The Muny season tickets for its 2022 summer season will be available beginning Monday, March 21. Tickets can be purchased online at muny.org, by phone at (314) 361-1900, or in person at The Muny Box Office, open 9am-5pm, Monday through Friday. The Muny continues to be St. Louis’ destination for summer musicals, celebrating 104 seasons in Forest Park this summer. 
 
The 2022 season includes two Muny premieres and the return of Broadway favorites. The seven shows are: Chicago (June 13 – 19), Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot (June 22 – 28), Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins (July 5 – 13), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (July 16 – 22), Legally Blonde, The Musical (July 25 – 31), The Color Purple (August 3 – 9), and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (August 12 – 18).
CHICAGO
All That Jazz!
The Triumph of the 2021 Muny Season Returns!

Proudly Sponsored by Edward Jones
June 13 – 19
Book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse
Music by John Kander and Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Based on the Play by Maurine Dallas Watkins
Script Adaptation by David Thompson

Audiences and critics went “Whoopee!” for last season’s thrilling production of Chicago. Following an abbreviated run and early close to the 2021 season, our 2022 season opens with this encore production!  Hailed as “Musical Theater Magic,” “Downright Breathtaking” and “Nothing Short of Brilliant,” Chicago was the talk of the town! So, re-start the car and head to Kander and Ebb’s internationally-acclaimed, Tony Award-winning musical about fame, fortune and justice. Merry murderesses Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly await!

LERNER AND LOEWE’S CAMELOT
One Brief Shining Moment.
First Production in 13 Years!

June 22 – 28
Book and Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
Music by Frederick Loewe
Based on The Once and Future King by T.H. White
Book adapted by David Lee
New orchestrations by Steve Orich
 
Come re-discover this powerful, moving and enchanting tale of romance and political intrigue, as we all live for “one brief shining moment.” Based upon T.H. White’s novel, Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot features a lush and Excalibur-sharp score, including “If Ever I Would Leave You,” “What Do the Simple Folk Do?” and of course, “Camelot.” With this enchanting classic tale, you are guaranteed an unforgettable (k)night at King Arthur’s Round Table.
 
DISNEY AND CAMERON MACKINTOSH’S MARY POPPINS
Practically Perfect for The Muny!
Flies in for the Second Time!

Proudly Sponsored by Ameren
July 5 – 13  
A Musical based on the stories of P.L. Travers and the Walt Disney Film
Original Music and Lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman
Book by Julian Fellowes
New Songs and Additional Music and Lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe
Co-Created by Cameron Mackintosh
 
Based on one of the most popular films ever, Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins returns to The Muny with its irresistible story, unforgettable songs and breathtaking dance numbers! This Tony Award-winning stage adaptation shares the tale of the mysterious, magical nanny who arrives to give the Banks family some order – and maybe a bit of tough love. With winds in the east and mist coming in, your heart will soar for this enchanting show – and yes, Mary Poppins will fly over The Muny!

SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET
A Bloody Good Time.
Muny Premiere!
Proudly Sponsored by Missouri Lottery
July 16 – 22
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Hugh Wheeler
From an Adaptation by Christopher Bond
Originally Directed on Broadway by Harold Prince
Orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick
 
The spine-tingling American musical masterpiece makes its long-awaited Muny debut. Set in 19th century London, Sweeney Todd has captivated audiences around the world with its murderous melodies and a haunting tale of love, revenge and hilarious mayhem. Considered to be one of the greatest scores in Broadway history, this eight-time Tony Award-winning musical offers both thrills and laughs and is guaranteed to be an unforgettable night at The Muny.

LEGALLY BLONDE, THE MUSICAL
Being True to Yourself Never Goes Out of Style.
First Production in 11 Years!

Proudly Sponsored by BMO Harris Bank
July 25 – 31
Book by Heather Hach
Music and Lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin
Based on the novel by Amanda Brown and the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Motion Picture
 
“Omigod You Guys,” Elle Woods returns! Based on the smash hit movie, Legally Blonde follows the transformation of quintessential blonde Elle Woods from sorority sister to Harvard Law graduate. Her journey of determination, self-discovery and finding true love receives its first Muny production in 11 years. Complete with a chihuahua, a bulldog and a UPS guy, The Muny is ready to “Bend and Snap” for a great time!

THE COLOR PURPLE
I’m Beautiful and I’m Here.
Midwest Regional and Muny Premiere!
Proudly Sponsored by Emerson
August 3 – 9
Based upon the novel written by Alice Walker and the Warner Bros./Amblin Entertainment Motion Picture
Book by Marsha Norman
Music and Lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray
 
Based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and Steven Spielberg’s landmark film, The Color Purple makes its Muny debut! Featuring a Grammy Award-winning score infused with jazz, ragtime, gospel and African blues, this moving tale is a testament to the healing power of love, faith, resilience and sisterhood. Winner of the 2016 Tony Award for “Best Revival of a Musical,” this epic staging promises a joyous evening of courage, hope and healing.
 
JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT
Any Dream Will Do!
First Production in a Decade!

Proudly Sponsored by U.S. Bank
August 12 – 18  
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
 
Originally written by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber as a children’s oratorio, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has, in time, expanded to become one of the most beloved shows ever. The story of Jacob, his 12 sons, and the amazing Technicolor adventures of Joseph features a multi-colored score of favorites including “Any Dream Will Do,” “Go, Go, Go Joseph” and “Close Every Door.” The first Muny production in a decade, audiences are guaranteed a night of big Muny family joy – with, of course, a megamix!
 
 Subscribers save up to 30% on tickets to the 2022 Season.
 
Single tickets on sale Monday, May 23, 2022. Muny gift cards for the 104th 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 350,000 theatregoers over our nine-week season. Celebrating 104 seasons in St. Louis, The Muny remains one of the premier institutions in musical theatre.

For more information about The Muny, visit muny.org

Eric Pugh has been named The Muny’s new Director of Marketing, effective January 1, 2022. He will lead all marketing and communications for the theatre’s artistic and institutional programming and branding.

“I am honored to have been chosen to lead the marketing efforts for one of the country’s greatest assets, and distinguished theatres,” said Muny Director of Marketing, Eric Pugh. “I am looking forward to becoming reacquainted with St. Louis, and I am so proud to call it home, once again. The Muny has a very bright future, and I am excited to be a part of what lies ahead.”

“We’re excited and grateful to add Eric to our team,” said Muny President and CEO, Kwofe Coleman. “Eric has a record of success both in the St. Louis market and on a national scale. His breadth of experience is going to be invaluable as we evolve our marketing efforts, deepen our connections and broaden our profile. I’m personally thrilled to welcome Eric to The Muny.”

Eric Pugh joins The Muny, after most recently serving as the Director of Sales, Marketing, and Strategic Development at the Historic Fulton Theatre in Lancaster, PA. Pugh’s successes have included increasing ticket revenue at the Fulton by over $2.3 Million or 70% during his tenure, which also includes an increase in subscriptions of nearly 4,000 or 60%. He has held similar positions, with comparable results at Cleveland Play House, STAGES St. Louis, Florida Studio Theatre, and the Carousel. An avid musical theatre fan, he feels blessed to be doing what he loves. When not at work, he can be found at a local theatre, or in New York, checking out the latest productions.

 To stay connected virtually and to receive the latest updates, please follow The Muny on their social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
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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 350,000 theatregoers over our nine-week season. Celebrating 103 seasons in St. Louis, The Muny remains one of the premier institutions in musical theatre.

For more information about The Muny, visit muny.org

The Muny announced the exciting seven show lineup for its 104th Season in 2022 Thursday.

Joining the previously announced “Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s “Mary Poppins” and Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece “Sweeney Todd,” will be the 2021 show “Chicago” cut short and the second premiere, “The Color Purple,” in addition to three fan favorites.

The triumph of the 2021 season returns when six-time Tony Award-winning Chicago kicks of 2022 (June 13 – 19). The salacious turns enchanting with Lerner and Loewe’s Excalibur-sharp classic Camelot (June 22 – 28). Fulfilling two 2020 commitments to the Muny audience: all-time family favorite Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins (July 5 – 13) will finally soar over The Muny (July 5 – 13), followed by the long-awaited Muny debut of Stephen Sondheim’s spine-tingling musical masterpiece, Sweeney Todd (July 16 – 22). The fabulously fun award-winning musical Legally Blonde (July 25 – 31) bounces back to the Muny stage for its
first production in 11 years. Making its Muny debut, the landmark musical The Color Purple (August 3 – 9) bears a Grammy Award-winning score and moving tale of love, faith, resilience and sisterhood. Closing out the 104th Season is Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s multi-colored family favorite, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (August 12 – 18).

The seven shows are: Chicago (June 13 – 19), Camelot (June 22 – 28), Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins (July 5 – 13), Sweeney Todd (July 16 – 22), Legally Blonde (July 25 – 31), The Color Purple (August 3 – 9) and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (August 12 – 18).

“Last summer was extraordinary for so many reasons,” said Muny Artistic Director and Executive Producer Mike Isaacson, “and now we will return with our full seven show season, and this extraordinary line-up of shows.”

“More than ever, we are so grateful to be a place where the community gathers each summer,” said Muny President and CEO-elect Kwofe Coleman. “For what will be my first season as President and CEO, I am excited for us to produce a season that reflects the breadth of musical theatre and welcomes audiences from far and wide.”

Season ticket renewals will begin in December, with new subscriptions on sale in March 2022. Muny gift cards for the 104th Season are now available online and at The Muny Box Office. For more information, visit muny.org or call (314) 361-1900.

Information about auditions for the 2022 Muny season can be found at muny.org/auditions.


Show Descriptions:

Chicago
The triumph of the 2021 Muny season returns! Audiences and critics went “Whoopee!” for last
season’s thrilling production of Chicago. Following an abbreviated run and early close to the
2021 season, our 2022 season opens with this encore production! Hailed as “Musical Theater
Magic,” “Downright Breathtaking” and “Nothing Short of Brilliant,” Chicago was the talk of the
town! So re-start the car and head to Kander and Ebb’s internationally-acclaimed, Tony Award-winning musical about fame, fortune and justice. Merry murderesses Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly await!

Camelot
The Broadway legend returns for its first Muny production in 13 years! Come re-discover this
powerful, moving and enchanting tale of romance and political intrigue, as we all live for “one
brief shining moment.” Based upon T.H. White’s novel, Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot features a
lush and Excalibur-sharp score, including “If Ever I Would Leave You,” “What Do the Simple Folk
Do?” and of course, “Camelot.” With this enchanting classic tale, you are guaranteed an
unforgettable (k)night at King Arthur’s Round Table.

Mary Poppins
Based on one of the most popular films ever, Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary
Poppins returns to The Muny with its irresistible story, unforgettable songs and breathtaking
dance numbers! This Tony Award-winning stage adaptation shares the tale of the mysterious,
magical nanny who arrives to give the Banks family some order – and maybe a bit of tough love.
With winds in the east and mist coming in, your heart will soar for this enchanting show – and
yes, Mary Poppins will fly over The Muny!

Sweeney Todd
Muny premiere! The spine-tingling American musical masterpiece makes its long-awaited Muny
debut. Set in 19th century London, Sweeney Todd has captivated audiences around the world
with its murderous melodies and a haunting tale of love, revenge and hilarious mayhem.
Considered to be one of the greatest scores in Broadway history, this eight-time Tony Award-
winning musical offers both thrills and laughs and is guaranteed to be an unforgettable night at
The Muny


Legally Blonde
“Omigod You Guys,” Elle Woods returns! Based on the smash hit movie, Legally Blonde follows
the transformation of quintessential blonde Elle Woods from sorority sister to Harvard Law
graduate. Her journey of determination, self-discovery and finding true love receives its first
Muny production in 11 years. Complete with a chihuahua, a bulldog and a UPS guy, The Muny is
ready to “Bend and Snap” for a great time!

The Color Purple
Muny premiere! Based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and Steven Spielberg’s
landmark film, The Color Purple makes its long-awaited Muny debut! Featuring a Grammy
Award-winning score infused with jazz, ragtime, gospel and African blues, this moving tale is a
testament to the healing power of love, faith, resilience and sisterhood. Winner of the 2016
Tony Award for “Best Revival of a Musical,” this epic staging promises a joyous evening of
courage, hope and healing.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Originally written by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber as a children’s oratorio, Joseph and
the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has, in time, expanded to become one of the most beloved
shows ever. The story of Jacob, his 12 sons, and the amazing Technicolor® adventures of Joseph
features a multi-colored score of favorites including “Any Dream Will Do,” “Go, Go, Go Joseph”
and “Close Every Door.” The first Muny production in a decade, audiences are guaranteed a
night of big Muny family joy – with, of course, a megamix!

Muny Mission

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 104 seasons in St. Louis,
The Muny remains one of the premier institutions in musical theatre.
For more information about The Muny, visit muny.or

The Muny announced today attendance totals for its triumphant 103rd season. After a 714-day intermission, The Muny opened its gates on July 26, 2021, for a five-show season that included Smokey Joe’s CafeThe Sound of MusicSeven Brides for Seven BrothersOn Your Feet! and Chicago. The highly anticipated lineup for the 2022 season will be announced later this fall and will include Sweeney Todd and Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins.

“After an extended intermission, Season 103 offered an incredible homecoming for many,” said Muny President and CEO Denny Reagan. “We are so proud to have gotten the chance to present five productions for our audience, and to have had the opportunity to put our dedicated teams back to work. We cannot thank St. Louis enough for coming out and showing their support — we are forever grateful.”

“This past season will live in our hearts forever,” said Muny Executive Producer and Artistic Director Mike Isaacson. “You could scoop the audiences’ joy at being back at The Muny. It was so powerful. And everyone backstage gave everything they have as people and professionals to create our five extraordinary productions. I am enormously grateful.”

“Our 2021 season will, hopefully, be remembered as the summer this community came together and showed what the heart and willpower of a city can do,” said Muny Managing Director Kwofe Coleman. “Watching thousands of patrons light up as they passed through our gates each night is the reason we exist. While challenging, Season 103 will forever stand out in our history as poignant and unforgettably necessary.”

Total attendance for the five-show summer season: 192,806. This number does not include the Aug. 12 rainout of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, or the Aug. 31 rainout and final three cancelled performances of Chicago. Through The Muny’s free seat and Community Access programs, over 50,000 guests experienced a Muny production at no cost.

