A toned-down cartoon? Oh, mamma mia!
With its silly story that fills time between the frothy greatest hits of Abba, Broadway smash "Mamma Mia!" has never been loved for its great dramatic depth.
In my most recent viewings, in London and on a 2006 Orlando tour stop, the production's supporting roles have been caricatures — the man-hungry cougar, the effete Englishman. There was so much scenery chewing onstage, the audience could see sparkly cardboard crumbs.
But for the latest tour, which debuted in Orlando on Thursday night, the tone has shifted slightly. Characters aren't painted with such broad strokes. The cast has a much more everyman and everywoman vibe — from their body types to their singing voices to the nonchalant sporting of a tattoo or nose ring by the leading ladies.
On the whole, this is slightly for the better — one-dimensional characters so often turn grating. But the shift also highlights the fact that under the cartoonish personalities there really isn't much to work with. And without manic energy of constant mugging, the dead spots in the story are more obvious.
But let's be real: No one comes to "Mamma Mia!" expecting Shakespeare. And in terms of good-natured silliness, ridiculously eye-catching costumes, inventive choreography and those catchy Abba melodies, this production delivers.
The story line is simple: Donna, a wild child of the 1970s, never has told daughter Sophie who her father is. By snooping in Mom's diary, Sophie invites three likely men to her wedding. Mom invites her two wacky bandmates from her days as a professional singer. High jinks ensue until a wedding-day finale.
Orlando actor Michael Colavolpe, who plays potential dad Bill, was deservedly cheered opening night. With a friendly grin and goofy affability he gives the role its comic due.
As Donna, Georgia Kate Haege ignores the sadness and wistfulness in big ballad "The Winner Takes It All," going straight for the anger. But she delivers a genuinely moving "Slipping Through My Fingers," the show's emotional highlight, and makes an appealing heroine.
Chelsea Williams, as Sophie, has a pleasant voice and effortlessly strikes the right balance of sweetness and determination.
Other actors are hampered by the low key of some songs, or a sound mix that frequently let the pit band and offstage backing singers overpower them.
"Mamma Mia!" debuted in London among the buildup to the millennium celebrations of 2000. I've seen women with boas dancing in the aisles and attended one performance as part of a friend's bachelorette party. Maybe in these more somber times, the show's simplistic frivolity seems out of place. Or maybe humming along to "Dancing Queen" is exactly what we need.
• What: Broadway touring musical comedy based on the songs of Abba
• Length: 2:35, including intermission
• Where: Bob Carr Performing Arts Center, 401 W. Livingston St., Orlando
• When: 8 p.m. today, Oct. 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.comCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun