A toast and a roast for ‘Mamma’

Today is your last chance to see “Mamma Mia!” and “Stomp Out Loud,” at least where they are now. “Stomp” may reconvene at the Sahara.

But “Mamma” has been at Mandalay Bay six weeks shy of six years. It has an enthusiastic fan base that includes repeat customers asking, “Why does it have to go?”

I’m torn between celebrating the musical’s achievements and shattering some of the mythology created around it. Can you stand a bit of both?

First, the champagne glass. Thanks to our “Mamma,” the Strip was able to host “Avenue Q,” “Phantom,” “Hairspray,” “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” “The Producers” and “Jersey Boys.” If “Mamma” had faltered in its first year, presenters of the other titles might have hesitated (and some of them no doubt wish they had).

“I remember when we were considering it, people were quite cautious: ‘Be careful,’ ” producer Judy Craymer later recalled of her risky move. Remember, an earlier version of “Chicago” didn’t last a year in the same theater.

Second, we can thank Craymer for “Jersey Boys” and the upcoming “The Lion King” getting to run two acts instead of being chopped to 90 minutes. Craymer wouldn’t even negotiate a truncated version, and she stuck to her guns.

Now, the bubble-bursting (You hopeless romantics can move on). First, the show did not sustain as a through-the-roof hit. A couple of years into the run, “Mamma” usually didn’t need all 1,700 seats, but made money anyway. Remember, it never has a name star to pay. The show was profitable at half capacity, and even by routinely selling some of those seats at half-price outlets.

“That’s good,” you say. “Especially in this economy.” But “Mamma” announced its endgame in early 2007. If you remember life before November and Criss Angel, there was this company called Cirque du Soleil that could do no wrong. MGM Mirage was no doubt dreaming of a new Cirque filling up those extra seats.

It’s easier to believe after “Believe,” but Cirque failed to come up with a proposal that excited MGM executives. Why then didn’t “Mamma” fight to stay?

Remember those half-price outlets. They fill seats, but lower the average revenue per ticket. And when a Broadway musical does a “sit-down,” it usually restricts touring productions of the title from visiting Southern California or Arizona. When a tour comes to your town as a special event, people pay full freight for tickets.

Get the picture? More tour stops, fewer actors to pay. Already there’s a “Mamma” tour scheduled for Tucson, Ariz., in April. California dates are sure to follow.

A year from now, the musical might try to return to the Strip in a smaller venue. We’ll find out, but this mother always seems to know best.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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