Playhouse adds ‘Mamma Mia!’ to 2018-19 season

Youngstown Playhouse will stage the local premiere of the popular musical “Mamma Mia!”

The musical built around the music of ABBA will replace “9 to 5: The Musical” on the 2018-19 season and will open Nov. 30 for a two-weekend run.

Operations Manager James McClellan said they had tried to get the rights to the show before, but it wasn’t available to community theaters at that time.

“We found out about two weeks ago that it would be available in November,” he said. “Even though we’d already put a season out, we have a musical slotted there, so it made sense to grab the title.”

“Mamma Mia!” is one of the longest-running hits in Broadway history, playing for 5,758 performances from 2001 to 2015. National tours have played Cleveland and Pittsburgh numerous times over the years. The 2008 film version was a box-office hit, and the sequel “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” has earned more than $100 million since its release last month.

It also has several strong roles for women, and traditionally more women than men audition for community theater.

“I think everyone has heard of it,” McClellan said. “Many have become familiar with it through the movie. Many have gone to see it on their tours and in New York it’s one of those titles that people visiting want to catch. What’s exciting in our town is a lot of people don’t get the chance to go out of town to see it, so this will be their first opportunity.”

Because it is expected to be a popular title, the Playhouse didn’t want to wait.

“I felt the market might get overwhelmed with ‘Mamma Mias,’ even if we opened next season with it,” McClellan said.

In addition to the usual Friday, Saturday, Sunday run for Playhouse main stage production, the theater is added a Thursday show on Dec. 6 to accommodate the anticipated demand for tickets.

The Playhouse production will be directed by Donna Smith Downie with Matthew White as musical director and Lori George as choreographer. Auditions will be held Sept. 16 and 17.