After a record-breaking online summer season, The Muny announced today Muny Holiday Magic. A special four-day holiday video series, Muny Holiday Magic will feature performances from Muny family across the country, including The Muny Kids and Teens. Each free pre-recorded performance will air daily at 12:00 p.m. CST Dec. 21 – 25 via The Muny’s social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
The Muny Holiday Magic schedule is:
Dec. 21 – Members of The Muny Kids and Teens performing “Underneath the Tree.” Dec. 22 – Members of The Muny Kids and Teens performing “The Chanukah Song (We Are Lights).” Dec. 23 – A medley of “The 12 Days of Quarantine” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” featuring Broadway and The Muny’s Jason Gotay, Mamie Parris, Nasia Thomas, St. Louis favorites and more than 30 Muny family from coast to coast.
“The 12 Days of Quarantine” features original lyrics written by Gordon Greenberg and Steve Rosen and stars Muny 2020 Summer Variety Hour Live! favorites Maya Bowles, Stephen Buntrock and Erin Dilly with their family, Beth Crandall, Chloe O. Davis, Colby Dezelick, Emma Gassett, Jason Gotay, Matt Kunkel, James T. Lane, Raymond J. Lee, Mamie Parris, Tony Scandora, Trevor Michael Schmidt, Jack Sippel, Blakely Slaybaugh, Gabi Stapula and Nasia Thomas, with music direction by Michael Horsley, orchestrations and arrangements by Andrew Graham, video editing by Matthew Young and many more surprises.
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” The Muny’s take on the Meet Me In St. Louis classic, stars St. Louis favorites Leah Berry, Patrick Blindauer, Duane Martin Foster, Zoe Vonder Haar, Julie Hanson, Kennedy Holmes, Kamal Lado, Ben Nordstrom, Rich Pisarkiewicz and April Strelinger, with music direction and arrangements by Michael Horsley, video editing by Matthew Young, sound design by Bill Buzan and video captured by Switch.
Dec. 24 – Broadway, West End and Muny star Ken Page reading the timeless holiday classic The Night Before Christmas. “The voice” of not only The Muny, but also Oogie Boogie in The Nightmare Before Christmas, Ken has been a Muny staple in over 40 productions.
On Dec. 25, a compilation of the four shows will air as a complete package. Each holiday video will be available until midnight Dec. 31, 2020.
To stay connected virtually and to receive the latest updates, please follow The Muny on their social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. ###
The Muny’s mission is to enrich lives by producing exceptional musical theatre, accessible to all, while continuing its remarkable tradition in Forest Park. As the nation’s largest outdoor musical theatre, we produce seven world-class musicals each year and welcome over 350,000 theatregoers over our nine-week season. Celebrating 102 seasons in St. Louis, The Muny remains one of the premier institutions in musical theatre.
For more information about The Muny, visit muny.org
By Lynn Venhaus
we see magic happen under the stars in Forest Park. This summer, we saw a
different kind of Muny Magic – but enchanted evenings nonetheless.
It took a global pandemic for the Muny to achieve its greatest magic trick ever – they transformed our isolation into a community through a live variety special.
And they did it with such hard work and passion. Using modern technology, incredibly creative professionals and tip-top talent from coast to coast, it was a huge undertaking, which was obvious to anyone who tuned in for even a fraction of an episode.
For the fifth Summer Variety Hour Live! on Monday, Aug. 17, the Muny supersized the presentation and it was a splashy grand finale, tugging on our heartstrings in a big but intimate way. So much genuine emotion in new works, in memories and archival footage that reminded us how special our outdoor theatre is, the largest and oldest one in the country.
Seeing Muny mainstay Beth Leavel perform her showstopper
“Rose’s Turn” from “Gypsy” (2018) with the view from the wings! My heart was
bursting. Tari Kelly leading the ebullient “Forget About the Boy” in
“Thoroughly Modern Millie” (2012) and one of the all-time great musical theater
numbers, ‘Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat” from last year’s “Guys and Dolls,”
with the surprise appearance by Kennedy Holmes to hit those high notes. I was
grinning ear to ear. The Mission: Feel-Good was on!
