As The Muny gears up for its 101st season, the theater’s fans will be treated to an amazing year of performances. Thanks to a $100 million capital campaign (all from supportive donors) that began at the close of the centennial season, The Muny will offer a newly enhanced experience with a range of technological advancements.
“Up until now, our teams and designers have been pushing the envelope and building shows in a environment that was patched together over the past 100 years,” explains Tracy Utzmyers, production manager for The Muny.
For 2019, the venerable theater will invest millions into the first of five phases.
“All the backstage advancements will allow the technicians more versatility, making the show more fluid and heightening the magic,” she says. “We’ve also made some adjustments to accommodate better sight lines for the seating on the sides.”
Although attendees will feel many of the improvements, a lot of changes are most noticeable behind the scenes.
“We worked hard to see how this renovation can not only serve the technology for today but is also adaptable for 50 years of advancements,” Utzmyers says. “Everything about the stage is new, but specifically, the stage deck has five new lifts, three scenery tracks and a new turntable,” she says. “It’s all automated now and works together for a seamlessly cohesive and consistent production.”
The stage renovations will utilize $33 million of the $50 million capital improvements project (part of the $100 million campaign, half of which remains in the endowment fund).
Sean Smith, director of operations at The Muny, says this renovation is “the biggest thing we will do as an institution.”
“We’ve done plenty of capital improvements over the years, but in terms of scope, dollar amount and impact on the audience, this is huge,” he says.
In the design phase, it was crucial the architect kept the core of what makes The Muny what it is.
“We thought carefully about how to hold onto that and enhance it,” Utzmyers says. “We wanted all the updated technology but needed someone who understood the historical value of the property. The architect did an incredible job of updating it but keeping it in tradition and still looking like The Muny. We’re still surrounded by the pergolas and walkways and trees; they did a great job blending new and old.”
In addition to the fully updated stage, there are new LED lighting fixtures, an upgraded video wall, remote control spotlights much closer to the actors than before, and a new sound system.
“The new system is very similar to the old sound system, but we found better locations for the speakers, so the sound will be enhanced,” Utzmyers explains.
One of the most noticeable changes for the audience will likely be increased airflow.
“We added new fans several years ago, but we’ve upgraded the audience air circulation system again in this phase,” says Utzmyers. “In the towers that flank either side of stage, we have a system of 24 blowers on that feed 140 diffusers, creating a much better distribution of air throughout.”
Not just an investment for the audience experience, the improvements also benefit the entire crew.
“When you’re building a production as a dancer or carpenter — or anything — the less you have to wrangle a space that’s not quite conducive for what you’re trying to produce, the more creativity shows up on stage,” she says. “We’re giving our creators a better, cleaner, more useful space so their energy can radiate from the stage to the free seats.”
“The orchestra is now underneath the stage in an environmentally protected space,” Utzmyers continues. “There’s a 40-foot opening, so you’ll still see them, but they don’t have to tear down and set up their equipment every night.”
See the new and improved Muny with your own eyes during an epic rendition of “Guys and Dolls” on opening night June 10.
“This project is addressing 20-plus years of needs, and we’re most excited about the audience reaction to it because we’ve really improved the experience across the board,” Smith says.
Single tickets are now available online or at the box office.