I was born in Los Angeles, Calif. but have never lived anywhere long enough to call it a home town. I have, in chronological order, been considered a resident of Los Angeles, Portland, Houston, Augusta, England, Sacramento, and Washinton State. I'm a graduate of Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School and Western Washington University (B.A. - Journalism) and covered arts and entertainment at the Augusta Chronicle from 1999 to 2010. I am the current News Editor at the Columbia County News-Times.
Posted January 6, 2009 11:27 pm - Updated January 7, 2009 10:22 am

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.