Orlando actor Michael Colavolpe answers his phone while lugging a load of laundry back to his rented apartment in New York City.
"I can't remember the last time I used a Laundromat — maybe 20 years ago," he says. "I had to ask people, 'Do they still take quarters?' They do, but they also take credit cards!"
Laundries are part of life on the road, which Colavolpe will discover as the latest national tour of Broadway hit "Mamma Mia!" rolls out. It's Colavolpe's first national tour, and has fate would have it, the show's first stop is Orlando. It opens Thursday.
"I'm thrilled — no, ecstatic! — that we're opening at the Bob Carr," he exclaims. "It's home!"
Colavolpe has played major roles around Central Florida at venues such as Mad Cow Theatre ("Company") and the Orlando Fringe Festival (the "Mitzi Morris" shows). Two of his most recent were Trekkie Monster in "Avenue Q" and Edna (the movie's John Travolta role) in "Hairspray," both for the Bay Street Players in Eustis. In "Mamma Mia!" he has the principal role of Bill, one of the three men who could be the ingenue's father.
Yes, you read that correctly. The story line, cobbled together from the hits of Swedish pop group Abba, centers on young Sophie's wedding. Her mother — clearly a free spirit in her younger days — is unsure of Sophie's parentage, so Sophie sets out to find dear old dad.
"Mamma Mia!" — the 10th longest-running Broadway show — has been seen by more than 50 million theatergoers in more than 40 countries. A 2008 movie adaptation with Meryl Streep also expanded its audience. Yet Colavolpe says the producers of this tour were at pains to make this production unique.
"They weren't interested in a cookie-cutter production," he says. "We were encouraged to create our own characters and funny bits."
Colavolpe's character of adventurous Bill differs from previous incarnations. Originally Australian, Bill is now American — though he remains "big and boisterous," Colavolpe says. "He's seen it all and done it all. He's the fun guy."
The show's classic pop tunes — "Super Trouper," "Dancing Queen," "SOS" among them — were familiar to Colavolpe, but he gained new respect for songwriters Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus.
"I was a huge Abba fan from way back, I'm a child of the '70s," he said. "But I guess I really didn't appreciate the genius of Abba until I started working on this show."
The monthlong rehearsal period in New York has been intense, but Colavolpe enjoyed the ability to focus solely on the show. When performing in Central Florida theaters, he juggles rehearsals with a "day job" at Disney World's "American Idol Experience" and "Finding Nemo" shows.
He's looking forward to seeing new parts of the United States on the tour. Plus, there are other perks.
"I'm a better passenger than driver, so I could get used to somebody driving me," he says. "And there's nothing wrong with staying in nice hotels."
Kevin Bee, his partner of 25 years, will visit in several cities — "He's very excited for me," Colavolpe says — and there's a break at Christmas. Right now, the tour is scheduled to run until June.
Colavolpe saw "Mamma Mia!" when a previous tour stopped in Orlando. He remembers thinking "This is a cute show, it's a lot of fun." He was also eyeing potential roles.
"As an actor, you're always watching a show, thinking 'Could I do that?'" he says. "And here I am doing it now!"
• What: Florida Theatrical Association presentation of the touring Broadway musical comedy
• Where: Bob Carr Performing Arts Center, 401 W. Livingston St., Orlando
• When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday, Oct. 3-4, and Tuesday-Wednesday, Oct. 8-9; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5; 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6
• Tickets: $38.50-$75.50
• Call: 1-800-982-2787
• Online: Orlandobroadway.com