By Lynn Venhaus
The sights and sounds of nights gone by are such a welcome sentimental journey on the exciting new online Muny Mondays.

But the variety show is not all a “Remember When” montage, and that is what sets it apart. With a fresh batch of pixie dust, the Muny’s second episode of its smash hit Summer Variety Hour Live more than met expectations after such a sensational series launch July 20.

Rob McClure and Maggie Lakis

If you were curious as to how they could top the inaugural show, now that we know the formula, one look at the lineup beforehand answered that quickly. Tony nominee Taylor Louderman singing live under the Culver Pavilion! Tony nominee and fan favorite Rob McClure, versatile veteran of six Muny shows, singing “Suddenly Seymour” with his wife Maggie Lakis, who has been in two Muny musicals, from their home in Philadelphia. McClure’s Muny debut was “Little Shop of Horrors” in 2011, so that was fitting. The cast of 2017’s spectacular “The Little Mermaid,” lead by Commodore Primous III as Sebastian, reuniting to sing a buoyant “Under the Sea.” I mean, the deck was stacked.

The best way to describe the ebb and flow of the carefully curated selection of acts is to compare it to a multi-course gourmet dinner especially crafted to include favorite dishes, comfort food, bold choices and unique taste treats, every bite bursting with flavor.

When the “Wow” factors were unveiled — those unforgettable Muny moments that you will always recall with awe, so grateful to have experienced it in person – they blew me away. It isn’t hard to pick five, ten or 20 out of your head if you are a regular. (We probably share some of the same ones – we’ll have to compare notes).

And this supersonic flash came from two performers I saw in ensembles but did not know their names: Nkeki Obi-Melekwe and Chloe O. Davis. I will never forget them now.

Nkeki Obi-Melekwe

Nkeki soared singing “If You Knew My Story” from “Bright Star” during her time, a selection to reinforce color-blind casting. Nkeki, a Michigan graduate, appeared in the Muny’s 2017 “All Shook Up” and went on to play Tina Turner in “Tina the Musical” in London’s West End in April 2019, then move to Broadway in October.

If you are unfamiliar with “Bright Star,” the musical by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, it came out the same year “Hamilton” did and lost the Tony Award for Best Musical to the landmark show in 2016.

Chloe O. Davis, a dancer who grew up in St. Louis and was in “All Shook Up” and “The Wiz” in recent years, was featured in “My Tribute to Black Broadway and Black Choreography: I Thrive Now Because You Dared Then,” a dance she conceived and choreographed.

As she used Forest Park as her stage, she gave us a history lesson that stirred “all the feels.” She created the styles of famous black choreographers, using audio and visual clips in addition to her dance moves – East St. Louis’ international icon Katherine Dunham, George Faison, Debbie Allen, Hope Clarke, Gregory Hines, Donald Byrd, Bill T. Jones and Camille A. Brown among them.

Chloe O Davis

Moving. Powerful. Elegant. Truly a shining moment.

A delightful song-and-dance interlude was courtesy of three dynamos Maya Bowles, Trevor Michael Schmidt and Gabi Stapula, whose high-spirited “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This” from “Sweet Charity” captured our anxiety and their eagerness to get back to the business of entertaining. These chorus gypsies reminded us how ensemble cohesiveness is so important to any big splashy musical.

Gabi also works with the Muny Teens, and their fun-loving mashup of “Bring On the Monsters” from “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” and “Drive It Like You Stole It” from “Sing Street” again showcased how talented some local students are – and their sunny dispositions. I’m a big fan of the 2016 movie “Sing Street,” which is writer-director John Carney’s third film about the transforming power of music (“Once” and “Begin Again”), and its stage adaptation was set to open on Broadway in April after rave reviews off-Broadway.

The power ‘hour’ also featured behind-the-scenes stories about what’s happening at The Muny, including being able to pull off the stunning fireworks at the Centennial Gala, and the amusing game show throwback Munywood Squares. With interesting fun facts, hosted by Gordon Greenberg and featuring nine Muny performers in the Zoom grid,  including E. Faye Butler, J. Harrison Ghee, Ann Harada, Raymond J. Lee, Vicki Lewis, Steve Rosen, Jeffrey Schecter, John Scherer and Christopher Sieber. This week’s good sport contestants were photographer Phillip Hamer and Muny company manager Sue Greenberg. Fun remembering the raccoon who waddled on to the stage in “The Addams Family” in 2014!

Taylor Louderman

On an intermittent rainy night, star Taylor Louderman was accompanied by four socially distanced musicians, to sing live the power ballad “Astonishing” from “Little Women.” Always nice to include a female empowerment song, this one from Louisa May Alcott’s timeless and timely heroine, Jo March. From Bourbon, Mo., 60 miles southwest of St. Louis, Taylor went from Muny Teen to Tony nominee as Regina George in “Mean Girls.” She made her Broadway debut in 2012’s “Bring It On!,” has been in seven Muny shows and won the St. Louis Theater Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for last summer’s “Kinky Boots.” (And this year, finished her bachelor’s degree that she had started at Michigan in 2009 and was married five weeks ago to Brooks Toth).

The archival footage of past summer shows is a fond trip down memory lane, starting with Muny titans Beth Leavel and Ben Davis in 2015’s “Oklahoma!” Leavel, Tony winner for “The Drowsy Chaperone” and nominee for ‘The Prom,” is a frequent St. Louis Theater Circle Award nominee, winning for her Mamma Rose in 2018 “Gypsy.” Davis, seen last year as Sky Masterson in “Guys and Dolls,” has been nominated multiple times, and once joked during an interview that he is the ‘Susan Lucci’ of the Circle Awards.

Davis was in the now legendary production of “Spamalot” in 2013 as Sir Galahad. Host Mike Isaacson introduced “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” which holds the distinction of being the most popular song at funerals, pointing out how weather affected the show. I remember that on opening night June 17, a steady rain was falling after torrential downpours for days preceding it. So, there was little opportunity to rehearse outdoors. The audience for the show opener of the 95th season was so eager to see this Muny premiere that we came in droves with our umbrellas — and were mightily rewarded.

It’s a night I’ll never forget. During the curtain call, actor John O’Hurley, playing King Arthur, stopped the show to introduce Monty Python founder and show creator Eric Idle! Whoops, cheers and thunderous applause! Everyone on their feet. I turned to my companion and said: “We are in the presence of a Python!” Oh, be still my heart. It was pure bliss – he led us in “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” after mentioning this was the largest audience to ever see the musical and he wanted to see if we could get in the Guinness Book of World Records for our sing-a-long.

Oh, what a night! I had the good fortune to interview John O’Hurley later that fall when he was touring as Billy Flynn in “Chicago,” and we had a pleasant conversation about that enchanted evening.

Another splendid memory was shared with the incredible “We’re in the Money” from the extraordinary 2016 production of “42nd Street,” choreographed by Denis Jones, St. Louis Theater Circle Award winner. That curtain call – go see it on YouTube – as the cast cascaded down a staircase will go down as my favorite (next to “A Chorus Line”) in Muny history.

