Gallo Center’s Lynn Dickerson on the upcoming new season at the Modesto venue
The newly announced 2019-20 season at the Gallo Center for the Arts again brings some of entertainment’s biggest names to Modesto.
The announcement also comes with an important takeaway: More to come.
That’s the word from Gallo Center CEO Lynn Dickerson and Marketing Director Doug Hosner, who expect more shows to be added. In fact, as soon as the new-season brochure was printed, one of comedy’s biggest draws signed a contract. So while Ron White’s name didn’t make the glossy magazine for the season, it’s a safe bet the dryly acerbic comedian will sell big for his Sept. 19 show.
“There’s an evolution in the way booking is done, and I think this new season reflects that,” Hosner said, noting that the months of March through May may seem light on shows now, but are expected to fill up as more entertainers commit. “More and more, it’s getting difficult to book some shows ... so far in advance. There’s just a lot of performers who won’t do it (so early).”
Nevertheless, the new season has several established stars as well as up-and-coming entertainers. Tickets are on sale now to major donors. The public can purchase subscription packages — five or more shows — beginning Friday, May 24, and single show tickets Monday, June 17.
Musical icon Dionne Warwick is the official season opener on Sept. 27. The six-time Grammy Award-winning singer has recorded 75 charting songs including “Walk on By,” “Say a Little Prayer,” “A House is Not a Home,” “Alfie” and “Do You Know the Way to San Jose.”
Among some of the other highlights are a return appearance by the comedic Blue Man Group (Oct. 18-20); songwriting superstar David Foster (Jan. 22); funnyman Terry Fator (Nov. 16); Broadway star Lea Salonga (May 9); and always popular group The Piano Guys (Jan. 21).
The new season will come on the heels of a current one that has been more of a challenge financially, according to Dickerson. The venue’s percentage of house sold is at 68 for 2018-19, down from 76 percent the previous season. While 68 percent is still a solid number, she said, the past two seasons were so successful “we’d gotten a little spoiled.”
But the 2018-19 season will close in the black if all goes as planned with an upcoming fundraising gala, she said. “Fundraising has really saved us this year. It’s been a good year for donor generosity. So our donors have really back-filled where shows have been disappointing in terms of performance.”
One contribution to a ticket sales slowdown this season seemed to be associated with national politics, Dickerson said.
“As strange as this sounds, it appears it was election-related, because our counterparts across the country, especially in California, experienced the same phenomenon. It was like people were just consumed by the nasty election that was underway and it gobbled up attention and time and money,” knocking down numbers for shows in October, she said. “Once the election was over, it was like things got back to normal.”
The slate of Broadway shows proved to be a tough sell for the past season, but they’re hoping to turn that around with a couple of new shows. Dickerson is especially excited about “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” (Jan. 17-18) and — given the Parrothead popularity in the region — “Jimmy Buffett’s Escape to Margaritaville.” (Feb. 12-13).
Some of the other bigger shows set for the 2019-20 season include The Isley Brothers (Aug. 17); country music hit-maker Josh Turner (Sept. 25); classic country group The Gatlin Brothers (Sept. 15); rock band Los Lobos (Oct. 9); comedian Colin Mochrie’s new show “Hyprov,” improv under hypnosis (Oct. 5); pop star Sheila E (Feb. 22); comic Felipe Esparza (Nov. 15); and one of the more popular tribute groups ABBA Mania (March 7).
The entire lineup reflects a combination of acts that have never been to the downtown Modesto venue with returning entertainers who’ve been crowd pleasers.
“We try to hit that happy medium between old favorites that people loved and want us to bring back again and enough new, fresh stuff to make our season exciting and interesting,” Dickerson said.
One fresh entry will key on the cult film hit “Napoleon Dynamite” (Nov. 8), with a screening of the 2004 film followed by a live Q&A with some of the stars appearing on the Gallo Center stage, including Napoleon himself, Jon Heder.
And while they still expect the upcoming season’s offerings to grow, one usual late addition won’t come this year: the always-sold out Brian Setzer Orchestra’s Christmas show. Scheduling a tight holiday season — Thanksgiving comes late this year — made it impossible to bring in not only Setzer’s group, but another hit holiday artist, Dave Koz.
That doesn’t mean the yuletide season won’t bring its stars. John Tesh returns with an acoustic Christmas show (Dec. 3) and Mannheim Steamroller brings its holiday blowout back, as well (Nov. 30).
The center continues an emphasis on diversity. “We work really, really hard to give our patrons a season that has a wide variety of different kinds of entertainment — different genres, different price points, different days of the week, different times of the day, different age groups,” Dickerson said.
She also sounded a warning that the public avoid websites and scalpers not associated with the Gallo Center, something they’ve battled continuously. Secondary sites might look like they’re part of the center, but they aren’t, often charging high tickets prices that the Gallo Center has set at fraction of that cost, she said. Dickerson points people to the official website, www.galloarts.org.
Pricing people out is something that they work hard to counter. It’s important to offer patrons shows at a variety of prices, including those that are affordable enough for an entire family, Dickerson said. “We take that ‘arts-for-all’ thing very seriously. We try very hard to counterbalance the expensive shows with (less expensive).”
“I don’t ever want us to be known as only being for the elite,” she added. “People who say that about us, they don’t really know who we are.”