For five episodes, the Muny reinvigorated its treasure
trove of tradition, 102 years strong, to provide virtual entertainment that
filled the void of a cancelled season. The collaborative spirit on display was
Let’s face it, the summer has been dismal, especially with
rising coronavirus cases in our bi-state region. More things shut down and were
postponed in a never-ending stream of disappointments in 2020. But as a gift to
“the Muny family,” the management and creative teams conceived a way to connect
us. We all felt it, whether tuning in on Monday or catching the rerun on
Thursday from July 20 to Aug. 17 as the evening twilight faded.
For a brief shining moment, it seemed like old times. The
8:15 p.m. start was a constant to look forward to in an uncertain year during
an unprecedented public health crisis. With Executive Producer and Artistic Director Mike Isaacson’s bold and
unique concept, and his ability to attract the talent he did, each episode was
a captivating mix of tempo and tone, under the direction of multi-talented
What an emotional palette we experienced, touching on why
we love the Muny, from veteran performer Colby Dezelick’s touching original
song, “I Will Be Your Home” — with a behind-the-scenes video love letter
dedicated to his Muny family, to sweet Jenny Powers describing her feelings
about flying above the audience as Mary Poppins in 2013, and how the staff took
such good care of her. Straight to the heart.
And while seeing up-and-coming talent do what they do best
is always enjoyable, feeling their sheer joy in performing is blissful.
Watching St. Louis native and Broadway performer Richard Riaz Yoder use his
exceptional talents to dance “Broadway Melody” using the Muny as his canvas –
tap-dancing for a time in sneakers! – was breathtaking.
So was jubilant Jack Sippel’s choreographed dance number,
the cheery “You Can’t Stop the Beat!” from “Hairspray,” which was performed by
19 Muny alums and sung by Nasia Thomas, Muny vet and Broadway performer in
“Beautiful,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” and soon, the revival of “Caroline, or
In the 2017 production of “A Chorus Line,”
director-choreographer Denis Jones used young versions of the dancers in
certain scenes, to emphasize their dreams and drive. On Monday, they showed the
wistful “At the Ballet” number, which was performed by Holly Ann Butler as
Sheila, Bronwyn Tarboton as Maggie and Caley Crawford as Bebe, with little
ballerinas in view.
As lump-in-the-throat as that song is, nothing can match the show’s curtain
call for its spectacular finish, and they recreated it for The Muny Centennial
Gala, complete with fireworks. Such a thrilling moment to revisit.
The energy, enthusiasm and talent of the Muny Teens and
Kids each episode was another heart-tugger. Because six teens were graduating,
they had a special senior sendoff: Michael Harp, Cate Phillips, Michael Lee
Jr., Fiona Scott, Jack Deters and Caitlin Chau sang “Our Time” from Stephen Sondheim’s
“Merrily We Roll Along.” I have seen these kids grow up. Misty eyes.
“Worlds to change, and worlds to win Our turn,
The Muny Kids’ adorable and confident youngsters mashed up
“Come Alive” from the film “The Greatest Showman,” with songs by Oscar and Tony
winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, with “A Little More Homework” from Jason
Robert Brown’s “13.”
For comic relief, there was the fun “Munywood Squares” game show, good sports all, and jolly John Tartaglia reprising his Murray the Muny Raccoon schtick, making Isaacson laugh.
Isaacson, who has been the visionary executive producer and
artistic director since the 2012 season, named to the post in 2010, cares
deeply about the Muny’s place in historic context and local lore, and with his
Broadway experience, he’s able to give us quality casts, teams and a really
Clearly wearing his heart on his sleeve as this summer’s host, he gave us something that we could enjoy on many levels and for many reasons. Isaacson has multiple Tony Awards and 24 Broadway shows and national tours to his credit. He makes things happen in a way that elevates the Muny in stature, boosting our civic pride, but also gains respect in the larger theatrical world. His reverence for the art form is obvious, and he has shown us, time and again, the possibilities of what the Muny can accomplish.
