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Curiocity: Mamma Mia’s Michael Colavolpe On ABBA, Bell Bottoms

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(credit: Kevin Thomas Garcia)

(credit: Kevin Thomas Garcia)

Sara Boyd Sara Pelissero
Sara Pelissero joined the WCCO web team in August of 2009. You can...
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One of the most popular musicals will be back at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis this week.

Mamma Mia — the 10th longest running show in Broadway history — is certainly a favorite among Twin Cities audiences. Whether you’re a fan of ABBA, a fan of sequin-encrusted bell bottoms or just a fan of a great love story, this tale is sure to bring some warmth into even the coldest Minnesota day.

Taking inspiration from some of ABBA’s greatest hits, Mamma Mia tells the story of a young woman’s journey to find her father before her wedding day.

Without telling her single, independent — and former band leader — mother, the young bride-to-be invites three men from her mother’s past to the wedding in the hopes she’ll be able to discover which one shares her DNA.

Michael Colavolpe plays Bill Austin — the adventurous, world-traveling father candidate, who’s always looking for the next party. That sense of adventure may come in handy for Colavolpe, a native of Orlando, Fla., as this week marks his first experience of a true Minnesota winter.

“I’m looking forward to experiencing it in February,” he said, with a laugh. “The only contact or experience I have with Minneapolis is ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ … I want to toss my hat in the air on the corner.”

Before embarking on his first national tour, Colavolpe said he was a bit of a home-body and had never even traveled outside of the United States.

“It’s been a great experience and I’ve been having a lot of fun,” he said. “I’m getting to see so many places that I never dreamed I’d be able to see.”

Growing up during the ABBA era, Colavolpe said he’s definitely a child of 70s and 80s pop music.

“I know for a fact that ‘SOS’ — one of ABBA’s biggest hits — was one of the very first 45s I ever bought in my life,” he said, with a laugh. “So I already knew a majority of the music going into this show.”

He also saw the touring production of Mamma Mia years ago when it came through town and remembered thinking, “I could probably play one of the dads someday.”

“And now, here I am doing it,” he said. “It’s a little freaky, in a great way.”

One of the best parts of being in this show? Colavolpe said the fans, hands down — a group that seems to keep expanding since the popular film, starring Meryl Streep.

“Interestingly enough, we find that we’re getting so many younger and younger kids that are so into the show now because of the film and they’ve seen it countless times and they know all the music coming into the show,” he said.

It’s something Colavolpe said he’d never imagined, which goes to show how wide-reaching the music and the storyline is in this production.

“It’s like from (ages) 8 to 80,” he said. “It’s incredible and it’s rare. … I’ve never been a part of a show that has this much audience interaction and audience excitement.”

And while it looks easy and effortless on stage, Colavolpe said plenty went into perfecting the harmonies of the iconic music.

In order for the producers to do the show, they had to promise to perfect every detail and every harmony, per the band’s request. The thing is, those harmonies were never written down during the songs’ initial creation in the 1970s.

“So they had someone actually listen to all the recordings, write down all the harmonies by hand, write down all the instrumentation by hand,” Colavolpe said. “So what you hear in the show is virtually a mere duplicate of what you hear on the record. It’s incredible.”

That means, nothing in the show is pre-recorded — what you hear from the vocal back-ups to the musicians is live, recreating the ABBA sound each and every night.

And what would any ABBA show be without the brilliant costumes? Colavolpe said he can’t help but admit, wearing the platform boots and sequined bell bottoms at the end of the performance is certainly a lot more fun than his khaki shorts and sandals.

“One of the first things that we did when we rehearsed in New York was the costume fitting and they take you into this warehouse — and it is a warehouse — and it’s got like 15 years of Mamma Mia costumes as far as the eye can see, it’s just incredible. And they take our measurements and the first thing that I said was, ‘Do I get to try on the jumpsuit?’ That’s what I want to know. It’s my favorite costume of all time,” he said, with a laugh. “I wish I could wear it a little longer.”

Starting Tuesday, we’ll get a chance to see 6-foot-2 Colavolpe in his 5-inch platform heels, singing those classic disco hits we all know and love. And if the last 5,000+ performances of Mamma Mia are any indication, chances are you’ll be singing and dancing right along with him.

Mamma Mia runs from Feb. 18 to Feb. 23 at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. For tickets and more information, click here.

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