By: Christina Mancuso
BroadwayWorld.com, the largest theatre site on the Internet, is excited to announce a new feature to its comprehensive regional coverage - the Featured Regional Theater of the Week! Each week, BWW will introduce its readers to a regional theater located in one of our (over 130!) coverage cities. By exploring these different venues, their history and showcasing the production seasons, BWW continues its commitment to expand our presence in communities and cities across the United States.
This Week's Featured Regional Theater: The Muny in St. Louis, Missouri
The Muny is known as America's oldest and largest outdoor musical theatre. In 1916, Parks Commissioner Nelson Cunliff, Miss Anglin and Civic League President John Gundlach selected a grassy area between two large oak trees for a June series of performances of Shakespeare's AS YOU LIKE IT. AS YOU LIKE IT starred Miss Anglin, Robert Mantell and Sidney Greenstreet. The out-of-town professionals were joined by nearly 1,000 St. Louis folk dancers and folk singers in observance of the 300th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. Crowds averaged 8,000, reviews were good, and after an opening night rain-out, AS YOU LIKE IT moved into the history books as the first production at the site of today's Muny.
After much risky decision making, endorsements and investments, The Muny was built in 49 days. The massive stage was constructed, an orchestra pit built to hold up to 200 musicians, all the concrete was poured and dressing rooms built behind the stage for the principal performers. Verdi's AIDA would be the inaugural presentation.
The Opera Committee brought to St. Louis the opera world's finest: Manuel Salazar from the San Carlo Opera, known as Caruso's rival; The Met's Maria Rappold; the Boston National Grand Opera's Francesca Peralta; European contralto Margaret Jarman; and the Met's Cyrene Van Gordon. Young St. Louisan Elda Vettori would begin an illustrious grand opera career in AIDA in the Park.
In November of 1918, Mayor Kiel and other prominent St. Louisans met and changed the cultural course of St. Louis, and The Muny was born. The theatre was treated to a face-lift, and on June 10, 1919, the Municipal Theatre Association of St. Louis (known by today's audiences simply as "The Muny") gained official status with a pro forma decree of incorporation. Six days later the curtain rose on ROBIN HOOD, with a full house and Mayor Kiel himself proudly appearing in the production as King Richard!
Notable past performers have been Agnes Moorehead in GIGI, Guy Robertson in THE CAT AND THE FIDDLE, Ozzie and Harriet and Tommy Tune in STATE FAIR, Robert Preston and Bernadette Peters in MACK AND MABEL, Angela Lansbury in GYPSY and MAME, Tony Randall and Jack Klugman in THE ODD COUPLE, Archie Leach (who later changed his name to Cary Grant), among many others.
The Muny continues to host many of today's most famous and well-known stars from all over the country.
The 2012 summer season featured THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE, CHICAGO, ALADDIN, DREAMGIRLS, JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, PIRATES! and THE KING AND I.