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Muny Magic at the Sheldon
November 5, 2019

Muny 2020 Season Schedule
Photo: The Muny

It’s back! The Muny has brought some of its leading performers to the stage again in the latest iteration of their Muny Magic at the Sheldon concert series, held at the beautiful Sheldon Concert Hall in Grand Center. This year’s concert features Mikaela Bennett who played the title role in Cinderella this past season, and St. Louis native Alex Prakken, who has appeared in several Muny shows including Les Miserables (as Marius) and 1776 (as the Courier). The opening night performance was also the occasion for Executive Producer Mike Isaacson to take the stage and announce the lineup of shows for the Muny’s upcoming 102nd Season, which opens with Chicago on June 15, 2020.

The show schedule is a mixed bag to my mind, although it features several crowd-pleasing shows. Still, it seems like some of these shows have been done too often at the Muny, or too recently. I’m sure the Muny will produce big, dazzling productions of all these shows, but sometimes I wish they would try a few shows they haven’t done in a while, or even more newer shows. I am looking forward to seeing what the Muny can do with these shows with their new stage. There are three brand new shows for the Muny, as well, the most exciting of which to me being Sweeney Todd, which seems a little dark for the Muny, but that can be a good thing. It’s a great show from a legendary composer whose shows are underrepresented on the Muny stage, and I’m eager to see what the Muny does with it. Also, although I wasn’t much of a fan of Smokey Joe’s Cafe when I saw it before, Isaacson’s description of how the Muny plans to stage it, set in St. Louis’s legendary Gaslight Square district, makes me especially curious to see it now. Also among the Muny debut shows is the Emilio and Gloria Estefan bio-musical On Your Feet!  That was a crowd-pleaser on tour at the Fox, and it seems a good fit for the Muny stage. I’m optimistic about the new season. I love classic musicals, but I also think newer and less-performed shows can bring excitement to the 102 year old St. Louis institution. I’m looking forward to seeing how season 102 plays out.

As for the concert, it’s a delight. Bennett and Prakken bring a lot of presence, energy, and excellent voices to the Sheldon stage, starting out with a lively rendition of “Ten Minutes Ago” from Cinderella. The evening continues with a selection of solos and duets, with both singing songs they’ve sung at the Muny like the lovely “In My Own Little Corner” from Cinderella for Bennett, and the emotional “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” from Les Miserables for Prakken. They also shine together on duets from West Side Story, Carousel, The Secret Garden, and more, as well as solos from She Loves Me, Grand Hotel, and more. Both performers also took moments to share some Muny memories of their own. It’s an excellent concert highlighting musical theatre from the Muny stage and beyond, accompanied ably by music director Charlie Alterman on piano, Vince Clark on bass, and Nick Savage on percussion. It’s a fond look back at the Muny’s past as well as an intriguing look at its future with some hints at what it could be, with some of the shows that were represented that haven’t been seen at the Muny, or haven’t been for many years, featuring two impressively talented young performers.

Muny Executive Producer Mike Isaacson and Musicians

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Muny Magic at the Sheldon
October 17, 2018

The stage set for Muny Magic

The Muny has returned to the Sheldon, and as expected every year, it’s returning to its venue in Forest Park next summer with a highly anticipated new season of musical theatre. The series of “Muny Magic at the Sheldon” concerts continued with a delightful performance from husband-and-wife duo Jenny Powers and Matt Cavenaugh, but not before Muny Executive Producer and Artistic Director Mike Isaacson made the introductions, and the announcement of the Muny’s 101st season lineup.

After a brief video highlighting the 100th season at the Muny, Isaacson took the stage and gave a brief update of the Muny’s ambitious renovation plans, showing a picture from construction from earlier that same day. The old stage is completely gone, replaced by a crane and construction crew hard at work assembling an all new stage, which Isaacson promised would be ready in time. Then, as the logos flashed on the screen behind him, Isaacson made the announcement of what looks to be an exciting 101st season, including the two top contenders in the still talked-about race for the Best Musical Tony Award in 2013, Kinky Boots (which won) and Matilda. Also on the schedule are the classic musicals Guys and Dolls and 1776, as well as Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, and a newly revised version of Lerner and Loewe’s Paint Your Wagon, along with the musical adaptation of the popular 1980s film, Footloose.

It looks like an exciting lineup–even more so than last year’s 100th season schedule, to be frank. One of my all-time favorite shows is here (1776) as well as one of the more impressive newer shows that I’ve seen (Matilda).  I’m also especially curious to see what new book writer Jon Marans does with Paint Your Wagon, which has a great score. The only version that I’ve seen is the movie with Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood, which was memorable for all the wrong reasons. I’m eager to see what the Muny’s production will be like. The rest of the lineup looks intriguing, as well, and I’m already wondering what familiar Muny faces–and what new ones–will appear in the casts. It looks like an especially promising season.

As for the concert, that was excellent as well. Powers is a Muny veteran who has appeared in many prominent roles including the title role in Mary Poppins as well as leads in The Addams Family, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, and more. Cavenaugh, who notably starred as Tony in the 2009 Broadway revival of West Side Story, has essentially retired from the stage but returns here in a performance with his wife, Powers, and their on-stage chemistry is excellent, throughout the first act that was more of cabaret-style performance with moments for each performer to shine, including “Love Changes Everything” for Cavenaugh, “Somebody Somewhere” for Powers, and the classic “Anything You Can Do” for both, which provided opportunities for Powers in particular to show off her vocal range and power, along with winning chemistry for both performers.

The second act was more personal, as Cavenaugh and Powers told the story of how they met and married, and were even joined by their young sons, George and Henry, for an enthusiastic performance of “Do Re Mi”. There were also more outstanding individual moments, such as Powers’s powerful rendition of “As Long As He Needs Me” and Cavenaugh’s stunning, vocally impressive performance of “Maria”. It was another delightful evening of Muny Magic, featuring beloved Muny veterans and notable Broadway performers. This is a welcome new Muny tradition. Long may it continue!

The Muny‘s 101st Season

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