“Mamma Mia!” and “Young Frankenstein” headline new Muny season

The O’Fallon Township High School Marching Panthers accompanied Beth Leavel in a number from “Hello, Dolly!” in the Muny Magic concert on Wednesday, just as they had done on the Muny stage in August 2014.
The O’Fallon Township High School Marching Panthers accompanied Beth Leavel in a number from “Hello, Dolly!” in the Muny Magic concert on Wednesday, just as they had done on the Muny stage in August 2014. The Muny

Promising a “big season with big shows,” Mike Isaacson, the Muny’s executive producer and artistic director, has announced the 2016 summer lineup that will include two premieres and the return of five favorites.

Opening the first of two Muny Magic concerts Wednesday night at the Sheldon, Isaacson described the 98th season as bold and exciting.

“This is going to be a season that has something for everybody,” he said. “For my fifth season, this may be the seven biggest, most demanding productions yet.”

In July, the international smash hit “Mamma Mia!,” which recently closed on Broadway after 14 years and 5,765 performances, making it the eighth longest running musical ever, will make its regional premiere in Forest Park.

“This wasn’t on the survey. We rolled the dice. It took us three years to get the rights, and then we were the first theater company to get them, but now we won’t be the first production, just one of the first,” he said.

“Young Frankenstein,” the 2007 Mel Brooks adaptation of his 1975 movie, will also make its regional premiere.

“We wanted to do a comedy. To hear 10,000 really laugh on a summer night, it’s transformative,” Isaacson said.

“The Wizard of Oz” will kick off the season, the musical first commissioned by the Muny and presented in 1942, based on L. Frank Baum’s novel, after the success of the 1939 movie. It has been presented 10 times since its debut, but not in a decade.

The beloved classic is to be directed by Broadway vet and “Sesame Street” alum John Tartaglia, who directed “Shrek” and starred as the Cat in the Hat in “Seussical” and the Genie in “Aladdin,” all at the Muny.

Isaacson said he could not reveal other directors or casting decisions because contracts were being worked out.

Muny favorites “42nd Street,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “The Music Man” will return. The revival version of the tap-dancing extravaganza “42nd Street,” not seen since 2009, will feature a spectacular staircase for the finale, Isaacson said.

He promised 76 trombones on the stage for “The Music Man” curtain call, too. “The Music Man,” staged nine times in Forest Park, hasn’t been here since 2009, and “Fiddler,” another nine-timer, hasn’t been since 2008.

“Fiddler is one of the greatest shows in the history of Broadway, the American musical incarnate,” he said.

Elton John and Tim Rice’s timeless love story “Aida” will close the nine-week season in Forest Park. The winner of four Tony Awards in 2000 had been here once in 2006.

“They are all robust, bold and, hopefully for our audience, absolutely thrilling. It promises to be another great adventure of a season,” Isaacson said.

Denny Reagan, Muny president and CEO, said it will be an incredibly exciting season for us to produce.

“It is packed with the most requested and beloved titles by the Muny audience. Mike and our creative teams continued to put world-class work on our stage last season, and our audiences showed tremendous support for our productions. With these seven titles, 2016 promises another fantastic season at The Muny.”

Reagan said the Muny Magic concert was the first of what will be many new ventures for The Muny. “We’re excited for the opportunity to connect with our audience again this fall, and to bring some of our world to the Sheldon,” he said.

At the first one Nov. 11, Tony winner Beth Leavel (“The Drowsy Chaperone”), who has appeared as Dolly Levi in “Hello, Dolly!,” Aunt Eller in “Oklahoma!” and Mrs. Meers in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” on the Muny stage, sang songs and entertained the audience with stories about her career — and that 2006 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.

She was accompanied by musical director Phil Reno, the current Broadway vocal arranger and music director for “Something’s Rotten.”

She closed the show with ‘Before the Parade Passes By,” the finale number in “Hello, Dolly!” The O’Fallon Marching Panthers Band came into the concert hall and down the aisles to accompany Leavel, just as they had done on the Muny stage in August 2014.

Another Muny Magic Concert is set for 8 p.m. Thursday at the Sheldon.

Season ticket holders will receive their renewal notices the first week of December. New season tickets will be available beginning Saturday, March 5, at the Muny box office in Forest Park.

For preferred seating with new season tickets, theatregoers can purchase a Muny Season Ticket Gift Card, which is available now. Gift card holders will have access to season tickets beginning Feb. 29, before they go on sale to the general public.

World Wide Technology, the first overall season sponsor since 2014, and The Steward Family Foundation have again made a leadership gift to continue as the Muny’s 2016 Season Presenting Sponsor.

For more information, visit www.muny.org or call (314) 361-1900.

2016 Muny Season

  • “The Wizard of Oz,” June 13-22
  • “42nd Street,” June 24-30
  • “The Music Man,” July 5-11
  • “Young Frankenstein,” July 13-19
  • “Mamma Mia!” July 21-July 28
  • “Fiddler on the Roof,” July 30-Aug. 5
  • “Aida,” Aug. 8-14