Three months on a sunny Greek island is a long time.
Now, as the Mamma Mia! international tour company moves on to Hong Kong, where the show opens next Tuesday, the Winter Gardens team are back in Blackpool with a bump.
As reported yesterday, the show has taken £3.3m at the box office as more than 100,000 people came to see it during the acclaimed 12-week summer season run. Winter Gardens’ house manager Lynda Baker is in charge of the day-to-day running of the Opera House, and now is leading the team in preparation for its next shows – a week of classic films followed by Beatles tribute concert Let It Be, which arrives direct from the West End on September 30.
“After a long show like this, you go through a mourning process in a way,” she said. “I remember going to the first marketing meeting in London for Mamma Mia! in March last year, now here we are after 12 weeks and more than 100,000 people coming to see it – and it’s over.”
Her 20-strong front of house team have learned the show’s routines, joining in with the cast and audiences to lead the dancing in the aisles each night. “It’s been so much fun,” Lynda added. “I don’t ever recall having had so much fun with a show, and no complaints as everyone’s been so happy.”
As Sunday night’s last show began at 6pm, the box office staff were removing all the Mamma Mia! posters, replacing them with details for Let It Be and Riverdance, which returns in October.
And today, flight cases will be returned to Mamma Mia! headquarters in London with the merchandising items left unsold from the box office smash hit run in Blackpool.
“Even when a show has a shorter run, you still have a connection with the cast, and when they go, you miss the music and the buzz – but as quick as you close one show, you’re opening another,” Lynda said. “We’ve had meetings with the Let It Be merchanising team, they’ve measured up and as the Mamma Mia! kit is sent back – literally, another set will arrive.”
A deep clean is already under way at the Opera House, in both the front of house and backstage areas, with the initial focus on the circle to prepare for next week’s cinema shows. Carpets are being shampooed, chairs being cleaned, toilets and showers are checked, and general maintenance checks are carried out in the dressing rooms – and where necessary they will be repainted as other repairs take place.
The biggest clean-up in recent years was in the run-up to the 2009 Royal Variety Performance from the Opera House, when all 17 dressing rooms were completely redecorated.
“The Royal Variety was a year’s project for the team, but what an absolute honour to be involved in that,” said Lynda, who started at the Winter Gardens in 1987 working behind the bar. “After all the years I’ve been here, I kind of thought ‘how can I top that?’ But Mamma Mia! has just about done that for me.”