On the outside, Mike Isaacson seems like a fairly easy-going guy. But on the inside, there’s an intensity that doesn’t feel like compromising, especially when discussing his latest career challenge of being Executive Producer of The Muny.
“The Muny is a big idea,” Isaacson cautions. “It’s a big civic idea, it’s a big artistic idea, it’s a big management idea, and because of that, if you don’t do big, you’re failing. That’s the thing I’ve tried to emphasize here. It’s not a question. The question is how do we get it done. And don’t play it safe.”
Isaacson continued. “This is an audience that told us very clearly last summer that they were very grateful we weren’t playing it safe. They are over safe. Safe is not why they buy tickets anymore.”
Making constructive moves that have seemed to belie the status quo are a hallmark of Mike Isaacson’s vision for The Muny. Isaacson lobbied hard to get the new fans installed in the 2013 season instead of later. He began the planning and production elements much more in advance than in recent years. He shook up traditional staging concepts. He had a new light wall installed on stage to give enhanced production ingenuity. He began hiring what seems to be a more carefully chosen brand of Broadway talent. He’s taken steps to surprise audiences with elements they didn’t expect, like actually flying “Mary Poppins” off the Muny stage this coming season and over the audience.
“The big idea entertains them and engages them,” Isaacson said. “Last season ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ told us that. Audiences came in thinking they were going to see one thing and they saw that we were changing the rules. And they loved it. This new season is a very challenging and rich. I’m really excited about the talent this year, both backstage and on stage.”
Isaacson feels that The Muny, now in its 95th season, has a big question to ponder. “What do we have to do now so that people sitting out there a hundred years from now will have something to talk about.” Whatever Isaacson, Muny President Denny Reagan and the entire Muny organization come up with, you can bet it will be big.