Extra! Extra! Newbies Can Still Enjoy Newsies

By Victoria Babu

Is it just me or did the summer go by fast? I measured the weeks by how many mother-daughter Muny outings I had with my youngest daughter Julia.  It is more than a fun night out. It's...an experience.  

Before I explain, I'd like to give a shout out to those of you who've never been to the Muny. Yes. I know you are out there because you've told me.  It's been coming up in conversation when I mention I'm working on a documentary on the Muny's 100th anniversary in 2018. But it's not too late for you to enjoy the Muny experience. You can still catch the highly entertaining Newsies until Sunday, August 13. You don't have to buy a ticket. There are free seats. https://muny.org/free-seats

So what's "the experience?" For Julia and me, it's dinner first at a different restaurant each time. Next year, we plan to picnic at Forest Park before heading in, like so many others. Then we stroll to the Missouri Lottery East Lawn Stage to snap a selfie, sip some wine and listen to local performers before heading in. We always end up seeing someone we know. It's quite the party! As we take our seats and the orchestra begins (yes, a live orchestra), we love singing the National Anthem. Maybe that's our chance to "perform." Fortunately for us, the young man behind us has a terrific voice. 

For performers, they tell me the Muny experience begins with their first time on the Muny stage. Everyone I've interviewed becomes emotional reliving that moment when they look into the audience and have 10,000 faces staring back. I have to admit. Once they told me, I stood up from my seat at one performance, turned around and took in the vast sea of seats. I get it. Pretty overwhelming. 

Julie Piekarski Probst is one of those performers. She was a Muny kid. She's pictured with me at a recent performance. She went on to become a Disney Mouseketeer and credits her Muny experience as preparing her for the grueling schedule in Hollywood. She went on to become a 1980's TV actress in the popular sitcom Facts of Life. Her three children were Muny kids. She still attends all performances with her mentor, Janice Hawk, a Muny dancer from the 1970's. 

Then there's Jay Shastri. He and his family have worked for four decades behind the scenes at the Muny,  A sound engineer for years, you can now see Jay standing guard outside the backstage gate. Stop and say hello. Just don't try to get past him. His wife is backstage helping out with the Muny kids, his son designs all those cool banners lining the walkways and daughter Anita is now on Broadway as a stage manager. That's a pretty impressive Muny legacy! Look for them in the documentary. 

Finally, dear newbies, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the weather. Sure it can be brutally humid but the forecast for the remainder of this week is downright pleasant!  No excuses. Let this be the week to begin your Muny experience. 

(left to right) Jay Shastri, Julie Piekarski Probst, Victoria Babu with daughter Julia