All these elements are what make summer nights special at the Muny, and spotlighting the world-class talent – from the musical theater majors from the best schools in the country to the stars with Broadway credentials — who come together in Forest Park – is one I like to emphasize. Years ago, seasons were headlined by ‘names’ – mostly from TV – and while recognizable, I much prefer having the best talent possible give us their all on that stage. Drama geek that I am, I read all the bios and notice who returns to the Muny, who creates magic on the stage, or is given the part of a lifetime.

And in that spirit, the Summer Variety Hour Live emphasizes how many parts make each show happen.

And it is a warm, familiar embrace at a time we all need a hug.

On July 20, The Muny 2020 Summer Variety Hour Live! drew more than 30,000 viewers from across the U.S. and around the world. This total sets a new, record-breaking first in The Muny’s live-streaming history.

On July 27, we were connected by the calypso beat of newly crowned EGOT winner Alan Menken, the banjo picking of brilliant Steve Martin, the Britpop synthesizer of ‘80s New Wave, the zaniness of silly comic geniuses, homages to Busby Berkeley and Broadway chestnuts, the triumph of a ‘local’ small-town girl with a dream, sweetness, sincerity, showmances and people who think sitting under those stars in St. Louis is like coming home.

These shows (5 total, 3 left) are exclusive, one-time-only streams and will not be available after the Thursday night airing. The July 30 re-airing will include audio description and captions. The link is: youtube.com/themunytv

The Muny’s online 2020 season is sponsored by World Wide Technology. Episode 1 was made possible by US Bank and Episode 2 by Edward Jones. They announce the next lineup every Wednesday.

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 Live!”

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 legacy.

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.

Tammy Duensing and I at the Muny 2017

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.

E Faye Butler in “The Wiz.” Photo by Phillip Hamer

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.

Ashley 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.

Mamie Parris and Matt Bogart in “Paint Your Wagon” Photo by Phillip Hamer

To 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 welcome, way.

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.

I took this photo during the Birthday Bash, when we could go on stage. May 2018.

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.

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
Broadway’s glorious past merges with The Muny’s dazzling state-of-the-art
present in “Guys and Dolls” for a sensational start to the second century that
bodes well for the future.
What an ideal show to show off the new stage and other upgrades made possible
through the Muny’s Second Century Campaign!

As impressive as the changes set out to be, all the spiffy
new elements made this endearing show sparkle – the redesigned stage allowed
the action flow smoothly, the sound was crystal clear (designers John Shivers
and David Patridge) and the lighting systems’ enhanced illumination by designer
Rob Denton and the expanded LED screens, with video designs by Nathan W.
Scheuer, were eye-catching. Director Gordon Greenberg was able to incorporate
the new downstage lifts into scenes. Overall, an A+ effort.

Besides the successful revelation, the weather was
tailor-made for the 101st season opener June 10. A crowd of 7,677 enjoyed
one of Broadway’s most delightful golden-age classics, filled with Frank
Loesser’s peppy and hummable musical numbers, sweet romance, and colorful
characters based on Damon Runyon’s short stories and given zip by the late
comedy writer Abe Burrows.

“Take Back Your Mink”Jaunty and joyous, “Guys and Dolls” combines hustling high rollers and honorable holy rollers in the bustle of the fabled Times Square, their intentions clashing when the gamblers want to be lucky and the evangelists want to save souls. Paul Tate dePoo III’s vibrant scenic design of neon signage and advertisements reflects a flashy bright lights, big city vibe that pops in every scene.

Once dubbed “the perfect musical comedy” by a critic and I
wholeheartedly agree, the Muny proved how evergreen the show can be, now in its
eighth time here and 15 years since the last one. The talent made sure this
first bicentennial production was a crowning achievement by integrating all the
new-fangled improvements seamlessly.

Zoe Vonder Haar, Orville Mendoza, Kennedy Holmes. Photo by Philip Hamer.Greenberg bathed this frothy concoction in the warm glow of
nostalgia while emphasizing the humor and elevating the romance. The high-spirited
cast injected it with zing through crisp and snappy movements, whether it was a
sharply choreographed number – those elastic dancers in “Crapshooters Dance”
and “Havana” made it fun — or the wise-guys singing Nathan Detroit’s praises
in “The Oldest Established.”
First-time Muny co-choreographers Lorin Latarro and Patrick O’Neill intertwined
different styles with energy and precision, and Music Director Brad Haak freshened
the songs, with arrangements by Larry Blank. Musicians were under a covered pit
for the first time, carrying the upbeat tempos well.
The creative team focused on the original 1950 roots and the rock-solid cast cheerfully
immersed themselves in this idiosyncratic world. One must accept its now dated
story as a period piece to fully appreciate the relationships. Calling women
“tomatoes” and “broads” is no longer acceptable, and no one in contemporary
times would, but this is from a bygone era – and displays how different men and
women roles were back then.

“Guys and Dolls” took Damon Runyon stories about New York
City from the 1920s and 30s, namely “The Idyll of Sarah Brown” and “Blood
Pressure,” with a nod to “Pick the Winner,” and radio comedy writer Abe Burrows
boosted Jo Swerling’s original script by giving the distinctive characters
Runyon’s unique vernacular, a mix of formal speech with slang. Damon, a
newspaperman and sportswriter, favored writing dialogue for gamblers, hustlers,
actors and gangsters.

However, this Runyonland appears more innocent. Detroit, the hapless but lovable mug behind the biggest crap game in NYC, keeps his adorable girlfriend Adelaide waiting for him to marry her after 14 years. The prim and proper Sarah Brown falls in love with the suave Sky Masterson in an opposites-attract storyline.

The script makes all of this seem logical and then throws in merry men named Benny Southstreet and Rusty Charlie, and it’s a surefire winner, especially with Kevin Cahoon hilarious as Harry the Horse and so is Brendan Averett as Big Jule.

From the first bars of the opening number “Fugue for
Tinhorns” to “The Happy Ending” finale, this cast connects with each other, and
ultimately, the audience.

As the sophisticated ladies man Sky Masterson, Ben Davis is
a welcome presence on the Muny stage, continuing his successful run of classic
male leads after Curly in “Oklahoma!” and Emile in “South Pacific.” He has
palpable chemistry with Brittany Bradford, who is one of the best Sarah Browns
I’ve ever seen (sometimes, the actors playing these different types don’t gel,
but this pair does). Their clashing couple delivers velvety-smooth ballads.

Bradford is quite a special talent, genuine in acting and a
splendid soprano. Her breakout number, “If I Were a Bell,” shows her
versatility. Their “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” superbly blends their
voices, another standout moment, and his sleek “My Time of Day” rendition was
terrific.

Davis propelled “Luck Be a Lady” to be one of the evening
highlights, aided by the crackerjack ensemble.