103rd season attendance by show:

SMOKEY JOE’S CAFE: 37,290
The Songs of Leiber and Stoller
July 26 – August 1
Words and Music by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Sponsored by Ameren

Muny Premiere
Ben E. King, The Coasters, Elvis Presley, Peggy Lee and The Drifters – what do they have in common? Besides being some of the most popular artists of the 50s and 60s, their hits, and over 35 others, were the bread and butter of Smokey Joe’s Cafe. Set in St. Louis’ historic Gaslight Square, Broadway’s longest-running musical revue included Grammy Award-winning favorites such as “Yakety Yak,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “On Broadway” and “Love Potion No. 9.” With this generation-defining Muny premiere, audiences were dancing in the aisles.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC: 55,409
August 3 – 9
Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse
Suggested by “The Trapp Family Singers” by Maria Augusta Trapp
Sponsored by Edward Jones
Considered by many to be the world’s most beloved musical, The Sound of Music reminds us that with high-spirited hope, heartfelt compassion and unwavering determination, life’s mountains can always be climbed. With its Tony, Grammy and Academy Award-winning score, including “Do-Re-Mi,” “My Favorite Things,” “Edelweiss” and the iconic title track “The Sound of Music,” the hills of Forest Park came alive once more!

Photo by Phillip Hamer

SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS: 39,974
August 12 – 18
Book by Lawrence Kasha and David Landay
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Music by Gene de Paul
New Songs by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn
Based on the MGM Film and
“The Sobbin’ Women” by Stephen Vincent Benet
Dance Music Arrangements by Sam Davis
Sponsored by U.S. Bank
Based on the Academy Award-winning 1954 film, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is Americana at its finest. With an age-old tale of wooing and winning, the battle of the sexes and some barn-raising dancing, this western rollick featured whistle-worthy favorites, including “Bless Your Beautiful Hide” and “Goin’ Courtin’.” With two of the most eminent dance scenes in musical theatre history and seven times the fun, audiences saddled up for an unforgettable joyride through the Oregon frontier.

Note: The attendance total does not include the Aug. 12 rainout performance of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

Photo by Phillip Hamer

ON YOUR FEET!: 38,335
The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan
August 21 – 27
Featuring Music Produced and Recorded by Emilio & Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine
Book by Alexander Dinelaris
Sponsored by BMO Harris Bank

Muny Premiere
Based on the inspiring true story of the queen of Latin pop, Gloria Estefan and her husband, Emilio, On Your Feet! is a universal sensation that shows what can happen when two people believe in their talent, music and one another. Their moving rags-to-riches story featured some of the most chart-topping songs of the past quarter-century, including “Rhythm is Gonna Get You,” “1-2-3,” “Coming Out of the Dark” and the title hit, “Get On Your Feet.” With this Muny premiere, audiences left ready to “Conga!”

Photo by Phillip Hamer

CHICAGO: 21,798
August 30 – September 5
Book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins
Script Adaptation by David Thompson
Sponsored by Missouri Lottery
Start the car and head to a “whoopee spot” where crime and corruption are hot! Kander and Ebb’s internationally-acclaimed musical about fame, fortune and justice features a headline-worthy story of how two icon-victs become Jazz Age celebrities. Set during the Prohibition era, this six-time Tony Award-winner, the longest-running American musical in Broadway history, included showstopping standards such as “Cell Block Tango,” “Mister Cellophane” and the notorious “All That Jazz.”

Note: The attendance total does not include the Aug. 31 rainout or final three cancelled performances of Chicago.

Emerson is proud to be The Muny’s 2021 Season Sponsor.

To stay connected virtually and to receive the latest updates, please follow The Muny on their social media channels, including FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

. Smokey Joe’s Cafe. Photo by Phillip Hamer.

The Muny announced Friday afternoon the cancellation of the three remaining performances of Chicago, the theatre’s fifth and final production of its 103rd season, due to positive COVID-19 breakthrough cases within the cast. There will be no performances Friday through Sunday, Sept. 3, 4 and 5, 2021.

“While deeply unfortunate, the decision to cancel the remainder of this season is unquestionably necessary. The safety of our Muny family, both onstage and off, has been a top priority since day one,” said Muny President and CEO Denny Reagan. “Out of 35 nights of Muny magic scheduled for 2021, we were able to spend 31 of them together. We cannot thank St. Louis enough for helping us usher live theatre back into Forest Park. This season has been nothing short of a homecoming for many.”

“The heartbreak of this moment is real,” said Muny Artistic Director and Executive Producer Mike Isaacson. “This was a remarkable production of Chicago, and I am so grateful for its three nights of glory. I feel the same about our entire 103rd season. It was extraordinary, and I honor everyone for their artistry, humanity and commitment.”

“We’ve remained in constant communication with health professionals and officials throughout this pandemic, and are remarkably grateful for their guidance in getting us to this point,” said Muny Managing Director Kwofe Coleman. “While this is a disappointing end to our 103rd season, we remain proud and grateful that this community, including our crews and staff, worked together to make it possible for an unforgettable return to live theatre in Forest Park. We’ll see you next summer.”

Season ticket holders for the 2021 season will be contacted with detailed information regarding remaining balance options. Single ticket holders who purchased their tickets through MetroTix will receive an email and automatic refund from MetroTix. The Muny Box Office in Forest Park will be closed Sept. 3 – 6. Beginning Tuesday, Sept. 7, Muny Box Office hours will be Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Single ticket holders who bought their tickets in person at the Muny Box Office in Forest Park m ay call or return to the box office to receive a refund. Refunds for the canceled performances are available Sept. 7 through Sept. 30, 2021.

To stay connected virtually and to receive the latest updates, please sign up for Muny emails or follow The Muny on their social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

By Lynn Venhaus

The best produced show of the Muny’s 103rd season, “Chicago” capped off the welcome return to tradition in Forest Park this summer with a sultry and sleek music-and-dance showcase.

Everything about the production was on point – from the crisp staging by director Denis Jones and his snappy choreography to the jazzy brass beats from the swinging orchestra conducted by music director Charlie Alterman.

And this production blazes with star power. You will remember the names of the lead trio: Sarah Bowden (Roxie Hart), J. Harrison Ghee (Velma Kelly) and James T. Lane (Billy Flynn).

With snazzy music by John Kander and barbed lyrics by Fred Ebb, patterned after old-timey vaudeville numbers, and a saucy original book by Ebb and Bob Fosse, the story is a sardonic take on fame and the justice system set during the freewheeling Jazz Age.

It is based on a 1926 play by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins about actual criminals she covered for a newspaper in Chicago. This current script adaptation is by David Thompson, who worked with Kander and Ebb on the musicals “The Scottsboro Boys” and “Steel Pier.”

Jones’ clever concept was to set the show as an entertaining spectacle at a speakeasy, with café tables around a perimeter so it’s watched by not only the Muny audience but also by performers on stage. He did a similar staging, but not an exact replica, for the 2012 Muny version. That point of view works brilliantly.

Scenic designer Tim Mackabee gave it a striking look while the lighting design by Rob Denton added to the stylized atmosphere and the stellar video design by Shawn Duan complemented the experience perfectly.

Drenched in cynicism, “Chicago” satirizes corruption and is a show-bizzy spin on tawdry headline-grabbing trial that marked the Prohibition Era — but are also timely today. Merry murderers Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly attempt to seize the spotlight and become celebrities.

Perhaps when the musical debuted in 1975, it was ahead of its time, for contemporary audiences didn’t find it relatable.  The week after the Broadway show closed after 936 performances in the summer of 1977, it transferred to the Muny. Starring Jerry Orbach and Ann Reinking, it was not well-received (I was there).

The mostly unsympathetic characters take part in a three-ring circus that’s part illusion and part rhapsody in sleaze. Its relevance has only grown over the years, especially in the digital age of social media.

A rebirth after a robust 1996 Tony Award-winning revival received universal acclaim and broke records as the longest-running musical revival and the longest running American musical in history, second only to “The Phantom of the Opera” on the all-inclusive list (it surpassed “Cats” on Nov. 23, 2014, with its 7,486th performance).

