The Muny: St Louis’ Jewel in The Park
St. Louis, MO. is home to one of the most enchanting and engaging forms of entertainment available anywhere. The Muny amphitheater in Forest Park.
In 1916 Margaret Walsh Anglin obtained permission from the St Louis Parks commissioner to use a gently sloping hill, scooping down to a flat grassy area of Forest Park as a natural amphitheater in which to perform Shakespearean plays. Miss Anglins performance of As You Like It featured over 200 St. Louisans and was a critical and popular success. In this performance, two St Louis traditions were born: a municipally based theater in the heart of Forest Park, and the utilization of local citizens as a large part of the drama. Both traditions continue to this day.
In 1917 concrete was poured to support fixed seating, and the stage was formalized. In 1919 Mayor Henry Kiel formally established the Municipal Theatre Association of St. Louis, ever since referred to as The Muny. The rest is history.
St. Louis has embraced the magnificent spectacles presented here during it’s eighty plus years of operation. Some families can trace their Muny-going history right back to the very first days.
In order to make this fine entertainment available to all, 1,456 free seats were established at the back of the theater. Those seats are still here today.
With 9,000 seats available, The Muny is the largest, and oldest open-air theater in the nation. But don’t let the fact that it has no roof fool you, it’s accommodations rival those of any other major theater, and the facilities and surrounding landscaping are frequently updated to meet the needs of the theater’s patrons. Aside from the theater itself, there are concrete walk ways threading their way around several beautiful fountains and small lakes that provide many quiet nooks where theater goers can enjoy a picnic dinner before the show. There is a dining area for more formal pre-show dining if you prefer, as well as a full compliment of concessions.
The natural landscape has been preserved as much as possible, even to the point of incorporating two giant live oaks as part of the stage, rather than destroy the magnificent trees.
The Muny has played host to some of the biggest names in show business: Vincent Price, Cary Grant, W.C. Fields, Bob Hope, Irene Dunne, Ethel Merman, Cab Calloway, Pearl Bailey, Douglas Fairbanks, and Phyllis Diller to name just a few.
Each season a variety of shows are presented, offering something for everyone from the kids to the grand parents. These days the performances tend to be more popular musicals than formal operas. While the Muny’s fame and success is due to it’s fabulous productions, there is more than show biz behind it’s popularity. Perhaps popular actress and native St. Louisan, Mary Wickes best describes this mystique, “…You young lovers take notice – there is no more romantic setting than The Muny on a warm summer night, full moon, that great orchestra playing and a golden voiced tenor singing… Trust me. It’s as close to heaven as some of us will get!”
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