PALM COAST, Fla – Dancing in the back aisles of the Fitzgerald Performing Arts Center, birthday girl Judy Behanick and friends were transported back in time as they sang along to the songs of ABBA. Asked by her group of half a dozen friends from her neighborhood what she wanted to do for her special day, she decided on the Almost ABBA show.

“We’re doing 59 with a bang. Wait ’til 60 comes,” said friend Maryjean Gucciardo. “It’s on her birthday and I said to her, the guys don’t want to go, it’ll be a girl’s night only. It’s her birthday and we left it up to her what she wanted to do, and she said let’s do it.”

“We love ABBA because it takes back to our youth. We were all Dancing Queens at one time,” added Cathleen Lisa Neidhammer.

Phyllis Holdsworth, was exuberant when talking about her love of ABBA music.

“I have a personal feeling about it because I brought my 85-year-old friend to see Mama Mia! in New York City and we bought tickets from scalpers, we saw the show and then we went to Carmine’s in New York City for dinner. And we went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral,” she said.

“We’re the Plantation Oaks girls. These are my friends, and it’s a great show for women.”

ABBA for all Ages

In a packed house, the show was extra special for more than one reason. Helping support a fellow performing arts venue, the Fitzgerald Performing Arts Center offered tickets to patrons of the Flagler Playhouse who would donate their ticket back to the devastated theater after a fire ravaged it last month, in lieu of asking for a refund.

Linda Osborn was one of two hundred patrons willing swapping out tickets.

“I’m here with my friend Bernita Moulton and her granddaughter, Kimberly McManus. Three of us had tickets to the Flagler Playhouse and when the second show was burned out, they asked if we would donate our tickets back or if we wanted a refund. We said we would donate. Then they gave us the ABBA tickets for doing that. We didn’t know that until after we said we wanted to donate. I’m very thankful to the Auditorium for coming through and I’m glad we were able to give our tickets back to the Playhouse,” said Osborn.

She was pleased to see the arts community coming together to support one another at such a challenging time, especially with such a great show on tap.

“As a former drama major, I love it,” she said. “I’m a Mama Mia! fan and the granddaughter who came with us knows all their songs. In fact, I heard somebody tell her, you’re awfully young to be such an ABBA fan and she said, ‘oh, I know all their music’,” said Osborn.

Welcoming patrons to the Fitzgerald Performing Arts Center, the season is off to a strong start with the sold-out Menopause The Musical 2: Cruising Through The Change, followed by the US Navy Band Washington DC Commodores Jazz Ensemble.

“We’re excited because we have a full house tonight and in November that’s usually a little hard to do,” said Fitzgerald Performing Arts Center Director Amelia Fulmer.

Tasking box office staff member Liz Binkley with the project of contacting all the Flagler Playhouse ticket holders, Fulmer was proud to be able to offer support to the Flagler Playhouse and host patrons of the arts from the community who donated their tickets back.

“We were excited to thank those people and give them a chance to come here,” she said.

Giving away 200 tickets, with a value of $10,000, Fulmer sees it as a way to give back to the community and students as an anchor for the arts community.

“Flagler Playhouse would not be the same without us and we would not be the same without them,” said Fulmer. “We have students now working at Disney, on cruise ships, all over the place, and they left here, and went to Flagler Playhouse and had starring roles, and got the experience they needed as an adult to go audition at places like Disney.”

Set to welcome Legend 2 Legend: The Music of Billy Joel and Elton John on November 24, Fulmer is excited about the high caliber shows making their way to the Palm Coast area.

“This is going to be like a festival. It’s not one but two tribute bands and they’re working together. They’ve done this show before, they’re excited, we’re excited,” said Fulmer. “They’re excited about rockin’ the crowd and we’re over half full already, so if you want tickets to that, you better get online and buy them.”