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Bill Adair
By Bill Adair August 15, 2008

McCain knows ABBA

John McCain may not know much about culture, but he knows ABBA.

At a town hall at the Aspen Institute on Aug. 14, 2008, McCain conceded that he didn't know a lot about art and music. New York Times reporter Katharine Seelye wrote that McCain said if he's "lacking in anything," it is an appreciation for music and art and "the other great things in life," partly because he spent 5 years as a prisoner of war. But then the 71-year-old senator launched into a defense of the Swedish pop band ABBA.

"Everybody says, 'I hate ABBA, Oh, ABBA, how terrible, blah, blah, blah.' How come everybody goes to Mamma Mia! ?" McCain said. "Everybody goes! They've been selling out for years."

We wondered if McCain was right that Mamma Mia!, the musical based on ABBA's recordings, has been "selling out for years."

First, we will assume that McCain was referring to the stage version, which has been playing on Broadway since 2001, not the movie version, which opened this summer.

The Broadway show's Web site says the stage production, which has been performed in eight languages, has been seen by more than 30-million people in over 170 cities. The Web site calls it "the ultimate feel-good show."

And McCain seems to be keeping up with Broadway box office receipts. TicketNews, which tracks Broadway receipts, reports that Mamma Mia! is still selling out. For example, it sold out its performances the weeks ending Aug. 3 and Aug. 10, selling about 101 percent of its seats (the number exceeds 100 because it includes standing-room tickets). A survey of other weeks in the past year found the show nearly sold out or exceeded capacity.

Alfred Branch Jr., news editor of TicketNews, told us that the show is "a virtual sellout most nights."

So McCain is right that Mamma Mia has been selling out for years. This claim is True.

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