St. Louisan Kendra Kassebaum lights up the stage as Miss
Adelaide, and wow, what a home-grown triple threat. Bubbly and bouncy, she displays
impeccable comic timing in her fully dimensional lived-in performance.

She’s a fitting and funny foil for wacky Nathan, well-played by Jordan Gelber. Their “Sue Me” was on point, and “Adelaide’s Lament” is confident and comical. She leads the Hot Box Girls in a vivacious “A Bushel and a Peck” and “Take Back Your Mink.” (Tristan Raines’ costumes fit each role appropriately, but those purple-sequin gowns draped with the gray furs are stunning.)

Kassebaum and Bradford are a dynamic duo in “Marry the Man
Today” (just don’t wince at those lyrics).

The best scene, the second act showstopper that puts its indelible stamp on “Guys and Dolls,” is “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.” A marvel of movement and pure jubilation, this version is made even more special by the surprise appearance of Kennedy Holmes, the Muny Kid who placed fourth on “The Voice” in 2018, belting out the usual General Cartwright solo. (Zoe Vonder Haar has replaced Doreen Montalvo as General Cartwright),

Orville Mendoza fits, well, nicely, as Nicely-Nicely
Johnson, who leads the number, and is dandy in his duet with Jared Gertner as
Benny in the title number “Guys and Dolls.”

As Arvide Abernathy, Ken Page has a twinkle in his eye and adds
poignancy to the “More I Cannot Wish You” number sung to his granddaughter,
Sarah. This is his 41st appearance at the Muny – and little-known
fact, he played Nicely-Nicely in the 1976 Broadway revival.

The musical has been revived two more times, in 1992 and
2009, with the 1992 version starring Nathan Lane and Faith Prince the most
acclaimed, winning four Tony Awards including Best Revival and running until 1995,
tallying 1,143 performances. The original “Guys and Dolls” won five Tony Awards
in 1951, including Best Musical, and has been a favorite among regional, school
and community groups for decades.

That renowned 1992 version’s spunk is evident in this Muny
production, but the cast makes it their own. They put a fresh sheen on the
characters, imbuing them with heart and humor, and it never sags.

This production is worth rejoicing about, starting out the
summer in swell fashion.

The Muny presents “Guys and Dolls” June 10 – 16 nightly at 8:15 p.m. in Forest Park. For tickets or more information, visit www.muny.org

Photos by Phillip Hamer.

Ken Page to Star in his 41st Muny Show

The Muny announced today its complete cast, design and production team for Guys and Dolls, the first show of its second century, June 10 – 16. Guys and Dolls is proudly sponsored by Wells Fargo Advisors.

“We soar into our second century with one of the most beloved musicals of the last century,” said Muny Artistic Director and Executive Producer Mike Isaacson. “I can’t wait to see this amazing production on our beautiful new stage. Luck be a producer, indeed.”

Joining the previously announced Ben Davis (Sky Masterson), Brittany Bradford (Sarah Brown), Jordan Gelber (Nathan Detroit) and Kendra Kassebaum (Miss Adelaide) are Ken Page (ArvideAbernathy), Doreen Montalvo (General Cartwright), Orville Mendoza (Nicely-Nicely Johnson), Jared Gertner (Benny Southstreet), Brendan Averett (Big Jule), Kevin Cahoon (Harry the Horse) and Rich Pisarkiewicz (Lt. Brannigan). A high-rolling ensemble completes this cast, including Calvin Cooper, Darien Crago, Colby Dezelick, Tyler Eisenreich, Whitney G-Bowley, Berklea Going, Julie Hanson, Jeff Kuhr, Alicia Lundgren, Erin N. Moore, Jevares Myrick, Michael Santomassimo, Michaeljon Slinger, Matthew Steffens, Keith Tyrone, Amy Van Norstrand, Jerry Vogel and Sharrod Williams. The company will also be joined by the Muny Kid and Teen youth ensemble.

As previously announced, Guys and Dolls is directed by Gordon Greenberg and co-choreographed by Lorin Latarro and Patrick O’Neill with music direction by Brad Haak.

This production includes scenic design by Paul Tate dePoo III, costume design by Tristan Raines, lighting design by Rob Denton, sound design by John Shivers and David Patridge, video design by Nathan W. Scheuer and wig design by Leah J. Loukas. Production stage manager is Nancy Uffner.

Ben Davis

BEN DAVIS (Sky Masterson) Muny: Jesus Christ Superstar (Pilate), Oklahoma! (Curly); South Pacific (Emile), Spamalot (Galahad). Ben was most recently seen as Cosmo Constantine in New York City Center’s Encores! Call Me Madam, opposite Carmen Cusack. Broadway: 2003 Tony Honor for La Bohème (Marcello), Dear Evan Hansen (Larry), Violet (Preacher), A Little Night Music, Les Misérables(Javert and Enjolras), Thoroughly Modern Millie (Trevor Graydon). Tours: The Sound of Music (Georg von Trapp), Spamalot (Galahad). Regional: Kiss Me, Kate (Fred/Petruchio) at The 5th Avenue Theatre. UK: BBC Proms Kiss Me, Kate (Fred/Petruchio). Concerts: Philly Pops, Boston Pops, LA Philharmonic, RTÉ and many others. Film/TV: Blue Bloods, A Hand of Bridge, The Magic Flute, 30 Rock, Numb3rs. www.benjaminjaydavis.com

Actor | New York | Headshot| Brittany Bradford

BRITTANY BRADFORD (Sarah Brown) Muny debut! Brittany was recently seen in Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of Merrily We Roll Along, staged by the critically-acclaimed Fiasco Theater. She made her Broadway debut last fall as Ophelia in Bernhardt/Hamlet opposite Janet McTeer. Additional credits: For Colored Girls… (Public Theater), Flyin’ West (Westport Country Playhouse), Family Resemblance (Eugene O’Neill), The Profane and Taming of the Shrew (Chautauqua Theater Company), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Ten Thousand Things Theater), Neighbors, AvenueQ and Next to Normal (Mixed Blood Theatre), Ragtime and Stick Fly (Park Square Theatre). 2018 graduate of The Juilliard School, Group 47. Credits: Father Comes Home from the Wars, Hoodoo Love, Triumph of Love, King Lear, Cymbeline, Christina Martinez and The Marriage of Bette and Boo. Co-Founder of HomeBase Theatre Collective. www.brittany-bradford.com

JORDAN GELBER (Nathan Detroit) Muny debut! Broadway: Sunday in the Park with George, Elf the Musical (Buddy), All My Sons, Avenue Q (original cast, special Outer Critics Circle Award). Off-Broadway: John Guare’s Nantucket Sleigh Ride (Lincoln Center Theater), Mike Leigh’s 2000 Years, Avenue Q, The Joke, Birth and After Birth. TV: Elementary, Mr. Robot, Mindhunter, Insatiable, Boardwalk Empire, Nurse Jackie, The Good Wife, Rescue Me, Ugly Betty, first three Law & Order series (recurring on SVU), The Sopranos, 100 Centre Street. Film: (upcoming) The Kitchen, Bleed for This, Dark Horse, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Everyday People (IFP/Gotham Award nominee for Breakthrough Acting), Riding in Cars With Boys, Changing Lanes. BA, Stanford University; MFA, NYU Tisch Graduate Acting (2000 Laura Pels Award). www.JordanGelber.com

