Meyer Theatre is on a roll with more bookings, more sellouts, more sassy moms
The Meyer Theatre is starting out 2019 much the way it wrapped up 2018: busy.
Its first show of the new year, a return visit by Trampled by Turtles (their first stop in Green Bay in four years), was a sellout on Wednesday night. Friday’s appearance by comedian and late-night talk show host Seth Meyers is down to fewer 100 tickets remaining.
Look ahead to the other two weekends in January, a month not exactly known for being peak entertainment season, and the Meyer is booked with Eagles tribute band Eaglemania Jan. 17, country singer Terri Clark Jan. 18, “Manitowoc Minute” comedian Charlie Berens for two shows Jan. 19, dog-toting comedian Piff the Magic Dragon of “America’s Got Talent” fame Jan. 25 and Canadian classic rocker Randy Bachman Jan. 26.
Not a bad way to roll in the new year.
There’s already a handful of sellouts on the calendar, too, all of them comedy shows. Berens added a second show after his first sold out. Same for comedian Bert Kreischer on March 29 for his The Body Shots Tour. Canadian handyman/funny man Red Green on April 10 is sold out, and so are “Mom Truths” team Cat & Nat on May 11. Country singer Randy Houser, whose new “Magnolia” album is out this week, is off to a fast start for a March 21 date.
“I can’t complain,” says Matt Goebel, who is in his 15th year as general manager of the Meyer for PMI Entertainment Group. “Since September, we’ve been going pretty strong with a lot of different stuff.”
In fact, 2018 as a whole was an exceptionally good one for the intimate, 1,000-seat theater. It hosted more performances last year than it did in 2017, when more than 200 shows played the venue and made for one of its best years. With the exception of just a couple, all of its 2018 shows made a profit.
It doesn’t hurt that the economy has been humming along, gas prices are low and people have more “fun money” at their disposal. The Meyer’s momentum also speaks to Goebel’s goal of trying to better the venue each year with diverse programming that reaches as large of a demographic as possible. That can be easier said than done, since bookings often come down to the timing and routing of tours, who’s out on the road and how expensive the asking price is.
Goebel has learned what kinds of entertainment play well in the market. Classic country, for example, continues to flex its muscle at the ticket office. With new country becoming — in some ways — today’s version of rock ’n’ roll, patrons have been eager to return to the more nostalgic sound of such acts as John Anderson, The Bellamy Brothers, Ronnie Milsap and Tracy Lawrence. The first three each drew sold-out Meyer crowds last year and Lawrence was close, Goebel said. Home Free, the a cappella group that has taken on songs by The Oak Ridge Boys and Johnny Cash, also scored a sellout.
Comedy did well, too, including Louie Anderson (“super nice,” Goebel says) and Rob Schneider. “Mom comedy” in particular is trending at the theater. #IMOMSOHARD went over big in 2017, and on deer hunting weekend in November, Dena Blizzard’s one-woman show based on her life as a mom of three, “One Funny Mother,” drew a crowd of about 700, most of them women. Cat & Nat will offer an R-rated take on the joys and stresses of motherhood with their show this spring.
Such acts are part of growing number of performers who are coming up through the ranks of Facebook, YouTube and podcasts. Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox sold out the Meyer in February on the strength of, not radio airplay, but its 740 million YouTube views for doo-wop versions of contemporary hits by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus. Another Meyer visitor last year, Mike Geier’s Puddles Pity Party, got his start on YouTube, posting videos of his sad clown performing melancholy versions of pop hits.
“I think that social media is really having a big effect on what people go to for live entertainment,” Goebel said.
The Meyer also managed to mix some impressive rock names on last year’s calendar, including Steve Earle, Steven Van Zandt and the Disciples of Soul, “Weird Al” Yankovic and Chris Robinson.
Let’s just say the show by Van Zandt, a founding member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, was big.
“The Little Steven show was probably the most people we’ve ever had onstage for a concert. It was unbelievable,” Goebel said. “There were like 40 people in the entourage. I don’t even know how we accommodated them all backstage.”
Between the band, a horn section and three female backup singers and dancers, who never stopped moving (in heels, no less) for two hours and 20 minutes, there were about 18 performers on the stage for the Nov. 3 concert. The tour asked the Meyer to have ice packs waiting backstage for the women’s feet when the show was over, Goebel said.
He’s already at work booking shows for this fall and spring 2020. He’d love to get comedian Lewis Black back in the building. And perhaps Postmodern Jukebox. And The Righteous Brothers. And ...