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Muny will present 'Summer Variety Hour' with exclusive footage, performances, interviews

Muny will present 'Summer Variety Hour' with exclusive footage, performances, interviews

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MUNY OPENING

Muny artistic director and executive producer Mike Isaacson greets the audience at the start of the centennial season in 2018. 

Among the many casualties of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic was the 2020 Muny season, which has been delayed until 2021. But the celebrated outdoor theater has been committed to keeping fans engaged through online programming — first with “Muny Magic in Your Home” and continuing next Monday with “The Muny 2020 Summer Variety Hour Live!”

Whereas “Muny Magic” featured never-before-seen footage from the Muny’s off-season concert series at the Sheldon Concert Hall, the “Summer Variety Hour” will showcase clips from Muny productions of recent years — including such classic and popular musicals as “Aida,” “Jersey Boys,” “The Little Mermaid,” “The Music Man,” “Oklahoma!,” “South Pacific” and “The Wiz.”

The free program will be streamed live at 8:15 p.m. on Mondays through Aug. 17, with repeat broadcasts on Thursdays (with captions and audio descriptions available). In addition to the clips, the show will feature new performances by Muny artists.

“At this incredibly challenging moment, we wanted to do something,” says Mike Isaacson, artistic director and executive producer of the Muny. “We wanted to do something so that creative people have a space to create, and we wanted to do something for this community. We’ve been here for 102 years, and this is the way we can do it.”

The clips are culled from archival footage, says Isaacson, who will host the program.

“My hope is that people will experience some really magical moments that we’ve created onstage,” he says. “And just be reminded of how special the Muny is.”

The footage was produced strictly for educational, marketing and promotional purposes, so the clips will be available for public viewing only during the “Summer Variety Hour” broadcasts.

“They’re not copyable or downloadable, and they can’t live on our YouTube or Facebook pages,” Isaacson says.

The program will range from song and dance performances — including video contributed by Muny artists around the country, real-life musical-theater couples singing duets, and numbers featuring the Muny Kids and Teens — to “Munywood Squares,” a Muny-themed game show inspired by TV’s “Hollywood Squares.” Live interviews with artists featured on the show will also be part of the mix, Isaacson says.

“So many people, as soon as they heard, said, ‘What can I do? How can I help? I want to be a part of this,’” he says. “Each show will have one live vocal performance from the Muny, with one of our artists and a four-piece combo. And every week, we’re going to have a dance number that’s been created at the Muny.”

Details of each show will be announced the Friday before broadcast, he says.

“The technology of all this is new to us — and really challenging,” Isaacson says. “But doing it live was so important to us.”

What “The Muny 2020 Summer Variety Hour Live!” • When 8:15 p.m. Mondays, July 20-Aug. 17 (repeat broadcasts on Thursdays) • Where youtube.com/themunytvMore info muny.org

"We wanted to do something so that creative people have a space to create, and we wanted to do something for this community. We’ve been here for 102 years, and this is the way we can do it.”

Mike Isaacson

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