KENDRA KASSEBAUM (Miss Adelaide) Muny: A Chorus Line (Val). On Broadway, Kendra originated the role of Janice in the Tony-nominated production of Come From Away as well as Sam in Leap of Faith. She played Glinda in Wicked on Broadway, in San Francisco and on the first national tour (Helen Hayes nominee). Other New York: The Receptionist (MTC) and the Tony Award-winning, Grammy-nominated production of Assassins, both directed by Joe Mantello. Kendra made her Broadway debut in Rent. For the Roundabout, she performed the role of Petra in A Little Night Music starring Vanessa Redgrave and Natasha Richardson. Kassebaum’s regional appearances include Actors Theatre of Louisville, The 5th Avenue Theatre, ACT, Ordway and Florida Stage. Film: The Other Woman (with Natalie Portman and Lisa Kudrow).

Ken Page will be in his 41st Muny show

KEN PAGE(Arvide Abernathy) is proud to be part of the 101st season of The Muny. This will be his forty-first show on the stage and his fourth year as “the voice” of the theatre. Ken made his Broadway debut as Nicely-Nicely Johnson in the all-black revival of Guys and Dolls, receiving the Theatre World Award for his performance. This year, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from The St. Louis Arts & Education Council and directed a sold-out run of Love, Linda with Max & Louie Productions. Recent/upcoming: live-to-film concerts of Disney’s The Little Mermaid (Sebastian) at the Hollywood Bowl,Grumpy Old Men (La Mirada Theatre) and the UK live-to-film tour re-creating his role of Oogie Boogie in The Nightmare Before Christmas. 

DOREEN MONTALVO (General Cartwright) Muny debut! Broadway: On Your Feet! (Gloria, original Broadway cast); In the Heights (original Broadway cast, Drama Desk Award). Off-Broadway: Curvy Widow (Heidi, Westside Theatre), Giant (Lupe, The Public Theater), Flashdance The Musical (Louise), Mamma Mia! (Tanya); In the Heights (Camila, Westport Country Playhouse), American Mariachi(Denver Center/Old Globe), La Lupe (Lupe, Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre), In the Heights (37 Arts), Havana Under the Sea (Cecilia, INTAR Theatre). TV/Film: Law & Order, Elementary, Madam Secretary, The Tale of Timmy Two Chins, Smash, All My Children, One Life to Live. Recordings: American Soul/Latin Heart, Disney’s Moana soundtrack. Live: 54 Below, Joe’s Pub, The Metropolitan Room, The Duplex, Green Room 42. www.doreenmontalvo.com

ORVILLE MENDOZA (Nicely-Nicely Johnson) is thrilled to be back at The Muny where he got his Equity card 25 years ago in The King and I. Other Muny: Miss Saigon (2001), The King and I (2006), Godspell (2009). Broadway: Peter and the Starcatcher, Pacific Overtures. Most recently, the world premiere of The Heart of Rock and Roll (Old Globe, coming to Broadway). Previously, he toured with Small Mouth Sounds (Ars Nova). Off-Broadway: Found (Atlantic Theater Company), Pacific Overtures, Passion (Classic Stage Company); Romeo and Juliet, Timon of Athens and Road Show all at The Public Theater/NYSF. He’s worked all across the U.S. from La Jolla Playhouse to Long Wharf Theatre. TV: The Blacklist, Law & Order: CI and many commercials. Drama Desk nominee and Barrymore Award winner. www.orvillemendoza.com

JARED GERTNER (Benny Southstreet) Muny debut! Jared is best known for playing Elder Cunningham in The Book of Mormon on Broadway, on the first national tour and in London (Olivier nomination). Other New York: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Broadway) and Ordinary Days (off-Broadway, premiere). Regional: Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Cincinnati Playhouse, Goodspeed, The Fulton, Cape Playhouse and Sacramento Music Circus. Television: Mom, Modern Family, 2 Broke Girls, Supernatural, Superior Donuts, How I Met Your Mother, Marvel’s Agent Carter, Ugly Betty, The Good Wife, American Dad, Family Guy and the popular Broadway-themed web series, Submissions Only. Jared also starred in an NBC pilot called How We Live. Film: Nightmare Cinema(upcoming), Smallfoot and Pup Star. Education: NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Twitter: @JaredGertner Instagram: @Jaredgertner1

BRENDAN AVERETT (Big Jule) is excited to make his Muny debut. Off-Broadway: Hamlet (Waterwell), Sam and Dede (Custom Made Theatre/59E59), Titus Andronicus (NY Shakespeare Exchange), The Killer, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (TFANA), As You Like It (Shakespeare in the Park), Massacre: Sing to Your Children (Rattlestick), Hamlet (Gallery Players), Passion Play (Epic Theatre Ensemble). Tours: Guys and Dolls. Regional: The Comedy of Errors, Kiss Me, Kate (Hartford Stage), Romeo and Juliet(Actors Theatre of Louisville), Of Mice and Men (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park), Cyrano de Bergerac, The Tempest (Theatricum Botanicum), Henry V (California Shakespeare Company), Bloody Poetry, The Alchemist (Everyman Theatre), Measure for Measure, Guys and Dolls, The Swanne: Pt. III(Stratford Shakespeare Festival of Canada). TV/Film: Law & Order: SVU, Trapped in the Closet, Blossom. Former Associate Producer for NYSX’s The Sonnet Project.

KEVIN CAHOON (Harry the Horse) Muny: The Wizard of Oz and Spamalot. Broadway: The Wedding Singer, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Lion King, The Rocky Horror Show revival and The Who’s Tommy(debut). Off-Broadway: original Hedwig and The Angry Inch, How I Learned to Drive (Second Stage), The Foreigner (Roundabout, Lortel nomination), The Shaggs (Playwrights Horizons), The Wild Party (Manhattan Theatre Club), Hair and Babes in Arms (NY City Center Encores!). Regional: The Old Globe, Guthrie, Williamstown. TV: A Series of Unfortunate Events, Glow (upcoming), Nurse Jackie, Elementary, NCIS, Modern Family, The Mentalist, The Good Wife, CSI, Odd Mom Out, Six Degrees, Black Box, The Royale, Law & Order (original/CI). Film: I Am Michael, Mars Needs Moms, The Thing About My Folks, Curse of The Jade Scorpion. Debut album: Doll (OutMusic Award).

