The Other Side of The Lyric

The Steel Wheels perform live at The Lyric

BLACKSBURG, Va., April 9, 2015—In Concert: The Steel Wheels perform live at The Lyric Theatre. Photograph by Pierce Sprague.

by Pierce Sprague:

Blacksburg’s resident historic movie theatre offers more than meets the eye.

People pay attention when the Lyric Theatre hosts showings of Oscar-nominated films or Sundance-featured indie flicks, but few know of the theatre’s other function:

a home for live events.

With the “Live at the Lyric” series, the theatre aims to put on eight to ten such events per year, including concerts, plays, and children’s events.

Outside organizations can also rent the theatre on a nightly basis to put on their own events, exemplified by churches, Hillel at Virginia Tech, and the award-nominated a capella group, Juxtaposition.

Susan Mattingly, Executive Director of the Lyric, says that the live shows serve more as a supplement for the theatre’s movies than a main attraction.

“We are first and foremost a movie theatre,” Mattingly said. “Our priority is not the live events, but it’s an important niche. There really are no other live venues in Blacksburg.”

The Lyric has had difficulty selling tickets to their events. Part of the issue is promotion; while the theatre utilizes all of their available resources, off-campus businesses and non-profits don’t have access to Virginia Tech advertising. One of the most challenging audiences for the Lyric, then, is the university.

Len Comaratta, the theatre’s Production Manager, handles most of the booking for the live events. He says that the events’ low turnouts are not indicative of their quality.

“Trust me. If I book it, it’s good,” Comaratta said. “It sounds arrogant, but I want people to know that when they’re shelling out $25 to $45 for a ticket, they know it’ll be something that they’re not going to forget.”

“Pay attention to what we’re having,” Mattingly said. “Everything might not be something you’re interested in, but there’s some good quality stuff.”

She also added that the Lyric often offers reduced prices for students or academics.

The Lyric has just one more event in its “Live at the Lyric” series this spring: a Crooked Road showcase of Southwest Virginia’s music heritage on April 30.

Comaratta says he already has three concerts lined up for the fall, but he’s hoping to have five finalized before the start of the next academic year.