Interview: St. Louis Area Producers Mike Bosner, Mike Isaacson, Jack Lane, and Terry Schnuck Nominated for Tony Awards

St. Louis Producers Nominated for & JULIET, PARADE and SHUCKED

By: May. 12, 2023
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Interview: St. Louis Area Producers Mike Bosner, Mike Isaacson, Jack Lane, and Terry Schnuck Nominated for Tony Awards

Last week when the Tony Award Nominations were announced, four producers with ties to the St. Louis area figured prominently in the races for Best Musical and Best Musical Revival. Broadway World had the opportunity to sit down with St. Louis Native Mike Bosner, The Muny's Mike Isaacson, STAGES St. Louis founder Jack Lane, and St. Louis based producer Terry Schnuck. Each of these theatre executives have enjoyed enormous success producing plays and musicals on Broadway. In fact, in previous years these four men have amassed over 30 nominations and 14-Tony wins among them.

This year, the Tony nominations again included nods for each of these gentlemen. Mike Isaacson is nominated for Best Revival of a Musical for PARADE. Jack Lane is nominated for Best Musical for & JULIET. Mike Bosner and Terry Schnuck are nominated for Best Musical for SHUCKED.

BWW: First, congratulations to each of you on your Tony nominations and the success of & JULIET, PARADE and SHUCKED. St. Louis continues to have major representation in the national theatre scene. What is it about the collaboration in the St. Louis theatre community that fosters the influence on Broadway?

Isaacson: Throughout my early career I had moments where people supported me or ignited a passion in me. In terms of collaboration, theatre people are great. Most are generous, supportive, try to help, and have given me opportunity in my career. I've tried to do the same. We all work together collectively.

Lane: There has been a lot of collaboration between all of us. Hey, Mike Bosner, actually I was one of your investors in the tour of BEAUTIFUL so I've kind of worked with you.

Bosner: laughing, "I'm aware."

Lane: I've always told Mike Isaacson that he influenced me getting my first two Tonys for FUN HOME and THE HUMANS. That is something I will never forget. I agree with Mike that it is crucial to mentor the younger co-producers as you go through your shows. There is nothing but collaboration in this tough business.

Schnuck: I enjoy working with all these guys and will continue to do so. It keeps me going back because everyone identifies opportunities they want to produce. The positive experience in the past makes you want to do more. St. Louis has a fabulous theatre scene, and it contributes to everyone's love and passion for the medium.

Bosner: The others have said it perfectly. We inherently want to be around other people and it is one of the most collaborative art forms. You cannot survive without every person who is working in the building. Mike was the second person I called when I picked up SHUCKED and I talked to him about it. There is something between the overlay of learning about theatre in St. Louis where everyone is nice. There is a hotbed of activity between the theatres. I tell everyone that I never realized how lucky I was to grow up in St. Louis. It is the city that defined me with its general love for the communal experience, and that's what the theatre is.

BWW: What does it mean to you when you hear that you've been nominated for a Tony?

Bosner: It is absolutely wild. We don't get into this business for that reason. We do the work because we fall in love with artists and the projects. When you're picking projects, there is something in your gut that speaks to you telling you it is a story that needs to be told, and that's magical. All of us on this panel have been a part of it. People will say obviously you're going to get these Tony nominations. But I cannot let my head go there and internalize that because I know the devastation when you don't get nominated. When it does happen its overwhelming. When SHUCKED was nominated for 9 Tony awards last week I said to the people on our team that much recognition and outpouring of affection is about the overall piece and how it has come together.

BWW: Yes, the 21 nominations between your three shows is impressive. So, Mike Isaacson, talk to me about what it means to you when you hear your name.

Isaacson: Bos said it. It's a beautiful and tricky thing. Essentially, you feel your peers are honoring you and that matters. You realize others have seen the same thing and that inspires me to keep working. But You have to be careful with it. We've all wrestled with it. There's a commercial reality to winning. You must find a balance and focus on the important things: the audience, the work, and what's being received. I've had a show like LEGALLY BLONDE that was dismissed by The Tony's, but then won The Olivier. I have to keep it all in perspective because you care about the show, the artists, and the jobs. You want the show to keep going so you feel how high the stakes are and that gets mixed into this time of year.

Lane: I agree with Mike B., people will say it's a far gone conclusion that you're going to be nominated. It's not, not until you hear the name. This year it is one hell of a race for Best Musical. It could go so many different directions. I remember when I went to see SHUCKED, I spoke to Mike during intermission and said we might be duking it out. The campaigns this year are so smart. The win for Best Musical generally means a lot for box office. It is going to be a crazy four or five weeks. But, for me it is a sense of pride and I'm incredibly happy for the entire production team.

Schnuck: It is a thrill to be part of the Tony excitement and have skin in the game. It is nice to have your production recognized for delivering excellence for a particular role, in one of the design areas, or for the production overall. It takes a lot of work to get there, and it is very satisfying to know that your peers are recognizing your work.

BWW: Jack, what did you see in & JULIET when you decided to sign-on to that project?

Lane: It is really smart. I love the script. It is surprisingly moving. I love the way it was reorchestrated. I had my eye on this show when it was trying out in Manchester, and I thought it was really interesting. When the American producer invited me to join, I immediately said, "absolutely!" I wanted to do this show. I was wildly entertained by it, and I thought it would have appeal across multiple generations.

BWW: Mike and Terry, tell me about SHUCKED.

