Friend of the podcast Drew Redington (Holiday Inn) discusses the unique experiences that working outdoors at The Muny brings in the second of his three-part series about this year's summer season.
One of my favorite parts about live theatre is that the show is different every night. But at the Muny, it’s even more of an adventure because you have to deal with Mother Nature herself. When in nature’s good graces, there is truly nothing like looking up onstage and seeing the night sky. There is something enchanting about it. Not to mention the giant audience of eleven thousand people. However, there are times when the weather is a true force to reckon with.
Of course when watching a show inside a theatre, every once in a while, you can catch members of the cast with a little bit of sweat running down their face. However, at the Muny, any night you will have no trouble seeing cast members dripping head to toe from the downbeat of the overture to the final bow. Dancing in intense heat at first seems a little daunting, but eventually I have found that my body will get used to it, and instead of focusing on the heat, I am just thinking about the show. This past week, our cast of All Shook Up took on one of the hottest weeks in St. Louis. The heat and humidity had sky rocketed to the point where my costumes would completely change color because they were soaked in sweat. I guess you could say it’s not the most comfortable thing in the world, however, once you’re onstage, you tend to forget about the temperature. Also, there’s a bright side to the heat, especially as a dancer, I’m always 100% positive my muscles are warm and ready to go.
Another fun factor about performing outside at the Muny is that rain is absolutely a common occurrence. Luckily, the Muny will hold a show for about an hour until they cancel it. Or even during a show if it starts to rain, the show will just take a quick break, then the stage will get mopped and dried, then on with the show. What’s challenging about this is that sometimes a show will continue longer than usual. With All Shook Up, there was a night where we didn’t even begin act two until 11 PM because we had so many rain delays. Then, a few years ago when the Muny did a production of My Fair Lady, there was a night where the show went until 1am. Yes, it sounds a bit late, but there is something really special about an audience that will stay up late with a show and be with you until the very end. The Muny audience is one of the warmest audiences I have ever experienced. There is an overwhelming sense of community, culture, and tradition, and it’s clear that they are rooting for everyone on that stage.
Even though rain can cause a few problems, it also brought my favorite onstage experience. A few summers ago, the Muny was doing a production of Hello, Dolly! starring Beth Leavel, and as many know, in act two there is the crazy "Waiter’s Gallop" that transitions right into the title number of the show. Well, one night as the "Gallop" was starting, there began a slight drizzle. Nothing too serious to the point where we had to stop the show, however some of the men in the ensemble, including myself, had to improvise on the spot because tumbling didn’t necessarily seem like the smartest thing to do on a wet stage. As the "Gallop" progressed, the rain kept coming down stronger and stronger to the point when we reached Dolly’s grand entrance at the top of the stairs, we had all looked like we’d jumped into a pool. At this point, all of the men’s ensemble thought that our stage manager would call the show right there. However, Beth Leavel didn’t skip a beat and started walking down the grand staircase with more elegance and poise than ever before. Slowly, one by one, each and every one of the male ensemble thought to themselves, “Oh, we’re doing this," and the next thing I knew, I was duck walking in the pouring rain singing at the top of my lungs. In the audience, you could see everyone had stayed in their seats huddled under their umbrellas. This is a night of Muny magic I will never forget. It’s also one of those things where you can say “only at the Muny” can something happen like this.
From the weather to the occasional raccoon running across the stage to the starlight sky to the giant wall of 11,000 people, the Muny holds nothing but unique and extraordinary experiences. Every time I do a show here, there is something new and different, and I’m grateful for it. The Muny is a theater not only where you can count on great shows and a great time, but it’s also a place where you can count on a one-of-a-kind night under the summer sky.
Listen to additional stories about working at The Muny on our Summer Stock episode.