A cool breeze will now flow through the hot summer nights at The Muny in Forest Park. Audiences can sit back and take in the comforting effect of high-tech fans as they experience the open air theater’s new season of shows. The 95th year will open June 17 with Monty Python’s Spamalot, starring John O’Hurley of Seinfeld fame. LN recently spoke with executive director Mike Isaacson for the scoop on the season, its stars and many more surprises.
Describe the improvements to The Muny for the new season.
The big news of this year is our new fans. It’s very exciting because this is the first time the technology will be used in this type of outdoor theater setting. The technology, called bio-mimicry, uses a serrated blade that mimics a whale fin to cut through the air silently. They will be in the position of the old fans; and if we need them to run during shows, they can, since they silently create an airflow over the audience. We spent two years working on this and so many generous people stepped forward to help get it done.
Share some highlights of this summer’s shows.
We will open with Spamalot (June 17-23), a Tony Award-winning Best Musical based on the Monty Python and the Holy Grail film. It’s just a romp. We decided to do a ’30s musical –style that’s just wham-bang fun. It will keep people laughing all night. Then we have Shrek (June 24-30), a really fascinating musical based on the original book that takes a look at what stories we tell in fairy tales, why we need them and how they impact us. It’s a really beautiful production directed by John Tartaglia (Genie from The Muny’s Aladdin show last year), who has a puppeteer background from Sesame Street and played Pinocchio in Shrek on Broadway.
What else does the season have in store?
Next is Nunsense (July 1-7), where we will get 40 tap-dancing nuns onstage, which I believe we’re going to accomplish. The show is a worldwide phenomenon by Dan Goggin, who will direct it Muny-style. It’s pretty crazy and pretty funny, and we will have a dream team of hilarious women, with a few surprises.
Tell us about the classics coming to the stage for the season’s second half.
South Pacific (July 8-14) is the greatest Rodgers and Hammerstein show of all time. It’s truly a masterpiece, so we will do it proud with the full Muny orchestra and the same team of directors who brought us The King and I last year. They are really invested in making something magical. Les Miserables (July 15-21) will be interesting coming out in the context of movie, and we’re putting together a production that is going to be so full and vibrant with Richard Jay-Alexander, who supervised the original Broadway and national tours. Mary Poppins (July 25-Aug. 2) will have some magical tricks—Mary will fly. And we will close the season with West Side Story (Aug. 5-11), the classic, using original Jerome Robbins choreography, director Gordon Greenberg (director of The Muny’s Pirates! last year), and an incredible, young, vibrant cast of talent that is very passionate about doing this right. So get ready, here it comes!
Who will be starring in this season’s shows?
We are thrilled to have John O’Hurley (Seinfeld, Family Feud, Dancing With the Stars) playing King Arthur in Spamalot. He will be a hilarious lead for the show. Even more stars will be announced in a couple of weeks.
What other surprises can audiences look forward to this season?
You’re not going to believe the talent onstage for Les Miserables. They will make it soar.
Talk about how St. Louis has continued to embrace The Muny through the years.
There’s a sense that we are a better city and better community by doing this each summer. People from every walk of life come out happy and ready to go. And so many performers have remarked about how they can feel the audience wanting them to succeed.
What is it about The Muny that keeps audiences coming back for more?
We really feel The Muny has a relationship with its audience unlike any other in the nation—and I would argue, the world. It’s strange and beautiful—there is no roof and you see the trees—it’s a very rare and often magical experience that is unlike sitting in a Broadway theater or any other place.