That connection that he spoke of, all the people who came
together without hesitation, all the selfless devotion, a renewed sense of
purpose – it felt very real and elicited a teary farewell.
I think, like “Field of Dreams,” Forest Park and the Muny are
mystical places. After all, musical theatre is a constant in our lives, like
baseball. We want to believe that in a time of everything turned upside down,
of norms being shattered, that there exists a place we feel safe, happy, loved.
That sharing theater and music brings us together like no other art form.
So, the Muny Variety Hour gave us the opportunity to be in
the company of performers who love the Muny like it is a family, a home. That
theme was repeated over and over. And that’s what we are craving in these anxious
And in Colby’s song: “When it’s dark, I’ll be the light.”
Another almost spiritual song was the centuries-old tune
and Muny season-ender tradition “Auld Lang Syne,” sung by Beth Malone, who
accompanied herself on acoustic guitar. Beautiful and bittersweet.
The ties that bind us, recalling happy golden days of yore. “Meet Me in St. Louis” appeared again in the line-up – of course. Yes, it’s schmaltzy, but its inclusion of the 1904 World’s Fair, which has impacted our lives and region ever since those seven months, and the work preceding it, make it a nostalgic chestnut.
couple and Muny performers Erin Dilly and Stephen R. Buntrock sang a lovely
duet, “You and I,” from their home. They appeared as Mr. and Mrs. Smith in the
2018 production, the Centennial season finale.
Kuntz, a Muny vet and two-time winner of the Best Actress Award from the St.
Louis High School Musical Theatre Awards, sang the iconic “The Trolley Song”
live from under the Culver Pavilion with polish and panache.
And then in
the sentimental sweet spot, they played “The Skinker’s Swamp” picnic scene
featuring Emily Walton as Esther and Dan DeLuca as John Truitt. The video
projection was The Palace of Fine Arts, now the St. Louis Art Museum, under
construction in a muddy field.
times have we been in the shadow of our treasured landmarks?
was watching when the Louisiana Purchase Exposition celebrated the 100th
anniversary of the U.S. expansion under Thomas Jefferson. More than 60
countries and 43 states participated from April 30 to Dec. 1 in Forest Park and
So, the Muny
and Forest Park remain crown jewels that we cherish.
Summer Variety Hour Live! reinforced our past, present and future. I’ll meet
you at the Muny next summer. Looking forward to greeting the Muny family once
more. “Through the years, we’ll always be together, if the fates allow.”
By Lynn Venhaus
With magic to do and the ‘Lou turning its lonely eyes to them, the Muny blazed
another trail Monday with its introduction of “The Muny Summer Variety Hour
The first episode was a nifty package of show tunes,
personalities, bouncy sing-a-longs, behind the scenes with dedicated staff and
several special live moments, all shared on social media in real time by an
audience spanning coast to coast. (Latest figures: 25,000 tuned in!).
Oh, what a treat to be reminded of what makes the Municipal
Opera so special for 102 years – and not only because it is the oldest and
largest outdoor theater in the country, but because it is “our Muny,” right
here in St. Louis. And summer isn’t really summer until the Muny opens.
Two of our hometown’s greatest showmen – Lara Teeter and
Ken Page – entertained us in royal fashion, with Tony nominee Lara recreating a
vintage musical dance he called “Take Me Away!” as his fleet feet took him
throughout the great expanse of the Muny grounds one sunny day. He was joined
by his son Charlie in the segment.
And live, from the Culver Pavilion, with four musicians
socially distanced, the regal Ken Page sang “Memory,” the signature song from
“Cats,” in a showstopper that was one for the ages. Night had fallen, and this
stage legend gave an emotional powerful rendition. Chills. Leaky eyes.
Add it to the countless memorable Muny moments we have
experienced over the years, even though it was remote. We all felt it sitting
in our living rooms.