Because the 24-hour news cycle has helped fuel an obsessive celebrity culture and the emergence of reality television has made stars out of unsavory housewives, wealthy influencers like the Kardashians and self-absorbed narcissists, now society has caught up with “Chicago’s” place in pop culture history.

It took me awhile to warm up to the musical, but after watching a few high-profile celebrity trials, you see the parallels. And those songs from the team that gave us the insightful “Cabaret” get better every time you hear them.

Sarah Bowden as Roxie Hart. Photo by Phillip Hamer.

A movie adaptation in 2002 garnered an Academy Award for Best Picture, earning six total, including Best Supporting Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma, which also helped its acceptance. It was the first musical since “Oliver!” in 1968 to win the top award.

Cut to Artistic Director and Executive Producer Mike Isaacson’s first season at The Muny in 2012, and “Chicago” was second in the line-up following Fox Theatricals’ Tony winner “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” He said it had been the most requested show on the annual survey for several years.

It’s back, for just the third time, 10 years later, with Jones, now a two-time Tony Award nominee for choreography on “Tootsie” in 2019 and “Holiday Inn” in 2017, raising the bar once again.

He has put his stamp on of two of the Muny’s best shows during the past decade, “42nd Street” in 2016 (Jones, St. Louis Theater Circle Award) and “A Chorus Line” in 2017, and now with another fresh outlook on “Chicago.”

Jones is familiar with the Broadway revival, for he was a swing performer and later dance captain, during four separate runs for him (performing in total for about four and a half years). He worked with Ann Reinking, Bebe Neuwirth, Joel Grey and James Naughton, who began their roles in 1996. So, he had specific ideas on what to keep and what to change.

His associate choreographer, Barry Busby, deserves a shout-out too, for the dance numbers are seamless. They put the roar back in The Roaring Twenties, and the vibrancy shows in Bowden-led “Roxie” and “Me and My Baby,” and Billy’s flashy “Razzle Dazzle.”

“Chicago” will always be Fosse’s magnus opus, for his signature moves, those distinctive deliberate dance steps – and jazz hands! But this isn’t a copycat at all.  (Fosse may have lost the Tonys for choreographer and director pf “Chicago” to “A Chorus Line” in 1976, but he holds the all-time record, with eight, for choreography).

The athletic dancers excel at the high-octane numbers. Six performers carry out “Cell Block Tango” with the attitudes you expect – Liz (Madison Johnson), Annie (Taeler Cyrus), June (Veronica Fiaoni), Hunyak (Lizz Picini), Velma (Ghee), and Mona (Carleigh Bettiol), more commonly known as “Pop, Six, Squish, Uh-Uh, Cicero, and Lipschitz.”

Bowden plays Hart with verve, oozing phony wholesomeness in the public eye and a ruthless craving for attention when not. She was here once, in “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway,” and is an energetic firecracker on stage.

The magnetic Ghee sashays and struts as tough-as-nails Kelly, resentful of Hart being the shiny new sensation. He got our attention as Lola in “Kinky Boots” in 2019 and is a dynamic force every time he appears. Wearing satiny outfits and displaying a silky voice, he sets the tone with a seductive “All That Jazz” and an indignant “I Know a Girl,” and shows off his dexterity in “I Can’t Do It Alone.”

J Harrison Ghee, Sarah Bowden. Photo by Phillip Hamer.

Bowden is fire to Ghee’s ice, a combustible fun mix for the “My Own Best Friend” that closes Act 1 and the “Nowadays”/ “Hot Honey Rag” finale with those omnipresent canes and hats Fosse was so fond of using.

James T. Lane embodies the slick ambulance chaser lawyer Billy Flynn with a demanding and greedy nature – and delivers a dandy disingenuous “All I Care About” – accompanied by a marvelous fan dance that received its own ovation. Lane was last seen as Sebastian in 2017’s “Little Mermaid” here.

One of this show’s standout numbers is the “We Both Reached for the Gun” press conference rag with Billy pulling Roxie’s strings like a ventriloquist and the ensemble doing fast footwork.

It’s good to see veteran performers Emily Skinner and Adam Heller, who were both in The Rep’s magnificent “Follies” in 2016, and St. Louis Theater Circle nominees for previous Muny work, back on the outdoor stage. As Matron “Mama” Morton, Skinner belts out a terrific “When You’re Good to Mama” and teams with Ghee on one of my favorites, “Class.”

Heller, last seen as Ben Franklin in “1776,” plays Roxy’s cuckolded husband Amos Hart as a more naïve sad sack, not realizing how he is being manipulated. He strikes the right tone for an affecting ‘Mr. Cellophane.”

With her sweet soprano, Ali Ewoldt poses as the powerful radio personality Mary Sunshine and sings the ironic “Little Bit of Good.”

Regular Michael James Reed capably portrays five different roles in the ensemble: stage manager, Sgt. Fogarty, doctor, Aaron and the Judge.

The technical elements were also superior, with costume designer Emily Rebholz’s striking work with vintage fashions and for limber dance outfits, accompanied by strong wig design by Tommy Kurzman.

The shortened season is coming to an end, and what the Muny achieved this summer is remarkable, putting five shows together in eight weeks. This is also the time for a fond farewell to Denny Reagan, who is retiring after spending 53 years at the Muny, the last 30 as President and CEO.

A trip to the Muny isn’t complete until you greet Denny, or see him greeting patrons, at his ‘spot.’ We look forward to working with his top-shelf successor, Kwofe Coleman, starting in January.

Cell Block Tango. Photo by Phillip Hamer.

This collaborative production was a grand, great, swell time where all the elements came together in blissful harmony.

Attendance for the opening night performance was 6,435. The show runs an estimated 2 hours and 30 minutes.

“Chicago” is the final show of the shortened 103rd five-show season,  through Sunday, Sept. 5. Performances are at 8:15 p.m. each evening on the outdoor stage in Forest Park. Emerson was the 103rd season sponsor.

For more information, visit muny.org.

Tickets can be purchased in person at the box office, online at muny.org or by phone by calling (314) 361-1900 ext. 1550.

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 company of ‘Chicago.” Photo by Phillip Hamer.

By Lynn Venhaus

A refreshing summer breeze took over the Muny for the premiere of the solid-gold Emilio and Gloria Estefan musical “On Your Feet!” and transformed it into an effusive Saturday night Dance Party. Did we need this now or what?

A winning combination of melodic Latin rhythms, heartfelt pop ballads, ebullient dance moves and an only-in-America success story, this electrifying jukebox musical swiftly engaged the crowd, who seemed ready to have the rhythm get them up and on their feet for a rockin’ megamix curtain call.

The winds of change were noticeable opening night on that venerable stage in Forest Park, where it has been a beacon in times of turmoil – and created more than a few memorable moments. Will we remember this night as a turning point? It deserves to be one.

To be sure, it was a fait accompli that also was of historical significance. Looking back at the past decade, this Muny premiere is the most recent work on the schedule, having opened on Broadway in 2015.

While the Municipal Opera archives includes pre-Broadway tryouts and shows imported directly from New York, “On Your Feet!” is also among the shows that have had the shortest time between its Broadway debut and the Muny-produced premiere. For instance, “On Your Feet!” has six years between those markers, only surpassed by “Legally Blonde” — 2007 in NYC and 2011 in Forest Park, and “Newsies” on Broadway in 2012 and at the Muny in 2017. (“Kinky Boots” and “Matilda the Musical” both opened on Broadway in April 2013 and were at the Muny the summer of 2019, and “Shrek the Musical” was in NYC in 2007 and at The Muny in 2013, so all tying the six years’ gap.)