Schnuck: First of all, I worked closely with Mike on BEAUTIFUL. He reached out when he was pulling the financing together for BEAUTIFUL and that's when we started our professional relationship. After BEAUTIFUL was mounted and had a successful run, Mike let me know that he had gotten a hold of SHUCKED. I was aware of the show in the early days. This funny show is all play on words and a bunch of one-liners. I knew I was going to like that aspect of it. It was right up my alley.

Bosner: I think the one thing that we can all agree on is that it is like falling in love. When it happens, it just washes over you. The real reason I got involved with SHUCKED was because of my heritage in St. Louis and the show being set in the Midwest. I read the SHUCKED script, thought it was a good time, and loved the people on the page. Having a pop-country score on Broadway felt like an untapped opportunity. The joke now with the show is that it has gone far beyond just a country score. That is fascinating because I never could have expected that with these two incredibly talented composers of country music.

BWW: Mike Isaacson, talk about PARADE.

Isaacson: PARADE was a long and interesting journey. I do all my Broadway producing with the amazing Kristin Caskey. I remember admiring the Lincoln Center production, but I didn't think they had really found the show. I though it was an important show and there was a small national tour that went out. I worked to help that happen. Then there was a production in London that Rob Ashford had done. Kristin and I worked to try and get that production over to the U.S., but it didn't happen. When this production premiered at Encores it struck lightning. The audiences reacted, the reviews were good and suddenly a theatre came available. All the dominoes lined up and we were able to make it work. The moment I saw director Michael Arden's' production I knew he had found the right way to tell this story.

BWW: What is it about your theatrical acumen that helps you identify the shows you want to invest in?

Schnuck: When a new piece is presented to me, I look for three things. First, it must strike me in a certain way. I believe that shows that can heal and change people's lives. The second thing I consider are the people who are associated with the project. I ask myself if there is someone on the project I've worked with before, or perhaps a new, up and coming, director or star. Only after those two things do I think about commercial viability. If first two things aren't there, then I won't be as passionate about the show. Finally, I've learned part of identifying what will make a show successful will be the kind of life will it have after Broadway. I want the show to live on because it is easily producible by others. At a minimum you want the show to go on tour, but what you really want is for it to be able to play in the regional theatres, in high schools and in colleges. That is what's going to give a show a long life. Many shows are more successful after Broadway than they are during their initial run.

Isaacson: There is no formula or single thing you are looking for; something just strikes you. If you look at Kristin and my work together it is very eclectic and often it is based on an artist or writer coming to us and you just know that this show must exist. You need the artistic and personal force to see that the artists are open to collaboration because you have to be able to work with everybody. Its just sort of a reaction when you look at it personally and commercially and you know who the audience is for this project. You create is with the audience in mind who will want to see it.

Bosner: I think that is actually important. We all have our own version of the answers to this question for the same three shows. As commercial theatre producers it is a funny mix, a double-edged sword, of the things that make us tick and the commercial responsibility we have when we are producing commercial theatre. What path will result in a return for our investors. That is what makes us all part of the same fraternity together. We all have our own ways of producing and we are all after the same thing at the end of the day. How can we find the groups of people who want to see the stories that we want to tell?

Lane: For me, it is the three Ws: What is it, why does it exist, and who is it for? The who is it for needs to be a big enough group of people for it to be a hit. But why does the show exist? That is the answer that is especially important to me.

Isaacson: This just came to me now and we all have this in common. Before we were in the commercial theatre, we all had serious experience in the non-profit theatre, selling subscriptions, understanding how to work with an audience. That is incredible soil for understanding how to go into the commercial theatre.

Bosner: Your right Mike. When I'm going into a project, I'm always listening with my Muny ears. Asking myself, what is the thing that I know that those 11,000 people are going to respond to, because that formed my taste in shows. (The Muny in St. Louis has a 11,000-seat capacity.)

Lane: When I was working on THE PROM, I was in New York a lot. I practically lived at The Longacre Theatre. I was present at every performance. People would ask why I was there all the time. I told them that this is what I do. When I was at STAGES St. Louis, I was present every night. I didn't get in anyone's way but as a lead producer I want to always be at my shows. Its in my blood and there is that not-for-profit sensibility. Mike is absolutely right; in the non-profit world you have to touch on everything and that has helped me dramatically.

BWW: Any specific plans you have for future Broadway shows that you can tease?

Isaacson: I've already announced that we are producing the first Broadway revival of THE WIZ with an incredible creative team. THE WIZ is bigger than New York so we are going to do a 10-city tour and then go into New York for a limited engagement. Following the Broadway run we plan to do a second national tour. We've been planning this for 8-years. Things like this take a long time. Kristin and I are doing that this fall.

Bosner: I've got nothing I can tease. I'm all in on SHUCKED right now. I have a couple of things in the hopper but I'm not nearly at a place of being able to talk about anything specific.

Lane: I've got two major shows I'm working on. One is not a big surprise; it is KARATE KID: THE MUSICAL and that will open in the spring of 2024. We will be announcing the theatre soon. The show is really coming along beautifully. I'm also working on another incredible project, but I just can't announce it just now.

Schnuck: I'm one of Mike Isaacson's co-producers on THE WIZ. There is nothing else that is at a stage that it would be worth talking about.

BWW: Thank You Mike, Jack, Mike and Terry for your time today. Good luck to each of you on Tony night!

The 2023 Tony Awards are currently scheduled to be presented on Sunday, June 11th beginning at 7 p.m. CST. The ceremony is being held at the historic United Palace Theater in the Manhattan Washington Heights neighborhood.


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