When host Mike Isaacson, Muny executive producer and
artistic director, began this maiden voyage from backstage, he said: “We are
together in real time.” He is always mindful of being entrusted with the Muny
I literally burst into tears. I didn’t realize how badly we, well me, needed such a pick-me-up. Oh sure, I have been a realist as to the why, but still wistful: “This would be opening night at the Muny,” I said to myself June 15, remembering the rainbow that came out after intense rainstorm right before the opening of ‘The Wizard of Oz” in 2016.
And there are those Facebook memories that pop up, recalling how I felt about a production or selfies with my frequent Plus One, Tammy Duensing, whose belting rendition of the national anthem always gets compliments from the people in the seats around us.
In a year that is all about Plan B while trying to be safe
and adapt to unprecedented times during a public health crisis, this savvy move
to online specials was a ‘next best thing’ scenario, a balm for disappointment.
And spoiler alert – this starburst of a show is longer than an hour (thank
you!) and it has a 7-minute intermission. What a grand night for singing! And
dancing. And laughs.
What a jolly time the “Munywood Squares” trivia interlude
was, hosted by the outstanding director Gordon Greenberg, with such good sports
as E. Faye Butler, Ann Harada, Vicki Lewis, John Scherer, Christopher Sieber,
Steve Rosen, Raymond J. Lee, all Muny favorites. I was able to see contestants staffer
Jaclyn Sales and Leon Dobkowski for the first time, who has designed some of
the best costumes in recent years (Tarzan! The Wiz! Hairspray! Mamma Mia!
Seussical!) and on the panel Jeffrey Schecter (Schecky) when he is not a
whirling dervish being Scuttle or Cosmo or filling in as Pseudolus in “Forum.”
And J. Harrison Ghee, who was so memorable as Lola in “Kinky Boots” last
summer, looked like a million dollars. No signs of Quarantine 15.
Because the world turned upside down six months ago when
the coronavirus spread became a global pandemic, life as we know it has changed
in nearly every aspect. “The new normal” means live theater is on hold, for the
most part, and that meant postponing the Muny’s 102nd season line-up to 2021.
While the extended break is another sad sign of many life changes in 2020, that
didn’t stop the creative minds churning to see how little bits of summer
tradition could be rescued.
Online programming became the go-to, and the Cast Party reunion
gatherings on Monday were a wonderful opportunity to connect with people who
have given me a great deal of joy that is etched in my memories. The Muny TV YouTube
channel is a treasure trove of spectacular dance moments and lustrous voices on
a warm summer night. They brought us the Muny Magic concerts from the Sheldon,
which were a showcase for the incredible talent that graces the Muny stage, and
exciting show/cast announcements the past few years.
Using playful retro colors and designs, this “Summer
Variety Hour” throwback to 1970s staple TV programs was a merry way to
celebrate the good times we share with family and friends – only they used
modern technology to make it happen. Zoom and other virtual platforms have been
our saving grace during the lockdown.
Through the Brady Bunch grid of the Zoom, The buoyant Muny
Kids sang “Happiness” from “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” demonstrating
the exuberance of young talent. Not to be outdone, the gifted and energetic
performers, often seen in the ensemble, under the helm of the Colby Dezelick
Dancers, came together from their home spaces, to perform a lively “We Go
Together” from “Grease.” Colby’s been a fun fixture on the Muny stage – last
seen as Angie the Ox in “Guys and Dolls” and the doctor in “Matilda” in ’19.
Muny veterans Jen Cody and Hunter Foster, who have been
married for 23 years, performed “The Doctor Is In,” from “You’re a Good Man,
Charlie Brown.” Scenes of their past work – including Jen as the Grandma in
“The Addams Family” with Puggsley (Michael Harp) in one of that show’s funniest
exchanges, and Hunter in a new production of “Pirates!” were shown.