The show also represents a sea change — the first about Latinos by Latinos with a primarily Latino cast. The Estefans are known for breaking barriers, so kudos for this achievement, too.

Arianna Rosario and Omar Lopez-Cepero as Gloria and Emilio Estefan. Photo by Phillip Hamer.

Because the audience of 5,930 wholeheartedly embraced this modern musical, magic materialized and represented something larger in the big picture. After all, the Muny is most importantly about community, and “On Your Feet!” is about what community means – and how determination and everlasting love can get us over insurmountable odds.

There is so much to like about this local production, well-suited for the expansive outdoors stage, not only a showcase for sizzling performances but also as a panorama of cultural heritage.

Based on the remarkable true story of married power couple Emilio and Gloria Estefan (lightning bolts Omar Lopez-Cepero and Arianna Rosario), who met while making music in Miami. Gloria Maria Milagrosa Fajardo Garcia was 17, studying for a degree in psychology.

As leader of the popular group Miami Latin Boys, Emilio recognized her talent, and it was apparent early on they made quite a team. They eventually married, had a son and daughter, and built an international career that resulted in Gloria becoming one of the best-selling female artists of all-time. (75 million records and counting).

Impossible was never in their vocabulary, and the realities of what they overcame makes for a compelling narrative. Above all, their backstory illustrates how enormous hard work and belief in what they offered paid off.

In the 1980s, their Miami Sound Machine music was a revolutionary fusion of Cuban and American cultures and as an early crossover to other audiences, earned worldwide acclaim through its propulsive beats: “Conga!”, “Rhythms Is Gonna Get You,” “1-2-3,” “Get on Your Feet” and “Live for Loving You” lit up club dance floors. Fame and fortune followed, but not without its struggles.

Initially, Gloria shied away from the spotlight, but that exceptional voice demanded she be front and center. The band became known as Gloria Estefan and The Miami Sound Machine, later dropping the group name. Grammy Awards, Presidential Medal of Freedom, Kennedy Center Honors and two Super Bowl halftime appearances are among her accolades.

The ready-made-for-a-musical opened at New York’s Marquis Theatre in 2015 after a Chicago tryout and closed after 746 performances in 2017. Some of the Muny cast and production team were involved in the Broadway show, including music director Lon Hoyt, who makes the music pop with pizzazz.

Omar Lopez-Cepero and Arianna Rosario. Photo by Phillip Hamer

This biopic was immediately elevated by the casting of real-life husband-and-wife Lopez-Cepero and Rosario as the leads. They make a dynamic duo, easily captivating with sincerity, personality and noticeable chemistry.

As the Queen of Latin pop, Rosario is a dazzling magnetic force delivering hit after catchy hit and conveying warmth and courage in the personal life interludes. During the Broadway run, she was an understudy for Gloria and performed as Rebecca, Gloria’s sister, and in the ensemble.

Since his breakthrough performance in the Muny’s 2017 “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” and his tremendous turn as Armando in 2019’s “Paint Your Wagon,” Lopez-Cepero has been notable. Fortunately, he finally gets an opportunity to be in a starring role, and effortlessly rises to the occasion. He was in the original Broadway cast as a supporting player.

He shines as Emilio, who recognized Gloria’s talents and would not be deterred by all the doors shut along the way, opening windows instead and allowing the music to do its magic. His splendid voice soars in “Don’t Want to Lose You.”

Both the Estefans and the headliners project that their marriage is a terrific representation of a true partnership.

Family is a major focus of the musical’s book by Alexander Dinelaris Jr., Oscar winner for co-writing the original screenplay of “Birdman” with Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone and Armando Bo.

The delightful Alma Cuervo, who originated the role of Consuelo, Gloria’s supportive “abuela’ (grandma) on Broadway, endeared herself on the larger stage.

And because there is never a musical biography without conflict, that friction is displayed in the rocky relationship with bitter mom, also named Gloria, whose dreams were crushed at a young age.

As the elder Gloria, Natascia Diaz stands out in song – “Mi Tierra” and with Lopez-Cepero in “If I Never Got to Tell You,” a song written by Gloria and her daughter Emily Estefan for this show.

Locally, Diaz won a Kevin Kline Award for best supporting actress in a musical in 2006 for portraying Anita in The Muny’s 2005 “West Side Story” and was nominated for a St. Louis Theater Circle Award as Velma Kelly in the Muny’s “Chicago” in 2012.

While the book follows the template of many other standard biographies, Gloria’s backstory does include some hefty issues. At age 2, she fled from the revolution in Cuba with her family. In the U.S. military, her father served in the Bay of Pigs invasion and volunteered for Vietnam, and Gloria’s tapes of her singing comforted him on the far-away battlefield.

Martin Sola is poignant as Jose Fajardo, the loving dad suffering from multiple sclerosis. He was also a part of the Broadway production.

Adolescent performers are bright lights — Isabella Iannelli as young Gloria and Jordan Vergara as son Nayib and young Emilio respectively. Vergara made his Broadway debut as an alternate in those roles and continued playing them in the national tour.

There is a fun recreation of a Shriners convention in Vegas, with the two youngsters as tiny Elvis impersonators, and the enitre youth ensemble is a sunny presence in the big numbers.

The multi-generational ensemble is noteworthy – and the diversity reflects how America looks today. Bravo to the casting that recognized talent comes in all different shades and sizes, and for the work by dialect coach Gaby Rodriguez Perara.

Director Maggie Burrows, a Muny first-timer, has deftly pulled all the elements together to keep the story on its toes, fortified with athletic choreography by William Carlos Angulo and Hoyt’s percussive beat. The musicians were a finely tuned machine, and the additional percussion gave the pulsating numbers extra oomph.

Costume Designer Leon Dobkowski’s signature swirling mix of bright colors provided flexibility and were pleasing to watch in motion.

The book’s construction makes it necessary to stage small, intimate scenes – such as a kitchen counter, a bedroom, a dressing room and a hospital bed, so I wish the sound had been better, because at times it was subpar, hard to hear the conversations.

Because of Gloria’s explosive career as an entertainer, scenic designer Tim Mackabee has staged multiple numbers with the pop superstar descending a staircase in headlining diva mode, and the band perched in full view – which lends such a vitality.

As does video segments on the LED screen as an ‘up close and personal’ viewpoint – an ingenious move that offers something new. Kudos to video designer Kate Ducey on the innovative work.

The scenic design also features a minimal but effective use of tropical settings in Havana and south Florida.

Act II features the devastating accident in March 1990, when the Estefans’ tour bus collided with a semi-truck in a snowstorm. Gloria suffered severe spinal injuries, and could have never walked again, but a nine-hour surgery, where they inserted two titanium rods, helped her to fully recover – that and an intense focus on rehabilitation, not to mention the encouragement from thousands of fans across the globe.

The finale recalls the stunning moment when Gloria took the stage at the American Music Awards the next year and sang “Coming Out of the Dark,” which she wrote with Emilio and songwriter/bandmate Jon Secada.

As with any triumph in life, persistence is the key, and this musical exemplifies that, just like Gloria’s album, “Into the Light.”

“On Your Feet!” is a breath of fresh air, a jolt of joy in an increasingly scary world. As the joint was jumpin’ on opening night, this indicated patrons could be receptive to a brand-new day.

How lovely that the universal language of music could soothe our souls at a time we badly need a reminder in the enduring, inspiring notion that America still is the land of hope and dreams.

This summer smile was indeed welcome. And a sweet ending with fireworks after tripping the light fantastic.

“On Your Feet!” is presented nightly at 8:15 p.m. from Saturday, Aug. 21 to Friday, Aug. 27, at the Muny outdoor stage in Forest Park. For more information, visit www.muny.org. For tickets, visit www.Metrotix.com or the Muny box office, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Sunday at 1 Theatre Drive, or call (314) 361-1900 x1550.

The Megamix Curtain Call. Photo by Phillip Hamer.

Muny photos by Phillip Hamer.

Lynn Venhaus has been reviewing the Muny since 2009 and professional theater since 2005, and is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle, established in 2012. A longtime journalist, she has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metropolitan area publications since 1978, earning awards along the way for news and features (and an Illinois Press Association award for reviews before they dropped the category). She has taught writing for the media as an adjunct instructor at three local colleges. A graduate of Illinois State University, she has a mass communications degree with a minor in theater. Among her life achievements are sons Tim and Charlie.

By Lynn Venhaus
Inspired by an adored golden-age movie musical 67 years ago, the stage version of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” has been updated to rework some of the more problematic portions of the plot for contemporary audiences.

While the Muny’s latest production tries mightily to breathe new life into one of the more neanderthal mid-century musicals, selling the macho characters is a pesky issue to overcome – even with a cast deep with exceptionally skilled dancers and singers.

Head of an all-male household in the mountains, Adam’s caveman way of thinking has influenced his uncultured backwoods brothers. However, they have their ‘teachable’ moments in the revamped book.

The focus on the uncouth siblings becoming more civilized around women – as they have zero experience with the opposite sex – is part of the show’s enduring charm.

They are tutored by their new sister-in-law, the dissatisfied yet determined townswoman Milly (Kendra Kassebaum). Though strong-willed, she is coerced into marrying Adam (Edward Watts) in a weak moment when he comes to town on a woman-hunt.

We can look it this as a ‘glass half full’ or a ‘glass half-empty’ experience.

After all, that is the period. The time is 1850, during the great migration to the Pacific Northwest on The Oregon Trail, when men still acted like women were property, and society felt marriage was in part a financial transaction.

In so many words, people didn’t discuss gender politics. Times, as they tend to do, have changed. But we are still evolving as a society, and theater must address the modern sensibilities to stay relevant. Musical theater, by virtue of its history, is forced to mirror those changes, and this discussion will be ongoing.

As we are painfully aware, during this 21st century, particularly in the last five years, with the #MeToo and #Time’s Up movements, the old-fashioned sexist attitudes on display in the old chestnuts are hard to get beyond. (Think of the abused women in “Carousel” and “Oliver!”). In the upcoming “Chicago,” we hear another side from fed-up females in “Cell Block Tango.”

Thankfully, among the improvements to “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” they have removed Adam’s song, “A Woman Ought to Know Her Place,” and Milly’s “One Man.”

Edward Watts and Kendra Kassebaum as Adam and Milly. Photo by Phillip Hamer.

They have added a feisty “I Married Seven Brothers” for a peeved Milly – a highlight for Kassebaum — and “Where Were You?” as a vehicle for Adam to vent his anger from his perspective.

Nevertheless, a musical that is based on a Stephen Vincent Benet short story, “The Sobbin’ Women,” which was shaped by an ancient Roman legend called “The Rape of the Sabine Women,” that’s just hard to spin – and swallow — these days. And the plot hinges on the other six brothers encouraged to kidnap women they took a shine to in town, so that is a controversial hurdle.

And despite a Herculean effort from the Muny’s creative team to focus on a battle of the sexes and bring out the personality and humor, the aggressive song “Sobbin’ Women” and some of the remaining dialogue are wince-inducing, even like nails on a chalkboard.

I know, I know – people generally go to musical theater to be entertained, to escape the realities of daily life and usually aren’t seeking enlightenment while enjoying song and dance. They are just fine taking a respite, blissfully unaware of the real world. They enjoy a bouncy, tuneful musical and take it all in stride.

That’s not me. So, this review is from my perspective. As a friend said, “Every musical is someone’s favorite.” I had to keep reminding myself: “Context.”

It’s like my inexplicable fondness for “Mamma Mia!” Everything screams silly, but I love it, and have seen it at least six times — reminds me of “Gidget” movies when I was growing up, comfort food for the soul.

Under a magnifying glass, many musicals can’t hold up to current scrutiny, but that debate will keep on keeping on.

Peruse a list of musicals from the 1940s through 1970s, and so many female characters are underwritten – typically waiting for a man to rescue her or change her life, which should be annoying to current generations.

Modern musical theater has hopefully moved beyond that. Maybe someday our princes will come, but none of that royal superiority, he’ll be on equal footing, and in the meantime, we’re following paths trailblazed by women who clamored to be heard.

Next week’s “On Your Feet!” will show a true partnership between a husband and a wife, Gloria and Emilio Estefan.

“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” isn’t the first musical to deal with deception – for starters, the list includes “Light in the Piazza,” “The Most Happy Fella,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (and ‘go!’), among others.

And bull-headed Adam and assertive Milly work on trust issues to advance the plot.

People really do have affection for the 1954 movie. It was nominated for Best Picture, losing the Oscar to “On the Waterfront,” but won Best Scoring of a Musical Picture. In 2006, the American Film Institute named it one of the best American musicals ever made, and in 2004, the Library of Congress’ U.S. National Film Registry selected it for preservation because of it being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”

Many fans enjoy the nostalgia, the appealing leads – brawny Howard Keel as Adam and sweet girl-next-door Jane Powell as Milly, plus the gymnastic Russ Tamblyn as youngest brother Gideon, and foremost, those rousing dance numbers.

The Muny drew 6,907 patrons on opening night. This is the sixth time the Muny has produced the show. Taking a cue from a reworked version by the Goodspeed Opera House in 2005, brought in David Landay, an original co-writer of the stage play, to do some rewrites and editing. A female contribution may have been helpful too.

The script feels like whiplash. One minute, the women are acting empowered, and the next minute the guys seem in “Me, Tarzan, you Jane” mode. It’s like when people attempt to update Shakespeare by a couple hundred years, but don’t commit to a wholly new vision.

Oh well. Baby steps. Growth is good.

In recent years, the Muny has resurrected some of the creakier shows and presented versions with freshened books – most notably “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” and “Paint Your Wagon,” both of which I enjoyed.

I was hoping this would be similar. Several members of the “Paint Your Wagon” production team have returned for this reboot, including director-choreographer Josh Rhodes and associate director-choreographer Lee Wilkins, along with music supervisor Sinai Tabak.

The music direction by Valerie Gebert is crisp. Additional arrangements and orchestrations are by Larry Blank and Mark Cumberland. That’s quite a collaboration.

The Muny was one of the first theaters in America to present the stage adaptation of the movie, back in 1978 during a pre-Broadway tryout. The new stage show didn’t make it to Broadway until 1982; its last year at the Muny was 2011.

The music retained from the movie, written by Saul Chaplin and Gene de Paul, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer, includes “Bless Your Beautiful Hide,” “Wonderful Wonderful Day,” “Lonesome Polecat” and “Goin’ Courtin’.”

Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn wrote “Love Never Goes Away,” “We Gotta Make It Through the Winter,” and “Glad That You Were Born” for the stage show.

The maidens in The Quilt Dance. Photo by Phillip Hamer.

The show has always been considered a major dance vehicle, and five-time Tony Award winning choreographer Michael Kidd cemented his reputation through his robust barn-raising dance and his movements based on reality.

Kidd’s unpretentious style earned him Tony Awards in “Guys and Dolls,” “Can-Can,” “Lil Abner,” “Finian’s Rainbow” and “Destry Rides Again,” and lasting Hollywood admiration (check out Danny Kaye in “Knock on Wood.”)