RICH PISARKIEWICZ (Lt. Brannigan) Muny 101 marks Rich’s 38th season on the Muny boards, appearing in over 80 productions, including last season’s An Evening with the Stars and Annie. He has appeared regionally with The Fox Theatres (Atlanta and St. Louis), Dallas Summer Musicals, Kansas City Starlight, and locally with Stages St. Louis, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, The Black Rep, Westport Playhouse and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. He has also enjoyed working with the Variety Theatre in several productions, most recently The Wizard of Oz. Upcoming: Man of La Mancha (Stages St. Louis). 2019 is his 41st year in professional theatre beginning with 1776 at Summerstage in 1979.

Link for more information: muny.org/guys-and-dolls.

About the show:

Guys and Dolls is based on a story and characters of Damon Runyon with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and a book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. 

Considered by many to be the perfect musical comedy, Guys and Dolls gambles with luck and love during a time when Broadway was rampant with wise guys, mission girls and Lindy’s cheesecake. This all-time Broadway classic features a high-rolling score, including “Luck Be a Lady,” “If I Were a Bell” and “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat.” With this Muny favorite, everyone’s a winner!

The seven shows in the 2019 Muny season are: Guys and Dolls (June 10 – 16), Kinky Boots (June 19 – 25), 1776 (June 27 – July 3), Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella (July 8 – 16), Footloose (July 18 – 24), Lerner and Loewe’s Paint Your Wagon (July 27 – August 2) and Roald Dahl’s Matilda (August 5 – 11). For more information, visit muny.org.  

Season and single tickets are currently on sale. Muny gift cards for the 101st season are available online and at The Muny Box Office. MetroTix is the only official online point-of-purchase vendor for The Muny. For more information, visit muny.org or call (314) 361-1900.

The Muny announced Tuesday the directors, choreographers and music directors for its 2019 season, which opens on June 10 with Guys and Dolls.
“We head into our second century with the first phase of our new stage, and a renewed sense of passion and commitment to our audiences, artists and community,” said Muny Artistic Director and Executive Producer Mike Isaacson. “I’m so thrilled to announce these brilliantly talented colleagues who will create this season. They are already hard at work, ready to make this season just as historic and memorable as our 100th.”
GUYS AND DOLLS
June 10 – 16
Book by Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling
Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser
Based on The Idyll of Sarah Brown and characters by Damon Runyon
GORDON GREENBERG (Director) co-wrote and directed the Broadway stage adaptation of Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn for Roundabout, Universal and PBS Great Performances. Recent work includes Barnum (London), Heart of Rock and Roll (Old Globe), the acclaimed West End revival of Guys and Dolls, nominated for six Olivier Awards (Savoy Theatre, Phoenix Theatre, Chichester, UK and international tour), the Drama Desk Award-winning NYC revivals of Working and Jacques Brel, the stage adaptation of Tangled for Disney, and writing TV musicals for Disney and Nickelodeon. Muny: Meet Me In St. Louis (revised book), Jesus Christ Superstar, Holiday Inn, West Side Story, Pirates! Upcoming: The Secret of My Success (Universal), Mystic Pizza (MGM), Dracula (Maltz). He attended Stanford University and NYU and is a member of SDC, WGA and the Dramatists Guild.

