SAVANNAH — It’s been 10 years since The Savannah Theatre was founded to present Broadway-caliber musical productions.
“I can’t believe it’s the 10th anniversary,” says Matt Meece, who has been part of the theater ensemble since its beginning.
Ten years ago, Meece, his future wife, Michelle, and his friend, Mike Zaller, were working and performing together in a show in Lansing, Mich.
“We all decided we wanted to work for ourselves instead of someone else,” Zaller says. “I definitely knew it would be a better show than the one we were working for, as all 25-year-olds decide.”
“We got to thinking we’d like to open our own show,” Meece says. “After talking with my dad and Mike, we started looking around the country to decide where would be a good place to do this.”
They first considered Breckinridge, Colo., and other cities.
“We didn’t want to go to Branson or Vegas where there are tons of shows,” Meece says. “After hearing about Savannah twice in one week, I picked up the phone and called the Chamber of Commerce and started explaining what we wanted to do — open a theater and provide nightly entertainment.”
Meece was told that the old Savannah Theatre at 222 Bull St. was up for sale.
“A local family bought the building, but weren’t sure what they wanted to do with it,” Meece says. “We convinced them to lease it to us and came in and renovated it ourselves.”
Locals pitched in to help, and with hard work and ingenuity, the dream began to take shape.
“We bought the seats on eBay from a movie theater in Washington and rented a U-Haul and went and got them,” Meece says.
“By the time we got to opening night, it took the help of so many people,” he says. “But sure enough, we sold out that opening night. We got through that first year with pretty much nothing but local support and word spreading to get us where we could do enough marketing to get the tour buses here.”
Today, half of the theatergoers are locals who come from a 45-mile radius of Savannah and the other half are tourists.
“We heard all these horror stories, but when we got here, it was almost total opportunity,” Meece says.