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Muny's 'Summer Variety Hour' scores with audiences

Muny's 'Summer Variety Hour' scores with audiences

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"Meet Me in St. Louis."

The cast of the Muny's "Meet Me in St. Louis" at the World's Fair. Photo courtesy of the Muny

With its summer season delayed until 2021 because of the pandemic, the Muny has ventured online to keep its audience engaged. And the outdoor theater famous for showcasing musicals has enjoyed particular success with “The Muny 2020 Summer Variety Hour Live!,” which concludes its five-week run Monday (Aug. 17).

The free program is available for viewing at youtube.com/themunytv. A highlight of the show has been clips from Muny productions of recent years, and the finale promises to maintain the magic, with scenes from musicals including “A Chorus Line,” Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Gypsy,” “Meet Me in St. Louis” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” along with footage from “The Muny Centennial Gala: An Evening With the Stars.”

The program will be streamed live at 8:15 p.m., with a repeat broadcast Thursday with captions and audio descriptions. As with previous episodes, the final edition of the “Summer Variety Hour” will also feature live and recorded segments involving artists associated with the Muny.

The show has attracted more than 100,000 viewers from throughout the United States and the world. Response to the “Summer Variety Hour” has “really blown us all away,” said Mike Isaacson, artistic director and executive producer of the Muny. He also hosts the show.

“We didn’t know how to do this when we set out to do it,” Isaacson said. “We all had to learn a lot of new technologies and formats, and I had to learn how to speak in front of a television camera.

“But we were able to create,” he said. “And I think we hit at a moment where all of us, in this time, needed to see creativity and to see these great memories. It wasn’t a Muny season, but we were doing the best we could for the time we’re in, and that meant a lot to people.”

Among the features scheduled for the final episode are a performance by offstage couple Erin Dilly and Stephen R. Buntrock, a dance piece from “Singin’ in the Rain,” and a sing-along of “Auld Lang Syne,” a season-ending tradition for Muny audiences.

“The anchor of the show has been the clips, but people are loving the new songs and dances we’ve created,” Isaacson said. “Really loving them.”

The “Summer Variety Hour” has been so successful that the Muny is exploring the possibility of more online programming, he said.

“We’d be fools not to look at that,” Isaacson said. “I’m a big believer in doing something singular, something that nobody else is doing. There were all sorts of online things going on, but nobody had the variety concept.”

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