LORIN LATARRO (Choreographer) Broadway: Waitress, Les Liasions Dangereuses, Waiting for Godot. Curious Incident of the Dog… and American Idiot (Associate). Additional choreography: La Traviata (The Met), Chess (Kennedy Center), Twelfth Night (The Delacorte), Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 21 Chump Street(BAM), Heart of Rock and Roll (Old Globe), Assassins, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (Encores!), Between The Lines (KC Rep), Queen of The Night (Drama Desk Award), Kiss Me, Kate (Barrington); The Best Is Yet To Come (59E59, Drama Desk Award). Director: Taste of Things to Come (Chicago). Lorin performed in 12 Broadway shows and danced for Tharp, Momix, Graham. Juilliard graduate. Upcoming: Merrily We Roll Along (Roundabout), SuperHero (Second Stage), Waitress and Home Street Home (West End).
BRAD HAAK (Music Director/Conductor) Muny: A Funny Thing…Forum, Fiddler on the Roof, Into the Woods, South Pacific, The King and I and Gypsy. Broadway: An American in Paris, Mary Poppins, Lestat and Il Divo – A Musical Affair. National tours: The Lion King, Miss Saigon. Music supervision and orchestrations:Daddy Long Legs (Off-Broadway, London, Tokyo, Seoul and 19 US productions) and John Caird’s A Knight’s Tale (Tokyo, 2018). International: Sousatzka (Toronto), An American in Paris (Paris), Honk! (Singapore and Philippines); Jane Eyre (Tokyo). Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Sunday in the Park with George and Follies (Jeff Award for music direction), Children of Eden (Kennedy Center). Orchestrations for New York and Boston Pops, National Symphony, L.A. Philharmonic.
KINKY BOOTS
June 19 – 25
Music and Lyrics by Cyndi Lauper
Book by Harvey Fierstein
Based on the Miramax motion picture of the same name, written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth
DB BONDS (Director) is thrilled to be making his directorial debut at The Muny after appearing as Emmett in Legally Blonde in 2011. DB is the associate director of Kinky Boots and Pretty Woman on Broadway. He also served as the associate director of Kinky Boots worldwide with productions in England, Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan and Korea. As an actor, he appeared in Broadway and national touring productions of Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, Legally Blonde and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
RUSTY MOWERY (Choreographer) is thrilled to be back at the magical Muny after serving as choreographer for The Muny productions of Legally Blonde and Hairspray. He is currently the Associate Choreographer of Pretty Woman on Broadway and the Associate Choreographer of Kinky Boots for Broadway, both U.S. national tours, England, Australia, Canada, Germany, Korea and Japan tours. Proud SDC member. As an actor, Rusty appeared on Broadway in Cats, Ragtime, Hairspray, Seussical and Legally Blonde.
RYAN FIELDING GARRETT (Music Director/Conductor) NYC/national tour: Kinky Boots, Jasper in Deadland, The Man in the Ceiling, Hamilton, Mary Poppins, Sweeney Todd (NY Philharmonic), Wicked, Big River (Encores!), Finding Neverland, The Three Little Pigs. Regional: Next to Normal (Weston Playhouse), Little Miss Scrooge (Rubicon Theatre), Passing Strange, [title of show], Chess (Playhouse Square), Two Gentlemen of Verona (Lake Tahoe Shakespeare). NYC orchestration credits include Darling, A Night Like This. Graduate of Baldwin Wallace University.
JERRY MITCHELL (Original Broadway Direction and Choreography) Tony Award winner for Best Choreography: La Cage aux Folles (revival) and Kinky Boots (also nominated as Director). Broadway: Pretty Woman (Director/Choreographer) and the Gloria Estefan musical On Your Feet! (Director). Other recent work includes the pre-Broadway productions of Half Time (Chicago and Paper Mill Playhouse) and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (West End, Olivier nomination for Choreography). In the 35 preceding years, Jerry has been involved with over 50 Broadway, West End and touring productions, including as choreographer of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, The Full Monty (Tony nomination), The Rocky Horror Show, Hairspray (Tony nomination and NBC telecast), Gypsy, Never Gonna Dance (Tony nomination), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Tony nomination), La Cage aux Folles, Legally Blonde (Tony nomination), Catch Me If You Can and Kinky Boots.
1776
June 27 – July 3
Book by Peter Stone
Music and Lyrics by Sherman Edwards
Based on a concept by Sherman Edwards
ROB RUGGIERO (Director) is thrilled to be returning for The Muny’s 101st season. Last year, he directed Gypsy, as well as past productions of The Music Man, Oklahoma!; Hello, Dolly!; South Pacific and The King and I. He has also directed many award-winning productions at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, including Follies, Sunday in the Park with George and a recent production of Evita. Broadway: High and Looped. Off-Broadway he conceived and directed Make Me a Song (Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations). Rob also recently directed Oliver!, his 11th collaboration with Goodspeed Musicals, with whom he also adapted and directed a new production of Show Boat. He is the Producing Artistic Director for TheaterWorks in Hartford, Connecticut.
JAMES MOORE (Music Director/Conductor) The Muny: Gypsy, The Music Man, Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn, Hello, Dolly!; West Side Story, Meet Me In St. Louis, The Producers. Broadway: Miss Saigon, On the Town, Gigi, Follies, South Pacific, Ragtime, Steel Pier, Company. National tours: The Producers, Kiss Me, Kate; Crazy for You, And the World Goes ‘Round. The Kennedy Center: Camelot starring Brian Stokes Mitchell, My Fair Lady starring Jonathan Pryce, Mame starring Christine Baranski. Concerts: National Symphony, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Santa Barbara Symphony. Mr. Moore serves as the music supervisor for the United States touring productions of Les Misérables and Miss Saigon. Upcoming: Titanic (Broadway revival). Education: Master and Bachelor degrees from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.
RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN’S CINDERELLA
July 8 – 16
Music by Richard Rodgers
Book by Oscar Hammerstein II
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
MARCIA MILGROM DODGE (Director) is a Tony and Drama Desk nominated director & choreographer. The Muny: Meet Me In St. Louis (100th Season!), The Little Mermaid, Young Frankenstein, The Buddy Holly Story, The Addams Family. Broadway: Ragtime, High Society. National tours: Ragtime, Curious George,Seussical, Cookin’. New York: Venus Flytrap, Radio Gals, Maltby & Shire’s Closer Than Ever (original production) and William Finn’s Romance in Hard Times. TV/Video: Sesame Street and Elmo‘s Wild West. Upcoming: Deathtrap (Cape Playhouse), Mary Poppins (Drury Lane) and a new Buddy (Cincinnati Playhouse). Between reimagining revivals and directing & choreographing world premieres regionally and abroad, Dodge is also a wife, a mother, a teacher, an SDC Executive Board Member and a published and produced playwright.
JOSH WALDEN (Choreographer) returns to The Muny after choreographing Meet Me In St Louis (2018), The Little Mermaid (2017) and The Buddy Holly Story (2015). He directed/ choreographed A Chorus Line for Maltz Jupiter Theatre and Theatre Memphis, The Rocky Horror Show for University of Buffalo, Legally Blonde for Merry-Go-Round Playhouse and the rock opera Fallen Angel in the New York International Fringe Festival. Josh has also choreographed for Des Moines Metro Opera, Signature Theatre, Sacramento Music Circus, Doonce Productions, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Gateway Playhouse and Morag Productions for Seabourn Cruise Lines. On Broadway, he was the associate director/associate choreographer for the revival of Ragtime. As a performer, Josh was in the Broadway revivals of 42nd Street, La Cage aux Folles, A Chorus Line and Ragtime.
GREG ANTHONY RASSEN (Music Director/Conductor) Drama Desk winner and Tony nominee for Bandstand. Other Broadway credits include: An American in Paris, Bullets Over Broadway, The Little Mermaid, The Book of Mormon, R&H’s Cinderella, A Chorus Line (revival). Arranger/ orchestrator: Jerry Springer: The Opera (New Group); Between the Lines (Kansas City Rep.), The Beast in the Jungle (Vineyard). Commissions include: New York Pops, Boston Pops, Philly Pops, Indianapolis Pops; Leslie Odom, Jr., Ashley Brown, Sierra Boggess, Jeremy Jordan, Norm Lewis, Darren Criss, Liz Callaway, Julia Murney, André Previn, John Williams. TV: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Live with Kelly & Michael, The View. M.M. degree from Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. www.greganthonymusic.com
