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Surprises sprinkle TBPAC's next Broadway series

A pair of unconventional musicals _ Mamma Mia! and Blast! _ top the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center's 2001-02 Broadway series.

Mamma Mia! features music of the '70s Swedish pop group ABBA. Blast! melds brass, percussion and marching into a newfangled sort of show. Both are slated to open on Broadway not long before the tours head out.

Also coming to TBPAC next season are the current Broadway revivals of Kiss Me, Kate and The Music Man; Saturday Night Fever, a stage adaptation of the movie, which flopped in New York; and a production of South Pacific. The subscription series also includes Little Shop of Horrors in the center's Jaeb Theater.

In some ways, the 2001-02 lineup is overshadowed by last week's announcement that the 2002-2003 season will be topped by a seven-week engagement of the national tour of The Lion King, as well as a two-week run of another Disney musical, Aida.

Because subscribers have renewal and additional ticket-buying priority, sales this season could be boosted by people positioning themselves for The Lion King, which continues to be the toughest ticket on Broadway four years after it opened. It's a marketing model based on the first tour of The Phantom of the Opera.

"Phantom was an incredible catalyst for getting people involved in theater again in a major way," TBPAC president Judith Lisi said. "It helps elevate your subscriptions overall, and I'm assuming that same thing will happen this year."

The Broadway series now has about 11,000 subscribers, down from a peak of about 12,000 when Phantom first played TBPAC. "I would think it would probably hit 12,000 again," Lisi said.

Two popular shows are returning as non-subscription specials: Disney's Beauty and the Beast and Riverdance _ The Show.

Broadway series subscriptions for the seven shows range from $143.40 to $426.50. Renewal forms will arrive this week. For information, call (813) 229-7827 or toll-free 1-800-955-1045.

Here's the schedule:

Oct. 9-14: Riverdance

Oct. 16-21: South Pacific

Dec. 5-9: Kiss Me, Kate

Jan. 1-6: The Music Man

Jan. 18-27: Blast!

Jan. 29-April 14: Little Shop of Horrors

Feb. 19-24: Saturday Night Fever

March 5-14: Beauty and the Beast

April 30-May 12: Mamma Mia!