Front & Center

Setting the Stage

We know for a fact that St. Louis theater fans are anxious to return to their seats, because the simple fact is, we are among them! If you’ve been wondering what live plays and musicals will look like in 2021, the answer is that no one knows for certain. But in the meantime, we can offer some interesting insights from professionals in the field. T&S continues to check in with them about recent developments, pandemic precautions and the ever-changing stage production that is St. Louis theater.

Kwofe Coleman, managing director for The Muny, says choosing shows for the outdoor theater’s 2021 season was actually one of the easiest things his staff has had to do this year; it’s the same lineup originally scheduled for 2020. The plan is to stage Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Mary Poppins, Smokey Joe’s Café, The Sound of Music, Sweeney Todd and On Your Feet!, with the season beginning in early July and running through early September.

Coleman says The Muny is working closely with city and health officials to devise seating, traffic and safety arrangements for in-person shows. “We have a COVID-19 committee of health care and theater professionals who are staying on top of local and national regulations,” he says. “We are keeping an open, transparent dialogue to make the most informed choices. We’re also asking audiences to follow guidelines and help us accomplish safe experiences for everyone—artists, crew, staff and guests.”

He says the theater has been better able to adjust to the developing situation because of recent renovations and technology updates. “If those changes hadn’t already been made, we would have a more difficult time this year,” Coleman says. “Another thing that has given us some peace is knowing that everyone has experienced the same frustrations with closures and cancellations. The fact that the pandemic became a global reality made shutting down easier in some ways.”

Andrew Kuhlman, associate producer for Stages St. Louis, says the Kirkwood-based company is eager to return to the boards as well. It will do so in a beautiful new home, the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center, which was under construction when the pandemic arose. Its main stage is located in the 529-seat Ross Family Theatre. (To take a video tour, search YouTube for the center’s name.)

“People hoped live performances would return last spring, but then it became clear that it would take much longer,” Kuhlman says. “We’ve had to make schedule adjustments for 2021, including canceling A Chorus Line and the Family Theatre Series production of A Year with Frog & Toad. However, we do plan to stage Always … Patsy Cline and Jersey Boys this year.” The abbreviated season has been pushed back a bit as well, kicking off in August.

This year marks Stages’ 35th anniversary, and Kuhlman says staff and performers are excited to be celebrating in a fresh, modern, state-of-the-art venue. He says they are working to provide a safe, enjoyable season for patrons who have been waiting eagerly for the curtain to rise again.

Season schedules and programs may change. For the latest developments, visit muny.org and stagesstlouis.org.

Pictured at top: The new Kirkwood Performing Arts Center
Photo courtesy of Stages St. Louis

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