FOOTLOOSE
July 18 – 24
Music by Tom Snow
Lyrics by Dean Pitchford
Stage Adaptation by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie
Based on the original screenplay by Dean Pitchford
Additional Music by Eric Carmen, Sammy Hagar, Kenny Loggins and Jim Steinman
CHRISTIAN BORLE (Director) is a two-time Tony Award winner and has starred in a myriad of roles both on stage and screen. His turn as Shakespeare in Something Rotten! garnered him both Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Best Featured Actor in a Musical, as well as a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play as Black Stache in Peter and the Starcatcher. Other Broadway: Footloose, Jesus Christ Superstar, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Amour, Spamalot, Mary Poppins, Legally Blonde, Falsettos and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Film: Blackhat, Bounty Hunter. TV: Masters of Sex, Lifesaver, The Good Wife, Smash and NBC’s TheSound of Music Live! Most recently, Christian made his directorial debut with the off-Broadway production of Popcorn Falls at The Davenport Theatre.
JESSICA HARTMAN (Choreographer) is thrilled to return for The Muny’s 101st after choreographing Annie(2018), All Shook Up (2017), Mamma Mia! (2016); Hairspray (2015/Co-Choreographer) and Seussical (2014/Associate). Broadway: Lysistrata Jones (Associate Choreographer), The Boy from Oz starring Hugh Jackman (Assistant Choreographer). Off-Broadway: Elephant and Piggie’s We Are in a Play! (Choreographer, New Victory Theatre). Other credits include: Memphis (Choreographer, TUTS), Norwegian Creative Studios/Oceania Cruise Lines (Choreographer), Disney Jr. Dance Party (Associate Show Director/ Choreographer, Universal Studios/The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Associate), How to Succeed… (Associate, TUTS), West Side Story (Associate, Signature Theatre), Next to Normal (Choreographer, BaltimoreCenter Stage). Up next: Mamma Mia! at TUTS (Choreographer) and a new musical for The Kennedy Center. Jessica is the Artistic Director of Broadway Theatre Connection.
ANDREW GRAHAM (Music Director/Conductor) New York: The Book of Mormon, Wicked and Avenue Q. Las Vegas: Spamalot, Avenue Q. National tours: Wicked, Avenue Q, Pippin, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Seussical, The Music Man, Footloose. European tours: Hair and Grease. Regional: world premiere of Disney’s Freaky Friday at Signature Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Cleveland Play House and Alley Theatre. Muny: Aida, Annie and Footloose. Beauty and the Beast and the world premiere of Disney’s When You Wish at Tuacahn Center for the Arts. He holds degrees from both Capital University in Columbus, Ohio and Trinity College of Music in London.
LERNER & LOEWE’S PAINT YOUR WAGON
July 27 – August 2
Book and Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
Music by Frederick Loewe
Revised Book by Jon Marans
Produced in Association with On the Wagon Productions and Garmar Ventures
JOSH RHODES (Director/Choreographer) directed Grand Hotel (NY City Center Encores!), Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville (Old Globe Theatre), Jersey Boys (The Muny), Guys and Dolls (Asolo Rep/Old Globe), Evita(Asolo Rep), Spamalot (5th Avenue Theatre), Ebenezer Scrooge’s Big Playhouse Christmas Show (Bucks County Playhouse) and Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. He alsochoreographed the Broadway productions of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, It Shoulda Been You, First Date and Bright Star. On London’s West End, he choreographed Carousel at the English National Opera and Sweeney Todd starring Emma Thompson. Other choreography credits include Company starring Neil Patrick Harris and Sondheim: The Birthday Concert (PBS), Young Frankenstein (Muny) and the current U.K. tour ofDoctor Dolittle. Rhodes is a proud graduate of the University of Michigan.
BEN WHITELEY (Music Director/Conductor) Muny: Singin’ in the Rain, A Chorus Line, 42nd Street, My Fair Lady, The Addams Family, Spamalot, Pirates!; The Sound of Music (twice), Beauty and the Beast (thrice), Kiss Me, Kate; Oklahoma!; The Music Man, Meet Me In St. Louis, South Pacific. Music director for 1776 at NY City Center Encores! Broadway/national tours: A Christmas Story, The Addams Family, Spamalot, The Full Monty, Cats (conducted final original Broadway performance), Grand Hotel, Falsettos, Big. Carnegie Hall: Sail Away (with Elaine Stritch). Choral direction: Carousel (NY Philharmonic/PBS), My Fair Lady (NY Philharmonic). Encores!: associate music director and chorus master for over 30 productions. Other: St. Louis Symphony, Paper Mill Playhouse, The 5th Avenue Theatre, University of Michigan. Recordings: Allegro, Boardwalk Empire (Grammy Award),Paint Your Wagon.
MATILDA
August 5 – 11
Book by Dennis Kelly
Music and Lyrics by Tim Minchin
Based on Matilda by Roald Dahl
JOHN TARTAGLIA (Director) Director: Stephen Schwartz’s The Secret Silk (Princess Cruises, writer/director), Beauty and the Beast (Maltz Jupiter Theatre), Annie, The Wizard of Oz, Tarzan and Shrek (Muny), Claudio Quest (NY Musical Festival, Best of the Fest), Shrek the Halls (DreamWorks Theatricals) and many more. Broadway: Avenue Q (Tony nomination), Beauty and the Beast and Shrek. Muny: Aladdin (The Genie), Seussical (The Cat in the Hat), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Hysterium, St. Louis Theater Circle Award). Film/TV: The Happytime Murders (STX Films), Johnny and the Sprites (Disney Jr., Emmy nomination), Sesame Street (PBS Kids), Jim Henson’s Word Party and Julie’s Greenroom (both on Netflix), creator, co-executive producer and star of Jim Henson’s Splash and Bubbles (PBS Kids, Emmy nomination).
CHRIS BAILEY (Choreographer) Gettin’ The Band Back Together (Broadway), Jerry Springer: The Opera(New Group, 2018 Chita Rivera Award nomination); The New Yorkers and 1776 (NY City Center Encores!), The Entertainer with Kenneth Branagh (West End), Assassins (Menier Chocolate Factory), Because of Winn Dixie (Alabama Shakespeare Festival), 2013 Tony Awards (CBS), Muny: Jerome Robbins Broadway(production supervisor), Newsies (St. Louis Theater Circle Award), The Music Man, Into the Woods, My Fair Lady, Tarzan, West Side Story and Thoroughly Modern Millie. 2013-2015 Academy Awards (Assistant Choreographer). Film: Cinderella, Ted 2, A Million Ways to Die in the West and Beyond the Sea. Chris was also the movement director for the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of Cyrano De Bergerac on Broadway.
MICHAEL HORSLEY (Music Director/Conductor) is The Muny’s music supervisor. 25 Muny seasons include: Jerome Robbins Broadway, Mamma Mia!; The Buddy Holly Story, Grease, Mary Poppins, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor® Dreamcoat, Thoroughly Modern Millie, 42nd Street, Godspell, White Christmas, Damn Yankees, Sleeping Beauty, Singin’ in the Rain, and many more. National tours: Thoroughly Modern Millie, Chicago, Cinderella, White Christmas and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Other regional: Into the Woods (Theatrezone), Roman Holiday (Guthrie Theater), On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (Music Theatre Wichita), Fiddler on the Roof (AMT San Jose), A Chorus Line (Pioneer Theatre Company), The Full Monty(North Carolina Theatre). Voice director: Christmas Concert Series for the Detroit, National and Birmingham Symphony Orchestras. He is the music director for the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
The 2019 season schedule is: Guys and Dolls (June 10 – 16), Kinky Boots (June 19 – 25), 1776 (June 27 – July 3), Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (July 8 – 16), Footloose (July 18 – 24), Lerner and Loewe’s Paint Your Wagon (July 27 – August 2) and Matilda (August 5 – 11).
World Wide Technology (WWT) and The Steward Family Foundation became the first overall season sponsor in the history of The Muny in 2014. They are committed to continuing in this role with their leadership gift as The Muny’s 2019 Season Presenting Sponsor.
Muny gift cards for the 101st season are now available online and at The Muny Box Office. For more information, visit muny.org or call (314) 361-1900.
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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 400,000 theatregoers over our nine-week season. Celebrating 101 seasons in St. Louis, The Muny remains one of the premier institutions in musical theatre.
For more information about The Muny, visit muny.org
For more information about The Missouri History Museum’s
Muny Memories: 100 Seasons Onstage exhibit, visit mohistory.org
For more information about The Missouri History Museum’sMuny Memories: 100 Seasons Onstage exhibit, visit mohistory.org 

