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 Among the many thousands of people tuning in to the Muny’s Summer Variety Hour Live! on Monday nights, a health care professional told Mike Isaacson, the executive producer and artistic director who conceived this musical mash-up, that the show has saved her sanity and her summer. I second that.
If this summer were a mix-tape, mine would include all the magical
Muny-ized showtunes, “Hamilton” (just because) and the TwinstheNewTrend (just
watch). This bittersweet blend has become Operation: Summer Salvation. We
didn’t know how desperately we needed this balm, like a cool breeze on an
unbearably muggy day (or a Lemon Freeze under a Muny fan).
Why else would tears be streaming down my face as the
sublime Kennedy Holmes beautifully sang “Children Will Listen” live under the
Culver Pavilion, with Tali Allen on piano on Aug. 10, the fourth episode? Holmes,
who broke out as Little Inez in 2015’s “Hairspray,” went on to become a phenom
on “The Voice,” with a fourth-place finish. (She was robbed!). She remains a
loyal Muny Teen and, as the soloist Monday, displayed a stunning maturity.
Under Isaacson – who loves Stephen Sondheim as much as I do
– we were able to witness an extraordinary “Into the Woods” in 2015, and as I
teared up at least five times during the Muny production back then, watching
Tony winner Heather Headley sing “Children Will Listen” was the highlight among
many. Leave it to a young woman, Kennedy, to remind us:
Children will look to you
For which way to turn
To learn what to be
Careful before you say
“Listen to me”
From a musical stressing the reality behind the
make-believe, Monday’s rendition took on a greater poignancy. And being able to
see Kennedy’s growth and blossoming as a future major star was another unforgettable
In a crazy world of scary happenings and headlines, we have been comforted by
the talent of this joyful, faithful and hopeful ‘family’ of entertainers and the
time-honored tradition of the Municipal Opera, now 102 years old, for four
shows so far. Every superbly mixed show has elicited a rollercoaster of
emotions as we take our seat, not in the 11,000 open-air theater, on a warm
summer night, but instead before our televisions and computer screens, tissues
at the ready.
The anticipation is matched by the exquisite renditions,
whether live or on tape, but the added bonus has been seeing the work of such creative
spirits – putting together all those filmed clips and using Zoom technology.
And then you have the sunny optimism of those Muny Kids and Teens, and well,
It feels real, even if it is make-believe. Somehow, through
cyberspace, we feel connected. And we need it, apparently, for more than
140,000 people tuned in to the first three.
“Through the years, we’ll always be together, if the fates
allow” — little did we know how much the lyrics of “Meet Me in St. Louis”
would mean during a pandemic, “right here.” So, of course, this cast from the
Centennial presentation in 2018 would be this week’s heartwarming sing-a-long
The sentimentality showed up in waves during the
penultimate super-duper deluxe show, despite a heavy thunderstorm in the region
that caused uprooted trees, power outages and flash flooding. Yet, here was
Mike, underneath the stage, guiding us through another enchanted evening. We
weren’t huddled together with our umbrellas, but nonetheless united.
And the urgency of underlying theme “Gotta Dance!” saved
the day with some fresh, fantastic choreography.
The unbridled happiness of tap dancers, near and far, took
us from stages to home spaces in “Tap Your Troubles Away.” Conceived and
choreographed by Muny Resident and Teen Choreographer Katie Johannigman, this was
a jolt of jubilation that had me grinning ear to ear, featuring alums from the
past decade. And then Jack Sippel’s moving contemporary dance piece,
“Speechless” featuring Muny Teens. Breath-taking! A St. Louis native, Broadway
performer and Muny alum, Sippel is currently working on the Netflix version of
“The Prom,” as he was the dance captain of the Broadway show.
“West Side Story” is my all-time favorite musical, and the Jerome Robbins choreography is swoon-worthy, so to be treated to the goosebumps-inducing “Dance at the Gym” from “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway” in 2018 was a treat. The Muny’s 2013 production of “West Side Story” will always stand as one of the best ever, and the West Side Story suite from the Robbins’ greatest-hits compilation reminded me why the show is timeless 63 years later.
The archival footage included “Jersey Boys,” the sensational national premiere outside Broadway/national tours in 2018, and the splendid re-imagining of “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” with life force Beth Malone from 2017. Plus, one of the best “Annie” shows I’ve ever seen – “NYC”! — in 2018 helmed by the one-of-a-kind John Tartaglia.
It would not be a Muny summer without the exceptional Tartaglia, and he delivered the night’s best laugh-out-loud surprise – appearing as Murray the Muny Raccoon,” the pesky scene-stealer who waddled on stage during ‘The Addams Family” and is missing his scraps and his adoring fans. The versatile performer has memorably played The Cat in the Hat in “Seussical,” the Genie in “Aladdin” and won the St. Louis Theater Circle Award for Supporting Actor in a Musical for playing Hysterium in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” in 2017, in addition to his directing work. He started as a puppeteer on “Sesame Street,” and went on to “Avenue Q” and playing Pinocchio in “Shrek.”
For the weekly Couple Duo, we had not one but two. Real-life
couple Jason Gotay (Jack! Prince Eric! Prince Charming (well, Topher) in
Cinderella!) and Muny regular Michael Hartung charmingly performed “Song on the
Sand” from “La Cage aux Folles.”
Then the adorable power couple Jenny Powers and Matt Cavenaugh – who wowed us at the Sheldon a few years ago – brought baby daughter Rose with them to reprise “New Words,” a song by composer Maury Yeston. It’s not from a show, but he has composed “Titanic,” “Nine,” “Grand Hotel” among others. Waterworks.
This multi-tissue moment brought the house down, so to
speak. All across the nation, we collectively burst into tears while they sang
about “the moon, stars and love.”
Wait there was more! “Do-Re-Mi,” a special song-and-dance
performance by those effusive Muny Kids and Teens. And those indomitable teens
sang a bouncy rendition from “It Roars” from “Mean Girls.”
The Munywood Squares was another fun segment, and behind
the scenes is always illuminating. We heard about the Clydesdales Ace and
Deuce, and seeing the excitement of that experience from the creative anecdotes
was a nice perk.
One more chance to see this show Thursday at 8:15 p.m. on
Muny TV. For more information: muny.org/varietyhour/
And then Monday will be the swan song. Supersized (and with the traditional “Auld Lang Syne” too). Aug. 17, 8:15 p.m.
I’m so glad we’ve had this time together, just to have a
laugh or sing a song…