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By Elizabeth Youngman-Westlphal
Special to the Village News 

Here we go again and again


Last updated 9/17/2018 at 12:58pm

Ken Jacques photos

"Dot.Dot.Dot," Sophie (Olivia Hodson) reads her mother's diary to her bridesmaids Lisa (Jillian Barnett), left, and Ali (Cheyenne Omni), right, in "Mamma Mia".

Imagine being pulled through the television screen and plopped into the middle of your favorite program.

That is what it feels like when attending "Mamma Mia" at the fashionably remodeled Welk Resort Theatre on Champagne Boulevard north of Escondido.

Director Larry Raben is a local star. One of the reasons is he cleverly invites only the finest professionals into his productions. Again, Raben has cornered the brilliant choreographer Karl Warden who reshaped "Newsies" last summer at The Moonlight Amphitheatre. These guys are the real dynamic duo!

Warden has used his genius to re-imagine "Mamma Mia" through what appears to be spontaneous movement. It is a newly inspired show. Warden uses sharp, physical movement as punctuation. In this show every song, phrase, and set change is enhanced by his mastery. He has put new life into this classic fairy tale.

Keeping in mind the importance of theatre as eye candy, one is further dazzled by the spectacular costumes designed by Winfield Murdock out of Orlando, Fla. Acting as the costume coordinator, Janet Pitcher is credited for filling in the blank spots.

Jennifer Edwards is the stage manager/lighting designer for this production. She knocked it out of the park. The back drops are spectacular. Using clever back lighting the mood slides from starry night to day break through scorching afternoon and then back to moonlight. Edwards is a wizard with lighting to create mood.

Rory Brown designed the set using every inch of the back wall hanging the cyc, (a curved screen used for projection) and four long hanging curtains (legs) on battens on both sides of the stage to block entrances while alternately adding to the overall air space for projecting images. Additionally, he managed to fit in a wharf, flying double doors, and a chapel. Now there is an imagination.

Since this is a musical, Justin Gray on first keyboard is always an asset. He is responsible for keeping the show on track with only six other players who make up the big sound. They are Michelle Gray, Mike Masessa, Tim Fullerton, Joshua Vasquez, Martin Martiarena and Doug Booth.

And now the cast. Sophie is played luminously by Olivia Hodson. This little fireball ignites a spark that only her fiancé Sky can control.

Played by Richard Bermudez, Sky sports a six pack only second to Michelangelo's David. Hold on to your socks ladies because this kid is really something. He smolders with sex appeal. He croons with a blazing baritone backed by a body that looks (really) good dancing. Did I mention his six pack?

Enough about Sky. Donna is played by Misty Cotton – which she swears is her real name. Always dedicated to daughter Sophie and her Greek taverna, she was also once the leader of the singing trio Donna and the Dynamos. Miss Cotton has the right mix between yester year and the harsh reality that it has passed. Best yet – she's got pipes.

Even so, it is hard to hold space next to the energetic Tanya played by Barbara Schoenhofer. She is on par in this role with Christine Baranski who claims the spot in both movies. Schoenhofer is exquisitely leggy. Plus, she can shake it. She can own it like a real woman. She brings the house to a standstill with her iconic song "Does Your Mother Know?" Hats off to Schoenhofer. She is an inspiration on how to look when you grow up. Pay attention girls, she should be your idol.

Lastly, Nancy Snow Carr plays the third singer, Rosie. Scintillating choreography sets off her scene stealing number "Take a Chance on Me" sung to the stunned Bill Anderson inside the wedding chapel.

Kudos to these three females, womanly women who not only hold their own amongst the young cast but often lead the way.

Now for the three dads: Sam, Harry and Bill. Showing up together for Sophie's wedding they add just the right amount of spark and intrigue to the mix.

David S. Humphrey's Sam woes Donna back into his arms with a winning effort which showcases his natural male magnitude. Mike Bradford shines as H.B./Harry Headbanger. He is fuzzy and loveable. And of course, who doesn't like a man that gives you money? The rapscallion Bill Anderson is artfully portrayed by Lance Arthur Smith. Smith adds lots of his manly manliness to the role which makes him very real. These guys make up a real triple threat to any lady's heart.

The four male dancers from the ensemble stick it when they get their chance leading into the bachelor party. These four guys bring the house down with their perfectly choreographed routine. Ya have to see it to believe how amazing it is.

The talented gents are Chris Bona as Pepper, Jake Bradford as Eddie, along with dancers Collin McCarthy and Koda Montoya. Of course, Bona gets scorched when he tries to play with fire as he and Tanya dual on the sand in "Does Your Mother Know". Just the same, Pepper is up to the task and gives back as much as Tanya can dish out in a remarkable show of agility. Bona is an inspiration to every young man to learn to dance.

Spearheading the ladies' ensemble are Sophie's gal pals Lisa (Jillian Barnett) and Ali (Cheyenne Omani) with dancers Lindsey Denham and Megan Stys. Shirley Johnston joins the ensemble as she, too, plays assorted parts with the other girls who offer alluring distractions during set changes.

Because the Welk Resort Theatre has re-opened and it is an easy jaunt from Fallbrook with plenty of free parking, book your tickets early. This wonderful show is just across the 1-15. The theatre features plush velvet seats with gads of leg room, a fabulous sound system, a fancy lighting set up with enhanced projection system which are snuggly tucked behind the sleek new lobby.

Sam (David S. Humphrey) proposes to Donna (Misty Cotton), and she says "yes."

Now the inside is as attractive as the outside. Performances are limited with a matinee on both Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. plus Saturday at 8 p.m. Additional performances will be added in November. The show runs until Feb. 24, 2019. Be prepared – this production could bring ABBA back on tour.

As a reader bonus: I wish to thank my readers by offering two free tickets to a Sunday matinee in time for the Christmas holiday. I will draw the winners name, Row C, Seats 16 and 17, right down front. Email your entry with name and contact number or you may send a note or card to Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal, c/o The Village News, 111 West Alvarado Street, Fallbrook, CA 92028.

The resort restaurant is open before performances, however, plan to arrive 90 minutes early. For tickets, Box Office (760) 749-3448 or (888) 802-SHOW (7469) or This newly, re-imagined production of "Mamma Mia" has earned a rating of 10 out of 10.

The writer can be reached at


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