Themes of family and home seemed appropriate for The Muny’s centennial, Mike Isaacson, artistic director and executive producer, said at the season announcement Thursday.
“No pressure, right?” Isaacson quipped. “We wanted to celebrate the unbelievable accomplishments of the past, and to propel us into the next 100 years, to make sure we’re here for the next generation of St. Louisans.”
“Jerome Robbins’ Broadway,” “The Wiz,” “Annie,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Gypsy,” “Jersey Boys,” and “Meet Me in St. Louis” are the seven shows set for the summer of 2018. Three of the seven were in the top 10 shows on the end-of-season survey.
Dates, casting and other information will be announced at a later time.
“We are celebrating the greatness of the American musical. This season is big and bold,” he said. “It’s about how we use the stage. The Muny can do what no one else can do. There is literally something for everyone.
“It’s unbelievable to be a part of this moment, celebrating 100 years of the oldest outdoor theater in the country,” Isaacson said, as he choked up.
“This community created it, wanted it, preserved it,” he said. “Every summer, here we are, gathered together. There are no words for that.”
With the 100th season announcement Thursday, the Muny officially began its celebration of a century of theatre, tradition and community.
“We are here to celebrate the fact that over the past 100 years, 56 million people have attended a show here — 10 million at no cost, through our free seats and community access programs,” said Dennis Reagan, Muny president and CEO.
“ We celebrate six generations of families who have made The Muny a part of their summer tradition, and we celebrate the fact that 100 years after Mayor Henry Kiel declared this the home of musical theatre in this city. The Muny remains a place where everyone from the region comes together each summer,” Reagan said.
Isaacson said, “The shows had a certain identity that felt consistent with who we are and where we are. Two consistent themes that have been part of the Muny are home and family. The shows are about finding a home, creating a home, being a family in changing times. It really resonates with our audience.”
It’s impossible odds. At any logical level, the Muny makes no sense. But it has existed for 100 years. Why? Because people love it. I can’t define it. We all sit there, we feel it.
Mike Isaacson, Muny artistic director and executive producer
Isaacson announced that two Tony-winning musicals — “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway” and “Jersey Boys” — would debut at the Muny, and would be the first time they have been produced outside of Broadway and national tours.
Legendary choreographer Jerome Robbins was part of “West Side Story,” “On the Town,” “The King and I,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” and “Peter Pan,” the essence of the Broadway musical from post-World War II to 1964, Isaacson said.
“Annie,” which has been produced every five years at the Muny since it first appeared, is the family show.
“It’s deceptive. It came out after Watergate and the Vietnam War. There was something powerful about a little girl on stage singing about tomorrow, its optimism,” he said.
“The family show is often the first show people see as children. It opens the door, creates the magic. It’s our greatest responsibility,” he said. Last summer, 91,000 people saw ‘The Little Mermaid.”
“The Wiz,” Tony winner in 1975, hasn’t been performed at the Muny for 36 years. Isaacson said they may be inserting some of the composer’s other songs, as they have permission from his estate.
“‘Meet Me in St. Louis’ is part of our heritage. It defines St. Louis,” he said.
“The American musical is our gift to the world. It’s ours; we created it,” he said. “It’s a mongrel; it takes on different forms. The American spirit, drive and energy is reflected in them.”
Isaacson said he hears the same thing from actors and designers new to the Muny: “This place is amazing.” He can’t explain the mystery of how it works — 12 rehearsal days, 10,000 seats, three orchestra reads.
“It’s impossible odds. At any logical level, the Muny makes no sense. But it has existed for 100 years. Why? Because people love it. I can’t define it. We all sit there; we feel it,” he said.
Kwofe Coleman, marketing and communications director, detailed some of the main events during 2018. The Muny has been planning its centennial for several years.
May 18 will be a centennial gala with a special show, “A Night with the Stars,” complete with red carpet, glitz, glamor and dinner, he said. Tickets will go on sale Nov. 1.
The Muny plans to sell separate tickets just for the show portion, and those tickets will be available in the spring.
May 20 will be a Community Birthday Party with cake, food trucks, and family fun, where people can enjoy “their 15 minutes of fame in mini-musicals.”
“Everyone will be welcome to celebrate with us,” Coleman said.
In June, the Missouri History Museum will present “The Muny Memories” exhibit.” HEC-TV will air a documentary in the spring.
“We want people to stay connected. Information is available at www.muny.org/100,” Coleman said.