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Celebrating 100: Team effort creates Summer of Muny magic

ST. LOUIS, MO - The Muny, the nation’s largest and oldest continually operating outdoor theatre, is celebrating 100 seasons in Forest Park this year. To reach a century of success, many pieces have to come together every year before any actor ever takes the stage.

“It’s a Rubik's cube. Every year it’s a Rubik's cube.”

Muny Artistic Director and Executive Producer, Mike Isaacson, is talking about the puzzle pieces that come together to make Muny magic every summer. Almost every single show that hits the Forest Park stage is produced by the Muny. He's the first to acknowledge it’s a huge team effort.

“You can't be a part of something like the Muny and feel directly responsible. It’s too big. There’s too many people contributing,” explained Isaacson.

So how does it all come together? For this non-profit, it starts like any other project, with a budget.

“You live and die by a spreadsheet. You just do.”

Shows are picked in the Fall. Isaacson knows what's available, what’s new, and what’s ready to return.  He also considers feedback from Muny audience surveys. Whatever shows are picked, they have to be spectacular.

“Can we make it amazing? Can we make it, on the Muny stage, something that is truly special and wonderful? And, you know, that the audience sitting there goes, ‘Wow?’”

When the lineup is done, it’s time to find the right director, choreographer, music director, and creative team for each show.

“Any time you’re seeing a show and you’re sitting there feeling alive, it because some people back there, at some point, really got together and figured out how to work together.”

By January, designers and directors are creating the physical world of each show. Meanwhile, the enormous job of casting, filling all the roles with just the right people, begins. By the Spring, the casts are announced and the set building begins. It’s a months-long process that isn’t fully realized until a warm summer opening night.

“There are definitely nights when we're here and we feel it, the audience feels it. Everybody goes...we walk around and go, ‘Let’s remember this in December.’”

This process repeats itself every season, but was the pressure amped up for the big 2018 Centennial

“No...no pressure on the 100th…” jokes Isaacson.

He says the key this season was to make sure no matter who you are in St. Louis there’s at least one show you want to see.

“This is the 100th and everyone needs to come. We need to celebrate this extraordinary accomplishment because no other city in the world has this or has done this. So, I want everyone here.”

This season's shows have themes of home and family, fitting for a theatre that has become a generational experience for St. Louisians.

“You cannot separate the idea of the Muny from St. Louis.”

Everyone is invited to the Muny's free Birthday Bash open house on Sunday, May 20, 2018. Families will enjoy once special tours, hands-on activities, and a big surprise Grand Finale. The fun starts at 1:00pm.

The Muny's historic 100th season kicks off June 11, 2018, with "Jerome Robbins' Broadway."