Muny President Denny Reagan to retire after half-century at Forest Park theatre


ST. LOUIS – Muny President and CEO Denny Reagan announced Wednesday that he will retire at the end of next year. Reagan has been working at The Muny in some capacity for 52 years, starting at age 16 with a summer job as a picker on the cleanup crew.

“I’ve held a lot of jobs since then: assistant manager, director of operations, among others. I was a dresser, a stage doorman. But in 1991, I was fortunate to be named president and CEO,” he said.

But at age 68, Reagan says now is the time to plan for him to step away. He says it is the actors, the crews, the designers that have kept on the job so long.

“When you see the passion that they have and then the product that they put on stage, it’s something that gets in your blood, whether you’ve been there one year or 53 years,” he said.

Successes include the Second Century Capital Campaign, which has built up the theatre’s endowment and funded major improvements, including a complete rebuild of The Muny stage. But the past year has been one of the most challenging, as the pandemic forced the theatre to postpone its summer season for the first time in its history.

“But I was extremely proud of the way our team really pulled it together,” he said. “They rallied and did the virtual season, which was viewed by over 100,000 people.”

Actors and Muny staff who call the theatre home are happy for Reagan but say the place just won’t be the same.

“Denny’s the first person you see when you walk in for that first rehearsal. Audience members see him when they walk in,” said New York-based actor Ben Davis. “He’s always there, Dapper Denny, man. He’s always there, dressed up, and greeting everyone with a smile. He gives everyone his time, which is really special.”

Davis has appeared in numerous shows as says the capital improvements over the years are a legacy Reagan can be proud of.

“Since I started there, the improvements in everything, from production qualities to…everything has improved,” he said.

Lindsey Grabish, Muny director of audience experience and staff accountant, says Reagan’s influence goes about and beyond installing a love of theatrical production.

“Without the guidance of Denny, I wouldn’t only not be the employee and coworker I am. I wouldn’t be the person I am today,” she said. “He has taught me and so many others that hard work and loyalty is really what matters and that will get you so far.”  

Reagan’s not ready for his final bow just yet, and the staff and actors hope to send him off in COVID-free style.

“I’m so glad he’s going to be around for one summer,” Grabish said. “Fingers crossed we get this next summer in and send him off in the right way. “

Beginning January 2022, Reagan will assume the job of senior advisor, where he’ll help to finish the work of the Muny’s Second Century Capital Campaign. The Muny Board of Directors will work to name Reagan’s successor.

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