Who will perform at Gallo Center in Modesto CA when it opens?

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After being dark more than a year, the Gallo Center for the Arts is ready to reopen with a host of live shows beginning in July.

While the full 2021-22 season is available to view on the downtown Modesto venue’s website, tickets to the public won’t go on sale until July 12.

“I think it’s maybe the best, if not one of the best, seasons we’ve ever had,” retiring Gallo Center CEO Lynn Dickerson said. She noted the variety of selections, including new acts as well as old favorites.

New CEO Chad Hilligus takes over July 12, coming from Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he’s been executive and artistic director at Performance Santa Fe.

He said in an email interview that he can’t wait to get started in his new role. “Lynn Dickerson has put together an amazing final season as her parting gift to Modesto and it’s an honor to pick up where she left off.”

The lineup features Broadway shows, dance, comedy acts, singers and bands, Latino performances, family offerings and more.

Among the bigger names are Marie Osmond, the official season opener on Sept. 18, although several shows will be presented prior to that date. Other notable performers include Gladys Knight (July 29), the band Chicago (Sept. 7), Boz Scaggs (Sept. 19), comedian Gabriel Iglesias (Oct. 3), Clint Black (Oct. 5), Bonnie Raitt (Nov. 17), Johnny Mathis (Nov. 21), illusionist Criss Angel (Nov. 29), Dave Koz (Dec. 21), David Foster (Jan. 18) and Michael Bolton (April 7).

There’s also something for sports fans. Comedian Frank Caliendo (Sept. 24) is known for his impressions of sports personalities including John Madden, Jon Gruden and Charles Barkley. Former professional golfer and broadcaster David Feherty (Nov. 4) is part of the speakers series and offers comedic takes on the golfing world.

Modesto company to offer first live shows

The first show to open will be YES Company’s 30th Anniversary Concert Spectacular, July 23-25. The Youth Entertainment Stage shows will feature a greatest hits lineup from musicals presented by the local company over the years.

Dickerson is excited about several of the shows, particularly Osmond as the season opener, along with the Broadway lineup, comedy acts and Latino artists.

Among the Latino shows she noted will be classic Latin singer and composer José Maria Napoleón (Sept. 17), as well as Ramón Ayala (Oct. 9) and Grupo Intocable (Nov. 7).

Other noteworthy shows, she said, include illusionist Angel, who is “kind of a big get,” pianist and songwriter David Foster (Jan. 18), vocal and dance group The Choir of Man (Feb. 22-23), unconventional a cappella group Straight No Chaser (Feb. 25) and Broadway star Lea Salonga (May 15).

Also notable, Dickerson said, is Mathis, who will perform a Christmas show. “To a certain generation the Johnny Mathis Christmas album really signifies Christmas.”

When asked which shows he’s particularly excited about, Hilligus said: “That’s kind of like asking a mother which of her children she likes best. Of course she has a favorite, but she can’t tell you that!”

There are artists coming this season that he’s worked with before. “Chris Botti (Sept. 12), Dave Koz, and David Foster are personal perennial favorites, not only because they’re incredible showmen, but it’s always a treat to see the extraordinary lineup of guest artists they bring with them each time,” he said.

He’s also excited about some of the dance companies, including Riverdance (Jan. 26-27), Ailey II (Feb. 26), Ballet Folkflórico (March 19) and a new show from MOMIX, “Alice,” based on “Alice in Wonderland” (May 4).

Staff ‘went out on a limb’

Several of the performers on the new season’s slate were rescheduled from when the pandemic hit last year.

Dickerson feels good about reopening after the pandemic shutdown. “I said to our team … that I’m proud of us. We went out on a limb and planned to open earlier than most venues,” she said, some of which won’t operate until fall or early 2022.

“We had to make that decision (to reopen earlier) without really a lot of information,” she said. “We were waiting for guidance (from the state and CDC). In hindsight it appears that was the right decision.”

Hilligus agreed. “I’ve been continually impressed with how the board, Lynn, and her team have navigated this reopening so beautifully,” he said.

“I would just ask the community to be patient with us. This season won’t be easy. It’s not a light switch that you can just turn on after being dark for 16 months,” Hilligus said in the email. “It might take a minute for our eyes to adjust. We’re all doing our very best to make sure we’re ready to welcome everyone back as quickly and as safely as possible.”

He believes people are ready for the reopening, citing a May Gallo Center patron survey which “found that the vast majority of those who responded are comfortable attending live indoor performances again as soon as the doors open.”

Vaccine ‘a game changer’

Dickerson said there are “still many unknowns about how people will respond and react … I feel good about our protocols and I feel good about the science. Clearly the vaccine has been a game-changer in our world. Those of us who chose to be vaccinated, it’s allowed us to go back to life as we knew it before.”

People who are not vaccinated will be required to wear masks inside the center (they’ll be going by the honor system), while those who are vaccinated will not, she said. A brochure announcing the new season indicates masks will be required for everyone, but that went to print before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines changed.

The brochure also indicates social distancing requirements for lines, but those will not be in place after all. Concessions, unclear in the brochure, will be fully open, Dickerson said.

This marks the final season put together by Dickerson, who is retiring after nearly 12 years as CEO. She said she’s ready to hand over the reins to Hilligus.

“I am, but it’s hard, truthfully,” she said. “I’m ready, I’m not regretting my decision, but it’s going to be hard. I love this place.”

There will be a two-week overlap with both Dickerson and Hilligus working, then Dickerson will remain “on call” for a year in an advisory role, she said.

“My goal is to be like a good mother, readily available to help with anything he needs, but not overstepping my bounds or interfering,” she said.

Hilligus, who will move to Modesto with husband Mark, said people in the community have reached out to him through email and social media, “excited about our arrival.”

“We can’t wait to meet all of you and make Modesto our home,” he said.

Returning patrons will see a bit of a revamped Gallo Center, Dickerson said. They installed six large video panels that will display promos of upcoming shows. There are new stage floors in both the Foster Family Theater as well as the Mary Stuart Rogers Theater. The center has been thoroughly cleaned, including all the seats and the carpets.

“It’s going to be a great season,” she said. “In a way it’s going to be a reset … I hope people will be excited about returning to live performances.”

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