Lighting Cue 12, Go. Dancers, Ready. Automation, Standby.

Seamless transitions and perfectly timed moments on The Muny stage (or any stage) are primarily managed by one person whose job is to make it all look easy: meet The Production Stage Manager.

When you have “This is why I love The Muny!” moments this summer, there’s one person to thank that you maybe never have considered before—the production stage manager (PSM). The PSM is the leader of the stage management team, serves as the liaison between stage management and the cast and creative teams and ensures each show’s logistics run smoothly—from the first production meeting to the final curtain call.

The Disney’s The Little Mermaid stage management team celebrating a “fin-tastic” show during the opening night cast party. From left: Intern Berrit Keller, Production Assistant Bailey Saxe, PSM Larry Smiglewski and Assistant Stage Manager Lorraine Fiore

In short, PSMs are unsung heroes.

“It’s a complete team effort to put a show on the stage,” says long-time Muny PSM Larry Smiglewski. “Stage managers are most successful when we work collaboratively with the entire cast, crew and creative team. But getting a show up for a Muny audience is even more challenging given the size of the stage and the short timeline for onsite rehearsals.”

Preparing for a Muny Performance

PSMs arrive on the Muny campus just 18 days before opening night. However, long before arrival, they spend countless hours in virtual production meetings with the show’s creatives—often as early as December for the next season. Once in Forest Park, they only have one week to prepare prior to the cast’s arrival.

“This prep time is vital for the team,” Larry says. “We talk through the show page-by-page, cue-by-cue to form a comprehensive plan for the short rehearsal process and performances ahead. Everything at The Muny happens in such a condensed amount of time, we have to use every moment efficiently.”  

Amazingly, PSM prep includes every element of a show: sets, costume changes, automation, lighting and so much more (even union guidelines).

This running order lists every moment in The Muny’s 2017 production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Larry had every cue for each of these moments marked in his script and then called each of those cues every single night. If the cue is not called, the moment does not happen on stage.

For instance, Larry would have called at least four different cues—turntable, booms, lights and scenery—just for one transition to Ursula’s Lair. This 2017 production was the first time a Muny character moved through the boom on the turntable into place. This ‘simple’ action does not happen without state-of-the-art stage equipment and a PSM who can bring the director’s vision to life every night.

Rehearsal Responsibilities

Throughout rehearsals, the PSM collaborates with the director, choreographer and music director to ensure the needs of the show are being met in real time. “With only 11 days of rehearsal, time is the most precious, unrenewable resource we have for getting a show ready,” Larry says.

During these 11 days, the PSM and their team create and coordinate daily schedules including the each actors’ call time; costume fittings; wig and makeup appointments; music rehearsals; employment paperwork and much more. They do this for the roughly 30 adult actors in each show and the 30+ kids and teens in the youth chorus too. PSMs also enforce union guidelines while safekeeping the show’s script and the director’s creative vision over the run of a show. It’s a full plate!

Onstage Magic Makers

When a show opens, the director hands the show over to the PSM. The PSM communicates via headset to “call the show”—every single thing that happens onstage is called by the stage manager including all lights, automation, sets and sound.

“On show night, I am in constant communication with the sound and spotlight booths, automation bunker, stage crew, orchestra pit, actors, front of house staff and more,” Larry says. “In addition to keeping everyone safe and bringing the director’s vision to life, our goal is to provide a smooth show that dazzles the audience. We never want a technical slip to break the magic in the theatre. On the best nights, every element comes to together seamlessly and you are transformed from the moment you sit down until you stand up to leave.”

With so many moving parts, the PSM’s job is 24 hours a day, seven days a week while in St. Louis.

Meet Larry Smiglewski

Production Stage Manager Larry Smiglewski has been at the Muny’s PSM podium just off stage right for Mamma Mia! (2016), Disney’s The Little Mermaid (2017) and Roald Dahl’s Matilda (2019). This year, he’ll be on the headset for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Chicago.

“Working at The Muny restores your faith and love for musical theatre,” Larry says. “Plus, calling Broadway legends Chita Rivera and Tommy Tune to the stage for ‘places’ during the centennial gala show is absolutely a crowning moment in my career.”

Larry has called many Broadway and touring shows and prior to becoming a PSM he both a college professor and a fifth-grade teacher. He holds a B.A. in theatre from Marymount Manhattan College, a M.F.A. in directing from the University of Houston and a M.S. in elementary education from Mercy College in NYC.

When Larry is not working on a show, he calls New York City home and can be found watching The Golden Girls.

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