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'Mamma Mia' a box office smash before it opens

Angie Schwerer and Travante Baker perform in 'Mamma Mia' at Flat Rock Playhouse. [TREADSHOTS PHOTO] Angie Schwerer and Travante Baker perform in 'Mamma Mia' at Flat Rock Playhouse. [TREADSHOTS PHOTO]

When it opened the season, the Flat Rock Playhouse schedule had a fill-in-the-blank for what it teased would be a "blockbuster summer musical." The marketers turned out to be right. "Mamma Mia" has already sold out its four opening weekend performances and tickets are going fast for the entire four-week run.

"As far as I know, we've never" sold out opening weekend before the first performance, marketing director Dane Whitlock said. "So this huge. When we open a show at 50 percent of our sales goal, we're doing well. We're opening our show at 100 percent of the goal. The rest is just gravy at this point and as people see how great the show is going to be people will flock to it. Word of mouth will kick in and it will fill up fast."

For the past two seasons, the Playhouse team has relied almost entirely on patron preferences when booking the season, either from requests or responses from emailed surveys that reach thousands. "Mamma Mia" has long been at the top of the list of requested musicals. It didn't hurt that the Playhouse show opens a week after "Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again," the sequel to the popular 2008 movie, opened in theaters across the U.S.

"I think its a perfect storm of a show that people really want to see and that coupled with the movie coming out," Whitlock said. "We knew the movie was coming out this summer but when we planned it we didn't know the exact week."

If you want to see the show, try matinees and the slightly less packed weeknights.

"Call the box offce," Whitlock said. "There are single tickets but as far as getting a block of tickets, no. We look at it every day and we say, 'Wow, this has never happened.'"

We're in a time, too, given the news from Washington and worldwide and an uncertain future, when people want to escape in a theater seat.

"People right now are really gravitating toward feel-good entertaining shows," Whitlock said. "We saw it with 'Clue,' we saw it with 'Broadway on the Rock.' People just really want to be entertained. It's light-hearted, it's not going to change the world. You sit down, you watch the stage and you're entertained for a couple of hours. I think that's going to be one of our biggest sellers."

The jukebox musical featuring the music of the hit Swedish pop group ABBA tells the story of a daughter’s quest to find her father before her upcoming wedding. The bride, Sophie, decides to take matters into her own hands when her independent mother, Donna, refuses to talk about her past, including the identity of Sophie's father. While Donna, the former lead singer of the 1970s pop group, Donna and the Dynamos, helps Sophie get ready for the wedding, Sophie secretly invites three men who could be her father to the wedding. When the three could-be fathers arrive, things are not as clear-cut as Sophie hoped. Guided by the sensational music of ABBA, Mamma Mia stands out as a worldwide phenomenon that has audiences singing along and dancing the night away.

Premiering on the West End in 1999 and Broadway in 2002, Mamma Mia earned commercial and critical success. It received five Tony nominations including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Orchestrations. Mamma Mia is the longest running jukebox musical on Broadway and sits comfortably in the top ten of longest-running Broadway shows. This musical features notable favorites “Thank You for the Music,” “Dancing Queen,” and “Take a Chance on Me.”
Featured in the cast are Preston Dyar (Father Alexandrios), Emily Fink (Sophie), Hector Flores, Jr. (Eddie), Maddie Franke (Ali/Dance Captain), Tauren Hagans (Rosie), Sean Hayden (Sam), Mary Mossberg (Donna), Zane Phillips (Sky), JP Sarro (Bill), Angie Schworer (Tanya), Jason Watson (Harry), Travante Baker (Pepper), and Tiffany Chalothorn (Lisa) with the 2018 Apprentice Company.

"Mamma Mia" is presented by Henderson County Tourism Development Authority as the Mainstage Series Sponsor, BMW of Asheville as Opening Night Sponsor and Executive Producers CarePartners Foundation, Terri Eisenhauer Signature Properties, United Community Bank, Van Winkle Law, Boyd Chevrolet Cadillac Buick. Hunter Subaru is the official Transportation Sponsor of Flat Rock Playhouse.

The show runs through Aug. 18. Performances are 2 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $20-52 with a child ticket at $17 for 17 and under and can be purchased by calling the Playhouse box office at 828-693-0731, toll-free at 866-737-8008 or online at www.flatrockplayhouse.org.