alive funding initiative, have a larger focus than just keeping organizations afloat in the short term.  They aim to inspire lasting programs that reinvigorate arts organizations.

Since 2011, the Arts Alive program has distributed $2 million to established theater companies, museums and dance companies. Recipients include Dance St. Louis, Opera Theater of St. Louis and The Muny. 

The Rep, The Muny, Stages St. Louis

Stages St. Louis hopes its current production of “Sister Act” will do what the Whoopi Goldberg character in the movie did for her Catholic convent choir: Shake it up — at least where its audiences are concerned.

The theater company’s patrons are not very diverse. Executive Producer Jack Lane, describes the Stages St. Louis audience this way: “suburban, white.”

Attracting more theater-goers of color, while addressing important social-justice concerns on the front burner in St. Louis right now, is important to St. Louis’ larger theater companies, which include the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, The Muny and Stages. Adding more minority patrons could help with the perennial issue of aging subscribers and donors. But it’s also a way to stay relevant at a time when St. Louis is more riveted than ever on race.

One of the world's foremost Wizard of Oz historians, John Fricke, will join St. Louis on the Air on Monday.
eyemage | Flickr | http://bit.ly/24GmVic

Ah, sweet summertime in St. Louis. The birds are chirping, our hair is frizzing out and another local tradition is about to begin its 98th season: The Muny. The first show in its lineup? “The Wizard of Oz.” But what’s the history of such a popular musical?

If Tony award-winning actress Beth Leavel says it, let it be so: She says that her role as Dolly in The Muny’s 2014 production of “Hello Dolly!” is one of her top roles of all time. Interestingly enough, it is also the first role she would like to slip back into, given the chance.

Actor Ben Nordstrom
Durrie Bouscaren

He’s a two-time Kevin Kline Award-winner, and a well-known star of the Muny’s “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story" and numerous Stages St. Louis shows including “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying.” Plus, he has years of New York and regional experience.

But actor Ben Nordstrom doesn’t hesitate to play second fiddle. Or third. Or a mere chorus guy named “Mike” in the The Muny’s current production of “Oklahoma,” which is also his home state.

Mike Isaacson
The MUNY

On June 15, The Muny kicked-off its 97th season with “My Fair Lady.” Scheduled this season are three premiere productions along with returning favorites such as “Hairspray.”

On Friday’s “Cityscape,” Mike Isaacson, artistic director and executive producer of The Muny, joined host Steve Potter to discuss this season’s productions. Isaacson also had a hand in producing the Broadway musical “Fun Home,” which received five Tony Awards.  

So, what goes into lining up The Muny’s season?

Lydia Berry, number 100, in orange leotard
The Muny

Ever thought about trying out for America's oldest, largest outdoor theater?

Each year, the 98-year-old St. Louis Muny holds open auditions; anyone can come. Singers and dancers try out on different weekends.

St. Louis Theater Circle Announces 2015 Nominees

Jan 30, 2015
Provided by the Actors Studio

The St. Louis Theater Circle, a group of local theater critics, released its 2015 award nominees on Friday. 

“It was, I think, a terrific year,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch theater critic Judith Newmark told “Cityscape” host Steve Potter on Friday. “It was a year in which we lost one theater — that’s always going to happen. There also are some new people on the horizon. And it was a year in which, I think Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, which is a free event that draws huge crowds, really came into its own with a double production of ‘Henry IV’ and ‘Henry V.’”

The Muny

The St. Louis Muny has announced its 2015 season, which includes three shows that are new to its stage.

The Muny is looking to extend its lease to 2071, and free up some funds earmarked for parking lot upkeep. A city fund for that purpose has a surplus of approximately $180,000.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

Coming away with a new favorite song is part of the Muny tradition for thousands of St. Louis families. But some families are taking home more than a catchy tune — they’re also leaving with paychecks.

Five members of the Heet family have worked at the Muny as ushers. Two are still on the job. Alex Heet, 21, is a college student in her fifth summer at the Muny. Her sister, Sarah, 18, is ushering for a third year.

Courtesy the MUNY

The MUNY opened its 2014 season on Monday, June 16 with the first of seven scheduled shows. The offerings this summer include four premieres and the usual mix of classics, family shows and new productions.

Michael Isaacson, the MUNY’s artistic director and executive producer, appeared on Cityscape this week to give an overview of the season and talk about how the organization is gearing up for its 100th anniversary.

The MUNY’s 2014 season

Billy Elliot the Musical June 16 – 22

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Two extraordinary singers worked theatrical magic last week, singing beautiful music simultaneously in shows whose intricate beauties sweep us away, no matter how often we see them. Coincidence and propinquity brought “South Pacific” and “Madama Butterfly” together in the city’s West End. I saw each on successive evenings and found it impossible not to connect the dots in an effort to understand better the importance of these shows and the lessons they teach, lessons begging still, after all these years, to be absorbed and put into quotidien practice.

Young stars shine at Les Miz

Jul 12, 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Many children who grow up watching the story of Jean Valjean, sing and act along as he ducks and dives through French alleyways alluding capture from the relentless Inspector Javert.

Most can only dream of acting these out on stage. Most, not all.

Alex Prakken
Provided by the Muny

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When Alex Prakken was a youngster, his favorite Broadway tune was “Bigger Isn’t Better” from the musical “Barnum.” But now, bigger is awesome.

don't use bigger than 300 Mike Isaacson of the muny
Provided by the Muny | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: As the Muny turns 95, it’s never been cooler. Literally.

Monday’s "Spamalot" opening debuts a new fan system designed to provide a more comfortable experience with no accompanying noise. Efforts are also underway to make the overall St. Louis institution cooler, as in more hip. As part of that, this season offers three more Muny premieres in addition to "Spamalot."

Mike Isaacson
The MUNY

As The MUNY opens its 95th season of outdoor musical theatre in Forest Park, Executive Producer Mike Isaacson is excited about the number of “firsts.”  Four of the productions are MUNY premieres including Monty Python’s Spamalot which opens the season, Shrek The Musical, Nunsense Muny Style! and Mary Poppins.  In the production of Mary Poppins, for the first time in MUNY history, a character will fly over the audience.

Venerable Muny gets a flashy new look

Jun 18, 2012

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 18, 2012 - Since the summer of 1916, the St. Louis Muny has been a beloved landmark, defining many residents’ summers with a musical relief from the heat, or at least a temporary distraction.

As Muny devotees head to "Thoroughly Modern Millie" this week or plan  outings to this summer’s other six shows, they can look forward to something new. Its 2012 summer season will feature new technology to back up  Millie, Aladdin and Joseph. Replacing the theater’s tried and true canvas backdrop is a state-of-the-art LED Scenery Wall.

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