Stage Bite: Broadway star Rob McClure on acting, the Muny and City Museum

Stage Bite: Broadway star Rob McClure on acting, the Muny and City Museum
Larry Pry/The Muny
Rob McClure on stage at the Muny

Rob McClure turned 31 earlier this summer, during rehearsals for Shrek at the Muny. Where did the visiting actor go to celebrate? No, not to a Central West End pub. Instead, he and the entire cast descended on the City Museum — the ideal venue for an adult who is still a kid at heart. McClure and his wife, Maggie, discovered the City Museum two summers ago when he made a charming Muny debut as Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors. Now the museum is their favorite St. Louis site.

Credit McClure's wide-eyed enthusiasm to the reassurances he received as a high school student in New Jersey. McClure aspired to be a professional golfer as a teen. But when he saw some of his pals in the school staging of Bye Bye Birdie, he got jealous.

"I was so angry that I was not in it," McClure recalls during a recent conversation at the Muny, "because it looked like so much fun." For the next three years, he acted in all his high school's musicals. The experiences turned out to be more than mere fun: "I discovered a sense of camaraderie that I wasn't finding anywhere else, not even in sports. You are choosing to come together and play make-believe. Acting exposes your vulnerabilities, and you feel silly doing it, so actors have to learn to trust each other."

Location Info


The Muny

Forest Park
St. Louis, MO 63112

Category: Parks and Outdoors

Region: St. Louis - Forest Park


Mary Poppins
Through August 2 at the Muny in Forest Park.
In addition to the free seats, tickets are $12 to $80.
Call 314-361-1900 or

McClure's career is clearly on the ascent. The actor toured with the national production of Avenue Q and later starred on Broadway as the title character in Chaplin — a role for which he received a Tony Award nomination (among other accolades) this year. Yet for all his success, McClure still appreciates the small stage, which is why he can often be found these days directing musicals at his old high school in New Jersey. It's the least he can do, he says.

"I received so much encouragement in school," McClure explains. "That level of support changed me as a person. It doesn't matter whether I'm playing Charlie Chaplin at the Barrymore Theater or performing in How to Succeed in high school, what we're striving for is exactly the same. We want to convince audiences that what's happening on the stage is real."

During his performance in Shrek last month at the Muny, McClure was tasked with convincing the audience that he was a dwarf — which for most actors would have been challenge enough. But when he wasn't strutting about the Muny stage on his knees, McClure took on double duty as the dragon's lead puppeteer. The added chore allowed him to work directly with the Muny's teenage actors. "I see myself in the teens," he says. "When you're with them, you recognize which ones are discovering a passion for theater. Theater is a tough profession, but it can be an extraordinary adventure. If I can take a student aside and say, 'You're really good at this,' if I can encourage a young person to follow his dreams, which is what my teachers did for me, I feel as if I'm fueling the future of the art form."

This week McClure is back at the Muny, eager to fly over rooftops and be bounced about like a rubber ball as Bert, the agile chimney sweep in Mary Poppins. "Maggie and I saw Mary Poppins on Broadway," he recalls. "When I completely lose myself in a show, as I did that night, she will make fun of me because my mouth will hang open. There were several moments in Mary Poppins when I found myself crying, not because of the plot, but because of the magic. Theater magic is a very real and potent thing. When those moments work, they make the hair stand up on the back of my neck. I know what I'm seeing is fake, yet Mary is flying. I know she's not really flying, but the little kid who's sitting in front of me grabbing onto his mother's arm doesn't know that."

As if embarrassed by the ardor of his reverie, McClure closes his hanging mouth, smiles a self-effacing smile and adds an understated coda: "Theater is something pretty special."

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egolterman topcommenter

Such interesting performers should have 13 weeks of MUNY available to them. The people of St. Louis  St. Louis County and  the region should have 13 weeks of MUNY available to them.

County residents  should have METRO express bus service at 5 bucks a pop round  trip.

MUNY employees, many trying to pay off loans for education, others facing here and now costs should have 13 weeks of paychecks.

The convention and visitors commission should have a wall-to-wall good weather MUNY to showcase to the travel world. The best there is, anywhere.

The hotels, motel and restaurants should have 900,000 MUNY attendance including three holiday weekends to fill their places.

The Mayor should back the Fox off right now, now and forever and tell the Zoo and Museums that are strangling MUNY to back off. Reagan should book concerts thru Labor Day weekend,

and MUNY made available for open booking for 2014 with a minimum of 100 nights.



Coward. Simpleton. Small thinker of empty thoughts. The Muny should be open 300 nights a year. All MUNY employees should be paid a flat fee of $12,000 per show. They should be trained in the arts of war and seduction, and then set loose upon their enemies at the Fox and the Zoo to wreak havoc as they will.

The CITY should pay bounties for the scalps of Fox Associates executives.

All COUNTY residents should be forced attend a minimum of 30 Muny performances per year at full price.

47 percent of all tax revenue in the City should be earmarked for Muny use. It should be 57 percent for County residents.

The Muny can use these funds to invade Illinois and enslave the population as scenery painters and ushers.

We should rename this city St. Muny, and the state should be rechristened Munyssouri.

St. Muny should build and launch a laser platform that will remain in geosynchronous orbit above the earth, and mercilessly wield it against any nation which dares to speak ill of musical theater.


egolterman topcommenter

@drsalad @egolterman How many cups of coffee did you have this morning, or last night. It was fun reading, but kind of land of Oz.

300 nights for Kiel, not for MUNY. That would be absurd. Scalps?No one takes scalps anymore. Just back off, take their cut from one or two shows a summer but back off.