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No, this ain't New York, but the shows sure go on.

After two years as head of media at SLU, a chance conversation with college president Father Lawrence Biondi ("He has the smartest intuition of any human being I've ever met") led to Isaacson becoming Biondi's assistant. During that stint, with Fister's blessing, he left the West End Word and began writing reviews for Riverfront Times.

A decade later, what plays from his reviewing days stand out? "I remember A...My Name is Alice as pretty damn spiffy. It was Hope Wurdack's company. Some of the old Theatre Project CompanyBetrayal, I remember that quite vividly. Speed-the-Plow, that Agnes [Wilcox] did up in the office building on Brentwood. The Rep production of Sondheim's A Little Night Music was incredible; their Sweeney Todd was great."

The reviewing came to a halt in 1996 when Isaacson was hired to join the Fox Theatre staff. "They had just decided to take Jekyll & Hyde to Broadway," he recalls. "Fox Theatricals was a general partner. So I worked on that while learning the whole booking-contractual end of the business."

Mike Isaacson: "To get me to leave here, you'd have to pry St. Louis out of my cold dead hands."
Jennifer Silverberg
Mike Isaacson: "To get me to leave here, you'd have to pry St. Louis out of my cold dead hands."

One of his first decisions was to recommend investing in Thoroughly Modern Millie. "My personal philosophy," Isaacson explains, "is, if everybody's going ying, go yang. That was a time when rock musicals like Rentwere in vogue. I thought people would be ready for a change."

Millie won the Tony Award as Best Musical of 2002.

Currently Isaacson is shepherding a musical adaptation of the hit film Legally Blonde, which is scheduled to open on Broadway next April. Even more immediately, he's involved with the Grand Center cabaret series in the new Savoy Room atop the Sheldon concert hall. If this season's lineup of cabaret performers (Jessica Molaskey, Marin Mazzie) is more theater-oriented than in the past, that's because "the two worlds are really becoming one. Musical theater is now the preservation of the songbook, so for Broadway performers this is the next natural place for them to branch out."

Then there's Spencer Day. "Our hope is that within two or three years the Savoy Room will become known among the top artists as a place you've got to play," Isaacson says. "We want to have a slot in each series with someone who you may not know going in but in two years you'll be saying, 'I was there when....' Which to me harkens back to the whole Gaslight Square tradition."

Despite constant rumors that he's about to abandon ship and move to Manhattan, Isaacson insists he's not going anywhere. "I love this city," the Central West End resident says. "This is home to me. I truly feel that one of the reasons I've been able to function in New York is because I live in St. Louis. I bring a different perspective. To get me to leave here, you'd have to pry St. Louis out of my cold dead hands."

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