Something for Everyone: Creating a Muny Season



The Muny 2021 lineup includes the same fan favorites and Muny premieres originally planned for 2020. This small peek into the research, conversations, negotiations and more that go into the making of a season was written ahead of 2020. Of course, the conversations have been very different in the past year, but ultimately the process of how a season comes together remains the same.

Artistic Director and Executive Producer Mike Isaacson originally unveiled Muny 2020 during Muny Magic at The Sheldon in Fall 2019. Long-time Muny fan favorite Seven Brides for Seven Brothers kicks off the season on July 5.

On the surface, it would seem that creating a season is as simple as obtaining the rights to seven shows and putting those productions on our stage. Of course, it’s (a little) more complex than that, and it all starts with you—The Muny audience.

Muny Artistic Director and Executive Producer Mike Isaacson says while it is far from simple, he begins by trying to make sure there is something for everyone.

“The hallmark of a season needs to be variety,” Mike says. “It seems a fool’s errand to try to please everybody with every show. But my hope is no matter who you are in this rich, complex, diverse community at least one of the seven productions makes you say, ‘That’s for me!’ Then, even if you’ve never heard of a show, you trust that you’re going to have a great experience. I hear frequently some version of ‘I had no idea what this show was, but I LOVED it.’ We take that trust seriously.”

“Since my first season in 2012, there has been a structure to support this idea of variety,” he continues. “We’ve always offered at least two classics, at least two brand-new to The Muny and a big family show. I call these my ‘five pillars.’ The two remaining two shows require really creative thinking.”

There’s More to the Puzzle

Mike adds that selecting a season is impacted by factors beyond our control, primarily what shows are actually available for us to produce. If a show is on Broadway or national tour, it’s generally not available. For the classic shows, we also look at how recently they have been on The Muny stage. Balancing all of this is part of the yearly puzzle.

“We know if we put The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins and Little Mermaid on the same audience survey, they are likely to be the top 4 responses, but we would never do all four in the same season,” Mike says. “We aren’t really ever surprised by survey results, but they help us gauge which classics are ready for a comeback to our stage and how new-to-The-Muny titles will fare.”

Muny Managing Director Kwofe Coleman says six shows in the 2020 lineup ranked in the top 10 of all shows on the 2019 audience survey.

“Our goal with the audience survey is to inform the upcoming—and subsequent—seasons,” Kwofe says. “That’s why you often see the same show on the survey for multiple years. We usually have a decent idea about the demand for a couple shows, but we are always watching for movement on the list.”

Our Audience Matters

Kwofe adds that The Muny often is able to license new shows before any other regional theatre because of our audience.

“The Muny is known for excellent theatre and large crowds. You are helping decide future seasons every time you sit in the seats—and bring your friends,” he says. “Regional premieres for shows like Little Mermaid and Kinky Boots would not be possible if not for our creative teams, but they are even more possible for us because of our audience. We have ten times as many people in a week than any other theatre in the country. Every single person, from the boxes to the free seats, makes a difference.”

We plan to see you back in Forest Park for Muny 2021 starting July 5. Season ticket renewals will be mailed soon. New season tickets go on sale March 9.

This story was originally published in the Winter 2019 Behind the Booms—The Muny’s exclusive donor newsletter, mailed three times a year to all Muny donors.