Of course, you couldn’t have a Muny show without displaying
the exquisite voices that fill the back rows of the 11,000 seats, and Emma Degerstedt as
Ariel certainly did in the inspired “The Little Mermaid” in 2017, one of my
favorite productions in the past decade. Her “Fathoms Below/Where I Belong” evoked
my water-colored memories of a sweet shimmering show. It was lovely to see the lithe
Muny ensemble dancers as well.
Brown, a Muny player during her college years who originated the role of “Mary
Poppins” on Broadway, has a glorious voice, as exemplified in “The Sound of
Music” and “Cinderella” at the Muny. She sang “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” from her
mother’s home in Florida, as her infant daughter napped.
Through archived clips, we saw a rousing “A Brand New Day” from the resurgent “The Wiz” in 2018, featuring Danyel Fulton as Dorothy, Jared Grimes as the Scarecrow, James T. Lane as the Tin Man and Darius de Haas as the Cowardly Lion. And “Lida Rose” from “The Music Man” with the Barbershop Quartet of Ben Nordstrom, Adam Halpin, J.D. Daw and Joseph Torello harmonizing beautifully.
close, 18 cast members of last summer’s reimagined robust “Paint Your Wagon!” sang
a vigorous “How Can I Wait?” from all over America, including leads Matt Bogart
and Mamie Parris, and supporting players Omar Lopez-Cepero, Bobby Conte
Thornton, Maya Keleher, Allan K. Washington, Andrew Kober, Austin Ku, Raymond
J. Lee, Rodney Hicks and others. What a perfect song to end an enchanted
evening with hope and love. (And it knocked the score of “Hamilton,” which has
been playing on constant loop in my brain, since July 3, out and became my new
ear worm. Go to Muny TV to hear Mamie Parris in the show.)
This monumental effort to pull all these segments together
is applause-worthy – and the hours it took to plan and executive I can only
imagine. Everyone was in high spirits – connecting us all in a new, and
If you missed the first one, you have one more opportunity to see it, for Episode 1 will be re-broadcast at 8:15 p.m. Thursday, July 23. There will be four more episodes shown every Monday, then repeated Thursday. On Wednesdays, they will announce the plans for the next episode on social media.
We are not sitting under the stars in Forest Park, but Munygoers share a special bond, and this endeavor was a unique experience that brought back fond memories. Like many of you, I have a lifetime of them, starting when my grandma took me when I was 10, a poor kid from a big family in Belleville, watching live theater in wide-eyed wonder. Theater would become a major part of my life, and my appreciation began across the river on those warm summer nights.
One of my favorite things about Episode 1 was how they
highlighted the many employees who make Muny nights happen by their tremendous
commitment to this outdoor slice of theater heaven. There is such passion in
their work. I enjoyed the back story of triple-threat Corbin Bleu, as Don
Lockwood in the splendid “Singin’ in the Rain” in 2018, getting to dance in the
rain for the first time in his rubber shoes, as told by production manager
Tracy Utzmyers. And for technical director Tim McDonald explaining how they
make the rain happen for that show, and the previous two, in 2005 and 2011.
And my favorite thing about the Muny since 2009, when a
Belleville News-Democrat editor asked me to review the season and I
enthusiastically said yes, is the possibilities that a new opening night brings
seven times a summer. Will they pull off a premiere or classic with uncommon
flair? Will everyone rise to the occasion? What will be the night’s “Wow” moments?
I remain in awe of the talent and sweat equity it takes to put on a show, and I
am enriched by the storytelling and the performers who connect with me, no
matter where I am sitting.
And some have become familiar faces that I look forward to
seeking out on stage, and I am grateful for these opportunities to see where
the directors’ and production team vision takes me. It’s a all about a community
coming together in collaboration – that’s what live theater is and what we miss.
(That, and the hugs!).
And thanks to some shining moments Monday night, I was transported
to a happy place — and just being able to think about the possibilities ahead,
is reason to smile. This is only intermission.
Take care. Stay safe. Be strong.
And thank you Muny and your sponsors, for serving us a refreshing summer tonic that was part nostalgia and part pizzazz, and all heart. It might not be perfect – what live event is? – but it’s important.