Mamma Mia culpa

I sure hope I'm wrong about this.

Last night the touring production of the ABBA jukebox musical Mamma Mia! opened at Bell Auditorium. The house was perhaps 80 percent full; impressive by any standard and near miraculous when you consider it was a Tuesday night. It's a testament to the drawing power of the piece and the publicity blitz the promoter put into action. My fear is the show won't see the same enthusiastic response at subsequent performances.

It's not that it's a bad show. It's a poised, professionally presented production, a female-centric romantic fantasy that thrives and survives because of energy and enthusiasm. It never pretends to have anything particularly serious to say, choosing instead to fall into a familiar but effective pattern of set-up then song. Sure, there were a few missteps. The version of Lay All Your Love On Me in the first act was really ragged and The Winner Takes It All in the second didn't hit its literal or figurative high notes until the very end. But that's live theater. The occasional stray note or missed cue is par for the course, even in a production as smoothly efficient as Mamma Mia!.

No, the reason the production may have peaked after a single performance comes down to simple numbers. Eight performances are scheduled for this week. Let's imagine that the average attendance is 2000. That's respectable but relatively modest, less than the Tuesday performance. That means 16,000 people will shell out an average of $50 to see this show, in Augusta, this week.

It seems unlikely.

Like I said, I hope I'm wrong about this, but historically speaking, Augusta has never supported an event with that sort of enthusiasm, at least not without a green jacket or two being involved. I'm not saying that Mamma Mia! was not an excellent choice for Augusta audiences, I merely believe that the scope of the run -- eight shows in six days -- is too optimistic, a big city booking in a medium sized market. If and when the numbers begin to dwindle it won't be the fault of Augusta audiences failing to support worthy entertainment, nor can blame be placed on a sub-standard production. Booking big events like Mamma Mia! is a numbers game, and I fear this time there won't be any winner to take any at all.

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mojo goat
42
Points
mojo goat 01/07/09 - 12:24 pm
0
0
I was thinking the same

I was thinking the same thing when I saw that it was running for six days....Has there ever been a show that ran that long in Augusta???

blahblah1
0
Points
blahblah1 01/07/09 - 01:06 pm
0
0
I was certianly thinking the

I was certianly thinking the same thing. I have seen other "jukebox" shows come through Augusta and similar sized cities (Movin' Out, Jersey Boys) and not play more than three shows, most only playing one night to a not completely sold out house. There's a niche market, don't like romances, can't stand disco? You're not going to pay to see Mamma Mia! even if the tickets were $15. Same with any of the other musicians' catalogues. I would be very very interested in the numbers for the rest of the performances.

GLMUIR
0
Points
GLMUIR 01/07/09 - 06:25 pm
0
0
I am really looking forward

I am really looking forward to seeing "Mamma Mia" on Friday night. I think the draw of this particular show is that it appeals to many females of all generations. The scheduling of this show following Christmas was pure genius, many received tickets as presents. I also wonder if people from outlying areas will attend? I personally have traveled as far as Charlotte, Raleigh and Atlanta to see concerts or plays. Why not Augusta? I hope this is a trend toward a better Augusta.

agustinian
689
Points
agustinian 01/08/09 - 11:55 am
0
0
I was in charge of a Fine

I was in charge of a Fine Arts Center in a smaller market which had a seating capacity of 1200. These shows (it depends on whether you book the "A" or "B" cast) are expensive to produce, and rarely can you break even. Sometimes the traveling shows do not have another booking and will schedule 8 performances at the same "cost" as 4 performances and take a cut of the gate above the break even point. One idea would be to flood the high schools with free tickets, to foster an appreciation of the performing arts and build a base of support for them. Generally speaking, to break even in a mid-sized market at these facilities you need a strong nonprofit 501c3 organization to support it. Good luck, keep trying!

agustinian
689
Points
agustinian 01/08/09 - 12:00 pm
0
0
I was in charge of a Fine

I was in charge of a Fine Arts Center in a smaller market which had a seating capacity of 1200. These shows (it depends on whether you book the "A" or "B" cast) are expensive to produce, and rarely can you break even. Sometimes the traveling shows do not have another booking and will schedule 8 performances at the same "cost" as 4 performances and take a cut of the gate above the break even point. One idea would be to flood the high schools with free tickets, to foster an appreciation of the performing arts and build a base of support for them. Generally speaking, to break even in a mid-sized market at these facilities you need a strong nonprofit 501c3 organization to support it. Good luck, keep trying!

agustinian
689
Points
agustinian 01/08/09 - 12:00 pm
0
0
I was in charge of a Fine

I was in charge of a Fine Arts Center in a smaller market which had a seating capacity of 1200. These shows (it depends on whether you book the "A" or "B" cast) are expensive to produce, and rarely can you break even. Sometimes the traveling shows do not have another booking and will schedule 8 performances at the same "cost" as 4 performances and take a cut of the gate above the break even point. One idea would be to flood the high schools with free tickets, to foster an appreciation of the performing arts and build a base of support for them. Generally speaking, to break even in a mid-sized market at these facilities you need a strong nonprofit 501c3 organization to support it. Good luck, keep trying!

Austin Rhodes
2862
Points
Austin Rhodes 01/10/09 - 08:36 pm
0
0
Several thousand looked to

Several thousand looked to be in the crowd for the Saturday matinee...fun was had by all! This show is as light as a feather, but very well staged and performed...

junket83
0
Points
junket83 01/10/09 - 09:36 pm
0
0
I agree with Austin, having

I agree with Austin, having just attended the same performance. This was a very good production and the casting, especially the main actresses, was exceptional. One of the best shows in Augusta in several years!

Austin Rhodes
2862
Points
Austin Rhodes 01/12/09 - 12:09 pm
0
0
Kayla Ott tells me just over

Kayla Ott tells me just over 11,000 paid to see the seven shows...pretty good I would say!

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