Salmo follows behind. "To have been chosen for this job," he says, "I'm one of the luckiest people in the world. We can feel that we're all part of something fresh. My family has been coming to the Muny for generations. This summer is not going to be your mama's Muny."

The 7 p.m. rehearsal is for supernumeraries (here they're named the Merry Muny Manhattanites) — 25 walk-ons, young and old, who will augment the Millie cast in the opening scene. At seven on the dot, he welcomes the group: "I'm Mike Isaacson, the new guy in town." The rehearsal adjourns outdoors to the West Platform.

Isaacson is scheduled to meet friends for dinner at 7:30. But at the appointed time, he's still here, watching resident choreographer Michael Baxter put the newcomers through their paces. After less than 30 minutes, Baxter knows them all by their first name. Isaacson admiringly watches the young Webster University grad. "The Muny hasn't had a resident choreographer in decades," he says. "But I felt that we had to have one. Michael is here on a pilot program. Denny [Reagan] helped us find a donor to fund it. I hope we can keep it going."

At work in the Muny’s costume shop.
Jennifer Silverberg
At work in the Muny’s costume shop.
A rehearsal for All That Jazz.
Jennifer Silverberg
A rehearsal for All That Jazz.

When the rehearsal ends at 8:20 p.m., Isaacson returns to his office and scans his daily "to do" list to see what didn't get done. (Not much.)

It has been a day marked by satisfaction and setback. "Every time I produce a show on Broadway, the experience is different," he says. "It's different here too, and I'm still learning that. I'm learning how to sense when the artists need you and when they don't, when to ask a question and when to shut up. I know that ultimately any decision is my call. But before I make that call, I want to make sure that everybody who should be heard has been heard. I'm of the mindset that if there's a problem, let's all get in the room, and the best idea wins."

Part of what attracted Isaacson to the job was the challenge of learning new skills. "You're taking all those muscles you haven't developed, and guess what? You have to develop them," he explains as he prepares to call it a day. "So you're confronting things that aren't naturally easy to you. In the past I've been very entrepreneurial. I operate from the assumption that if I've hired you and we're working together, I trust you. What I've realized at the Muny is that I need to articulate that assumption more."

At 8:32 p.m. Isaacson leaves the Muny. He is almost the last to go. As he passes through the stage gate, he pauses to gaze back through the fading twilight at the empty back lot. "I want everyone out here to know how important they are to the process," he says. "It's hard to put on a musical. But we're creating something together, and that can be inspirational. Some people may not get me at first, but when they see the things we've all talked about finally happening on the Muny stage, I think the people around here are going to say, 'I get it now. This guy's OK.'"

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