His uncommon approach transformed frontier chores into rollicking dance numbers. He once said if he had made slobs in the woods break out in ballet, people would have ridiculed it.

And the Muny has assembled an outstanding dozen triple threats to portray the men and women going courting – the Pontipee brothers show off their muscular moves in “The Challenge Dance” at the church social while the maids-in-waiting demonstrate a graceful, sophisticated elegance in “The Quilting Dance.” The finale, “The Wedding Dance,” wraps everything up on an enthusiastic, happy note as a long winter has turned into spring.

Rhodes has emphasized the ensemble’s energy and spotlighted the athletic and acrobatic dances. He helmed an exhilarating “Newsies” in 2017 and has finessed these pieces with vigor.

Kassebaum, who grew up in St. Louis, was impressive as lovable and comical showgirl Adelaide in the 2019 “Guys and Dolls” (and won a St. Louis Theater Circle Award for that performance). She is an emphatic Milly, strong in voice and spirit.

Edward Watts, saddled with a distracting shaggy hairstyle, struggled with the push-pull of that stubborn barbaric character, but is assured in his commanding vocal numbers and a sturdy physical presence as the dominant hero.

The brothers, nowhere near as educated as the snotty East Coast-bred smart-alecks running the town, show plenty of spirit and ‘street smarts’ when they are struck by love and try to impress the town maidens.

Raised to think marriage is the end-all for their young lives learning how to cook, sew and clean, the women must play the stereotype common to the era. But here, they have a tad more gumption, individually attracted to the guys, no matter what their dads say.

Harris Milgrim is a standout as second-oldest brother Benjamin, and lithe Carly Blake Sebouhian’s beautiful movements and ballet-training are noticeable as Martha.

The seven brothers. Photo by Phillip Hamer.

The limber Pontipee lads include Waldemar Quinones-Villanueva as Caleb, Ryan Steele as Daniel, Garett Hawe as Ephraim, 4-time Muny vet Kyle Coffman as the tempestuous Frank, and Brandon L. Whitmore as Gideon.

The supple refined city girls are Leslie Donna Flesner as Dorcas, Shonica Gooden as Sarah, Sarah Meahl as Ruth, Mikayla Renfrow as Alice and Kristin Yancy as Liza.  

Michael Schweikardt has provided majestic mountains to convey the grand open spaces and dense forests for the topography while video designer Caite Hevner’s striking work on the changing seasons and the Echo Pass avalanche are spectacular. Schweikardt’s multi-floor log farmhouse is masterful in levels and details.

While some shows like the culturally inappropriate “Flower Drum Song” have unofficially been ‘retired,’ the jury is obviously still out on this show. The passionate performers carry this one here over the threshold

A look back can be a step forward in some instances. The Muny has put a tremendous amount of effort in making this production palatable for its multi-generational audience. Yet, the outdated debate will continue.

As Thursday’s opening night rainout indicated, patience is a virtue. Not to be a Debbie Downer, this isn’t a step backwards, but some of us are ready to move on.

The company of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” Photo by Phillip Hamer.

“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” is at 8:15 p.m. through Wednesday, Aug. 18, at the Muny outdoor stage in Forest Park.

The shows remaining are Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Aug. 12 – 18), On Your Feet! (Aug. 21 – 27) and Chicago (Aug. 30 – Sept. 5). For more information, visit muny.org. 

Tickets can be purchased in person at the box office, online at muny.org or by phone by calling (314) 534-1111.

To stay connected virtually and to receive the latest updates, please follow The Muny on their social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


Muny Photos by Phillip Hamer.

By Lynn Venhaus

This much I know is true: “The Sound of Music,” created during the golden age of musicals — (and the reason it’s referred to as a golden period is crystal clear), is such a crowd-pleaser that it will never fall out of favor.

The Muny’s latest creation of the evergreen 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein classic drew 7,847 on opening night, and you could feel the joy in the air. With the arrival of Alpine weather in St. Louis, it was also a pleasurable experience outdoors.

By the time Bryonha Marie Parham, as Mother Abbess, finished her powerful and poignant rendition of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” which closed the first act, the crowd leapt to its feet with thunderous applause. At curtain call, a hearty standing ovation began early and when Kate Rockwell, radiant as the sunny Maria Rainer, took her bow, the cheers were deafening.

The tension-filled book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, based on the real-life story of widowed Captain von Trapp of the Austrian Navy, his budding romance with governess Maria, who cares for and tutors his seven children, and how they flee after the Third Reich takeover of their country in 1938, provides dramatic and emotional depth.

Through this last collaboration of influential composers Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers, they’ve integrated some of their best songs — The Sound of Music boasts their most popular hits – to guarantee widespread appeal. Then, add the iconic Oscar-winning 1965 film, which cemented its place in pop culture history.

This is the 11th time in 57 years that the Muny favorite has been presented in Forest Park, and the first since 2010. The experienced creative team has honored the beloved musical by not varying from a traditional approach – why mess with a time-honored story or the lush score?  and the lush score but keeping it fresh with rising talent and new outlooks.

Freshened up with rising talent and new outlooks, Director Matt Kunkel has capably emphasized the show’s major arcs of love, faith and courage.

Music Director Ben Whiteley smoothly conducts the velvety string-laden score, reminding everyone why we know all the words and music to “Do-Re-Mi,” “My Favorite Things,” “Edelweiss” and the title song.

Elizabeth Teeter and Andrew Alstat. Photo by Phillip Hamer.

With many exceptional voices, the ensemble comfortably handles some of the most enduring standards in the American theater.

While some casts are more dynamic than others in Muny productions, striking a delicate balance in tone with nuns and Nazis, the women lead the way here.

And not just on stage, but behind-the-scenes. For the first time in Muny history, Shelby Loera is the lead lighting designer on a show. In 103 seasons. Bravo for breaking that ceiling!

Caite Hevner took charge of the video design and Beth Crandall choreographed the sophisticated party dances and the peppy kids’ numbers. Paige Hathaway was the scenic designer, using the new trees as a backdrop.

Costumes were designed by Tristan Raines, a familiar fashionista at the Muny, and the wedding scene finery was a standout.

As usual, the von Trapp children steal the show. You expect the actors playing Liesl (Elizabeth Teeter), Friedrich (Victor de Paula Rocha), Louisa (Amelie Lock), Kurt (Parker Dzuba), Brigitta (Jillian Depke), Marta (Abby Hogan) and Gretl (Kate Scarlett Kappel) to be endearing, but these kids are not only supremely talented but project professionalism on stage.

And they harmonize beautifully – especially their fun “The Lonely Goatherd” number during a frightening thunderstorm and the always special “So Long, Farewell.”

As the eldest girl, Teeter, daughter of local theater legend Lara Teeter, demonstrated that she is a poised and polished performer wise in years.

She has appeared on Broadway with Helen Mirren in “The Audience” and as Jane Banks in “Mary Poppins,” not to mention cute-friendly roles at the Muny, including Flounder in “The Little Mermaid” and Gretl in the 2010 “The Sound of Music.”

An accomplished dramatic actress, she can be seen as fragile Laura in “The Glass Menagerie” at the Tennessee Williams Festival in St. Louis Aug. 19-29.

With their clear confident voices, Teeter and Andrew Alstat, as Rolf, deliver a strong “Sixteen Going on Seventeen.” Unfortunately, she is saddled with an unrealistic-looking brown wig, an odd choice, which overwhelms her face.

Kate Rockwell, von Trapp children, Michael Hayden. Photo by Phillip Hamer.

Another distraction is that Michael Hayden does not fit the Captain von Trapp role as we’ve become accustomed to over the years –typically imposing and dashing. A Tony nominee for “Judgment at Nuremberg,” who also has Shakespeare credits, Hayden obviously is a noteworthy performer, but something was “off,” and he certainly didn’t click with Rockwell like Georg and Maria should. (I wondered if he was ill? There is usually an underlying reason.). He seemed tentative in spots and wasn’t comfortable with the guitar on “Edelweiss.”

In addition, his suits appeared ill-fitting and the coat of his dress uniform he wore at the wedding was way too long. This is a rare misfire from the Muny costume shop, normally known for their crisp tailoring.

He’s not the worst Captain von Trapp I’ve seen. That distinction goes to the wooden and unprepared George Peppard, yeah the guy in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” in 1982. However, I have heard that “Dallas” star Ken Kercheval tops that list in a 1993 version, where he had to use the book.

Costumes were designed by Tristan Raines, a familiar fashionista at the Muny, and the wedding scene finery was a standout.

Two bright spots are fan favorites Jenny Powers and John Scherer. The elegant and statuesque Powers glides across the stage as Elsa Schraeder, also known as the Baroness, and has a lovely duet, “How Can Love Survive?” with Scherer as Max, the cynical impresario.

The pair are an effortless match. Powers has been one of the Muny’s most durable leading ladies – as “Mary Poppins,” Morticia in “The Addams Family,” Abigail Adams in “1776,” Tanya in “Mamma Mia!” and Guinevere in “Camelot,” to name a few.

Scherer, known for his impeccable comic timing, has been in “Kinky Boots,” “Young Frankenstein,” “Spamalot” and “The Addams Family.”

Fine supporting work is carried out by David Hess as the dutiful butler Franz and St. Louis actors Michael James Reed as the imperious and threatening SS officer Herr Zeller, Leah Berry as skeptical head of the postulants Sister Margaretta, April Strelinger as stern housekeeper Frau Schmidt, and versatile Jerry Vogel doing triple duty as the officiating priest at the wedding, Baron Elberfeld and Admiral von Schreiber.

But the show belongs to the delightful Rockwell, so memorable in “Tarzan” and “Beauty and the Beast” during the past decade. She’s a bona fide star, pitch perfect as the spunky and big-hearted Maria. It’s a graceful and winning performance that easily captured the audience’s heart.

Whether it’s a fond childhood memory or a family favorite passed down through generations, “The Sound of Music” pleased the theatergoers ready to be enchanted.

Its inspiration was intact, too – go climb those mountains!

Photo by Phillip Hamer

“The Sound of Music” runs Aug. 3-9 at the Muny outdoor stage in Forest Park. Tickets can be purchased in person at the box office, online at muny.org or by calling 314-361-1900, ex. 1550.

The remaining shows of the 2021 season are Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Aug. 12 – 18), On Your Feet! (Aug. 21 – 27) and Chicago (Aug. 30 – Sept. 5). Emerson is the season sponsor. For more information, visit muny.org. 

To stay connected virtually and to receive the latest updates, please follow The Muny on their social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  

Jenny Powers and John Scherer. Photo by Phillip Hamer

The Muny announced today that single tickets for its 103rd season in Forest Park will be available beginning at 9 a.m. Tickets can be purchased online at muny.org, by phone at (314) 531-1111, or in person at The Muny box office, open 9 a.m. – 9 p.m., seven days a week.

The long-awaited 2021 season includes two Muny premieres and the return of three beloved classics. The five shows are: Smokey Joe’s Cafe (July 26 – Aug. 1), The Sound of Music (Aug. 3 – 9), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Aug. 12 – 18), On Your Feet! (Aug. 21 – 27) and Chicago (Aug. 30 – Sept. 5).

SMOKEY JOE’S CAFE
The Songs of Leiber and Stoller
July 26 – August 1
Words and Music by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Sponsored by Ameren

MUNY PREMIERE!

Ben E. King, The Coasters, Elvis Presley, Peggy Lee and The Drifters – what do they have in common? Besides being some of the most popular artists of the 50s and 60s, their hits, and over 35 others, are the bread and butter of Smokey Joe’s Cafe. Set in St. Louis’ historic Gaslight Square, Broadway’s longest-running musical revue includes Grammy Award-winning favorites such as “Yakety Yak,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “On Broadway” and “Love Potion No. 9.” With this generation-defining Muny premiere, audiences will be dancing in the aisles. 

THE SOUND OF MUSIC
August 3– 9
Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse
Suggested by “The Trapp Family Singers” by Maria Augusta Trapp
Sponsored by Edward Jones

FIRST MUNY PRODUCTION IN A DECADE!

Considered by many to be the world’s most beloved musical, The Sound of Music reminds us that with high-spirited hope, heartfelt compassion and unwavering determination, life’s mountains can always be climbed. With its Tony, Grammy and Academy Award-winning score, including “Do-Re-Mi,” “My Favorite Things,” “Edelweiss” and the iconic title track “The Sound of Music,” the hills of Forest Park come alive once more!


SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS
August 12 – 18
Book by Lawrence Kasha and David Landay
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Music by Gene de Paul
New Songs by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn
Based on the MGM Film and
“The Sobbin’ Women” by Stephen Vincent Benet
Dance Music Arrangements by Sam Davis
Sponsored by U.S. Bank

A DANCE-FILLED CLASSIC

Based on the Academy Award-winning 1954 film, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is Americana at its finest. With an age-old tale of wooing and winning, the battle of the sexes and some barn-raising dancing, this western rollick features whistle-worthy favorites, including “Bless Your Beautiful Hide” and “Goin’ Courtin’.” With two of the most eminent dance scenes in musical theatre history and seven times the fun, saddle up for an unforgettable joyride through the Oregon frontier. 

ON YOUR FEET!
The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan
August 21 – 27
Featuring Music Produced and Recorded by Emilio & Gloria Estefan &
Miami Sound Machine

Book by Alexander Dinelaris
Sponsored by BMO Harris Bank

MUNY PREMIERE!

Based on the inspiring true story of the queen of Latin pop, Gloria Estefan and her husband, Emilio, On Your Feet! is a universal sensation that shows what can happen when two people believe in their talent, music and one another. Their moving rags-to-riches story features some of the most chart-topping songs of the past quarter-century, including “Rhythm is Gonna Get You,” “1-2-3,” “Coming Out of the Dark” and the title hit, “Get On Your Feet.” With this Muny premiere, audiences will leave ready to “Conga!” 

CHICAGO
August 30 – September 5
Book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins
Script Adaptation by David Thompson
Sponsored by Missouri Lottery

FIRST PRODUCTION SINCE 2012

Start the car and head to a “whoopee spot” where crime and corruption are hot! Kander and Ebb’s internationally-acclaimed musical about fame, fortune and justice features a headline-worthy story of how two icon-victs become Jazz Age celebrities. Set during the Prohibition era, this six-time Tony Award-winner, the longest-running American musical in Broadway history, includes showstopping standards such as “Cell Block Tango,” “Mister Cellophane” and the notorious “All That Jazz.”

New season subscriptions for the 2021 five-show season are still currently available through July 23, with single tickets available now. Tickets can be purchased online at muny.org or by phone by calling (314) 361-1900 ext. 1550.

To stay connected virtually and to receive the latest updates, please follow The Muny on their social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Emerson is proud to be The Muny’s 2021 Season Sponsor.
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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 world-class musicals each year and welcome over 350,000 theatregoers over our summer season. Celebrating 103 seasons in St. Louis, The Muny remains one of the premier institutions in musical theatre.

For more information about The Muny, visit muny.org