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
By wrapping up its Centennial Season with a sweet nostalgic slice of Americana, the Muny has tugged at our hearts and reminded us to treasure our traditions.
This “Meet Me in St. Louis” makeover is a richly textured tapestry significant to St. Louis – one that you can see and feel. With a freshly revised book and new orchestrations, the Muny has connected the ordinary Smith Family’s quaint story to emotionally resonate through the ties that bind us.
A tight-knit cast and tip-top crew wore their hearts on their sleeves opening night, offering a gift to the region that spends its summers in the nation’s oldest and largest outdoor theater. You could sense the love for our town onstage, backstage and in the audience.

The Smiths’ upper-middle class life at 5135 in Kensington Avenue was not different than countless others, but through their typical goings-on, they faced change, and that impending family transition from their comfortable routine to the uncertainty of a big metropolis is what drives their 1903-1904 story through seasons along the Mississippi River.
Sally Benson’s memoirs, “The Kensington Stories.” eventually became the beloved classic movie musical “Meet Me in St. Louis.” Even with its MGM-Hollywood pedigree, that unique turn-of-the-century site-specific history makes it ours alone – not Kansas City, Chicago or Indianapolis.
That civic pride resulted in the Muny presenting stage versions in 1960, 1965 and 1977 – before Broadway adapted it in 1989, and a variation has been staged four more times, including a dull one its last time in 2009.
The stage adaptation wasn’t special enough, and not even close in comparison to the movie. When the film opened in 1944, it became the studio’s biggest hit next to “Gone with the Wind” and nominated for four Oscars, including Best Song (“The Trolley Song”). Margaret O’Brien won a Juvenile Academy Award as Tootie. The film is now preserved in the National Film Registry (Library of Congress) and 10th on American Film Institute’s Greatest Movie Musicals in History list.
It’s closing line, “Right here in St. Louis,” became the Muny’s tagline for their 100th anniversary, and the show’s inclusion inevitable.
But this production has some surprises in store. To make this one memorable, Artistic Director and Executive Producer Mike Isaacson called on Gordon Greenberg to revamp the book by Hugh Wheeler. Greenberg is a veteran Muny director whose writing work includes the “Holiday Inn” Broadway adaptation.
He has inserted many local references to heighten the hometown feel. He had us right away when Grandpa talks about the St. Louis Cardinals beating the Chicago Cubs. Other mentions of neighborhoods and long-distance phone calls to Clayton were big crowd-pleasers.
No matter how corny you think the romantic entanglements are, the Smith kids’ excitement about seeing their hometown prepare to become the center of the universe is contagious.
The simple framework of children growing up is secondary to the time and place, as our forefathers are honored for their vision that included the biggest World’s Fair yet, and the first Summer Olympics in the U.S. And we continue to enjoy the fruits of those labors.

The world 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 nearby locations. So many contributions of long-lasting impact came from those seven months in 1904, and the work preceding it.
That’s what director Marcia Milgrom Dodge brings out as the characters express love for the city and family, friends and neighbors during daily routines and holiday rituals.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith (real-life married couple Stephen R. Buntrock and Erin Dilly) have five children: Rose, Esther, Alonzo Jr. “Lon,” Agnes and Tootie (Liana Hunt, Emily Walton, Jonathan Burke, Elle Wesley and Elena Adams, all in Muny debuts). Anna Smith’s father, retired doctor Grandpa Prophater (local legend Ken Page) lives with them. Alonzo Sr. is a lawyer and they live comfortably enough to afford a housekeeper, Katie (Kathy Fitzgerald).
This cast injected individual pizzazz into a show that’s still boxed in by the period’s social mores. Let’s face it, the schmaltz factor is high, and the two oldest girls’ boy troubles are trivial.
There is the potential to view the characters as spoiled in the way the older daughters maneuver the guys and bratty Tootie causes mayhem while they all whine about moving to New York City, but if they didn’t gripe, we wouldn’t have any dramatic conflict, would we? And the performers are winsome.
Rose’s intended fellow, the earnest Warren Sheffield, is well-played by Michael Burrell, and Dan DeLuca, as the proverbial boy-next-door John Truitt, matches Emily Walton’s adventurous zest as Esther.
Jonathan Burke is an impressive Lon Jr., getting ready for Princeton and dating the worldly Lucille Ballard (St. Louis regular Madison Johnson, looking swell in a Gibson hairstyle). He is a marvel of movement in the dance number, “The Banjo,” innovatively staged by choreographer Josh Walden. Jeff Jordan is a good sport as a gangly uncoordinated dance partner, Pee Wee Drummond.
Music Director Charlie Alterman glides through old standards and the stand-out numbers written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane – “The Boy Next Door,” “The Trolley Song” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” which Walton beautifully delivers.
An earlier song list was trimmed to thankfully cut the bloat, and John McDaniel’s new orchestrations provide some zing. McDaniel, a St. Louis native, is a Grammy and Emmy-winning composer, conductor, pianist and producer. He was the band leader on Rosie O’Donnell’s talk show from 1996 to 2002 and has returned to conduct the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra five times and worked on “Pirates!” during the Muny’s 2012 season.
They included a dandy song Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote but cut from the movie, “Boys and Girls Like You and Me.”

Supporting player Ben Nordstrom’s spotlight moment was delightful, as he sang “Under the Anheuser Bush” as the Christmas Ball band singer.
(Fun fact: That is a popular beer garden song commissioned by the brewery in 1903, and an instrumental version was used in the 1944 movie).
The vibrant vintage look sharpened the focus, with outstanding work by scenic designer Michael Schweikardt and video designer Matthew Young, who highlighted the bygone era with beautiful vistas.
Costume designer Tristan Raines and wig designer Leah J. Loukas immersed the players in exquisite detail. The youth ensemble’s Halloween costumes provided merriment as they scampered through the crowd.
Lighting designer Rob Denton spectacularly illuminated the World’s Fair, which elicited audible appreciation. Sound designers John Shivers and David Patridge captured the old-timey feel.
In two extraordinary moments, “Meet Me in St. Louis” crystallized the past, present and future of our crown jewels — Forest Park and The Muny, all in the shadow of our treasured landmarks.
The “Skinker’s Swamp” picnic scene, where video projection showed The Palace of Fine Art (now the St. Louis Art Museum) under construction, along with the Ferris Wheel, in a muddy field. Awestruck Esther and John rode that famous trolley to his baseball practice first.
The grand finale was breathtaking – as the anticipation of the World’s Fair built, to reveal the Smith Family standing on a bridge overlooking the Grand Basin, with thousands of festive lights. It was a vivid tableau that continued in a fireworks-festooned curtain call.
Sometimes, we see magic happen under the stars in Forest Park, just as our ancestors did in the 20th century. Hope about the future has been a running theme in all seven shows this season, and “Meet Me in St. Louis” became the cherry on top.
After the fireworks light up the sky for the last time Aug. 12, we move onto the second century.
Look around the park now – majestic remnants mark our heritage. It’s a stunning sight, recalling happy golden days of yore, as is the Muny’s love letter to the community we cherish.
This unabashedly sentimental production conjured up many personal memories and feelings about what Forest Park, the Muny and St. Louis mean to me. I don’t think I was alone in this regard, judging the audience’s reaction
“Meet Me in St. Louis” is presented from Aug. 4 to Aug. 12 nightly at 8:15 p.m. at The Muny in Forest Park. For more information or for tickets, visit www.muny.org.
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Photos by Phillip Hamer