As The Muny audience sang “Auld Ang Syne” after the final performance of the 93rd season Sunday night, a lot of people who attend and love The Muny have a lot of questions.
Paul Blake’s 22 year tenure as Executive Producer has come to an end, and Tony winner Mike Isaacson has found his way from Fox Associates to The Muny to replace Blake. What exactly does that mean? What kind of changes can be expected? Will the season get longer and have more shows?
For sure, The Muny, much like it did when Blake came on board, needs a boast. Competitive challenges, the weather, changing societal patterns, a graying audience and the troubled economy all make running and marketing The Muny as difficult as it has every been. But if you look at the Round 2 survey of possible new shows The Muny may present in 2012, there are some veiled clues to the future and what steps might be taken to give The Muny some new energy and appeal.
32 possible shows are listed on the survey. (Click on the link below to take the survey yourself.) Some might be surprising, like “Nunsense – Muny Style,” “All Shook Up,” “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” and “Children of Eden: The Noah’s Ark Musical.” Some titles are timeless classics and Muny favorites, like “Carousel,” “Gypsy” and “Hello Dolly.” But as the attendance figures will demonstrate, Muny audiences seem most drawn to newer shows and modern escapism fare, as witness the fact that “The Little Mermaid” had the best ticket sales of the season and “Legally Blonde” was a real crowd pleaser. The “vault” shows, like “Kiss Me Kate,” no longer have a strong overall appeal to a broad age range, and The Muny has a lot of expenses and lots of seats to fill every night. Attractions with the best overall appeal are critical to the future.
So later this year when The Muny announces its slate of shows for 2012, look for things to begin evolving. Newer, first-time titles with all ages appeal will be important. After all, going to The Muny is a family experience. There may even be more “event” type shows as opposed to book musicals. There may occasionally be shows that aren’t “musicals” in the classic definition. In other words, look for a few “surprises.”
The shape, layout and length of the season may change ever so slightly. Look for production values to expand and become even more engaging. There may even be some interesting “partnerships.”
Marketing of The Muny, especially in the realm of subscription sales, has to become smarter and more creative. The Muny’s branding and overall appeal needs to be given a brighter new look, and a stong pull to a younger audience.
With the arrival of Mike Isaacson, The Muny is about to enter a new era of intelligent, creative upgrades and change. Don’t expect a lot of sudden, risky moves. Do expect the very best efforts of a lot of bright theater professionals, all of whom share something very important with The Muny audiences – a sincere and abiding love of The Muny, and a desire to make it bigger and better for the town it has always called home.