On Saturday, Feb 4th The Muny held “Open Auditions” for the 171 ensemble “tracks” for this summer season.
I was there. Auditioning. It’s always been my dream to dance on Broadway. So, I decided to audition with the other 500 women that morning. “What a Feeling” from Flashdance plays on my radio as I drive to Webster Groves for the 8am call time.
Needless to say, I did not make it past the first cut.
This didn’t stop me from pursuing the dream which led me to Dylan Stanely, Public Relations Guru at The Muny. He used his Muny magic so that I would have the opportunity to speak with Megan Larche, the Muny’s very first Casting Director and Drew Redington, a young performer who grew up in St. Louis performing at The Muny, now living in NYC pursuing his dreams of Broadway. I might not be dancing on The Muny stage (this year), but fortunately had the privilege to speak with Muny stars. Both Megan and Drew’s passion came through in our conversations which made me want to dance on stage even more!
Megan’s job is to find the best performers for each role, negotiating contracts, availability and working with the creative team of Mike Isaacson and the directors and choreographers for each show. At The Muny, EACH show is cast separately for a 3 week job. The Principals are cast first and through the entire process Megan is identifying and advocating for talented performers. The Open Call, she says is one of her favorite weekends because it’s so filled with energy, “I see beginning dancers grow and develop over the years and it’s satisfying to see their progression.”
After auditions Megan puts together video packages so that each director and choreographer is able to build their own company. “It’s balancing each show to make them as exciting as possible.” The Muny is a highly sought after job. Often, the performers are poached for Broadway and National tours. “We are proud to lose people this way because we know we are hiring the best there is!” Many Muny performers earn their Equity card during their Muny summer experience and some go onto highly successful careers.
Each show at The Muny is cast individually. During auditions the choreographers and directors have the chance to see which performers might work best in their company. “It’s important to make sure we have the right people in the right track. Every year, every show is different.” If a performer doesn’t earn a spot during one audition, Megan encourages them to audition again. During Open Call, we all heard this as well: “Come back and give us another try! If you were not called back this year, it’s because of these seven shows we are casting for this year.”
Megan’s history with A Chorus Line dates back to the 2005 Broadway revival. “This was the biggest casting job,” she says. “A Chorus Line is a defining moment in Broadway history because Michael Bennett was revolutionary and redefined what a musical could be. There are moments in your career that are touched by history. This was for me. I care about dancers, their joy and their happiness in getting what they want. For the revival, I had the honor of sitting with Bob Avian and, Baayork Lee the original Connie as we cast the show. I could have listened to their stories about Michael Bennett all night.”
“I never thought I would have Chorus Line again, so this makes it even more special to bring it to our Muny audience. To be involved with Dennis Jones, who has such a love and respect for dancers makes us all want to do better. There was a lot of love and affection as we put this company of A Chorus Line together for The Muny.”
Drew Redington, 21, grew up in St. Louis and has been performing on The Muny stage for eleven years. He made his Broadway debut in Holiday Inn last year and currently lives in NYC full time pursuing his dream of the stage.
“Performing on The Muny stage is a unique experience because of the audience. People have known this theatre for 100 years. On stage you can feel the connection to the audience and that’s something you only get at The Muny.” Drew loved growing up in such a diverse and vibrant theatre community exposed to many theater people. Including his mentor Lara Teeter (a frequent Muny performer). “When I work with Lara I remember why I’m in this business. I admire his career, but more importantly, I admire Lara as a human being. In this business you are always surrounded by talented people. Lara is one of those talented and great human beings.”
This summer Drew is cast in the ensemble in “All Shook Up” and as Mark in “A Chorus Line.” “In my experience I love going back and forth between principal and ensemble. As a principal you can dive deeper into a character and there’s more play with that. As an ensemble player, I might be five different characters. In each I learn different skills because you never know what will be required of you.”
The Muny puts on each show in 12 days. Two-three months prior cast members receive scrips and music so that they are ready the first day of rehearsal to “get all the music down”. The ensemble learns a dance number in 2-3 hours. From a dancers’ perspective this is just part of growing up in the business. “At The Muny the first time you learn something might be the last time you perform it until full run. You go home and do your homework every night. When you are in a Muny show you have to have self-discipline and be on top of what is required of you. You never know when you will “go”.”
By the 7th or 8th day the cast and crew have finished the show and have a TOP SECRET rehearsal with all the designers and then a tech rehearsal which is treated as a real performance. “I’ve learned you just have to go along. It’s always interesting to experience The Muny with new people because the process is speedy!”
“Tell me you all are having as much fun as it looks on stage,” I requested about All Shook Up.
“It’s a blast. We ARE having that much fun. It’s a great show and a great time!”
“I’m very fortunate to be doing what I want to be doing,” both Drew and Megan affirmed.
Actually, its The Muny audience whose fortunate to call Drew a home-grown talent and to have Megan call The Muny home. As for my aspirations, Megan encouraged me to audition again. Maybe I’ll even dance with Drew!
This piece appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2017 in the SOS From Suburbia column.