Like I did, you probably think this is just another Mamma Mia production. Also like me, you probably have seen this musical play performed several times and may have even seen the two movies based on this story of love and deceit. I first saw a production of the show in 2000 and have seen several since. However, when I took the family to see this show at the Welk Resort Theatre, I was surprised. It turned out to be the perfect family treat for the
As I was picking up our tickets from the Will Call desk, I met a charming employee who told me she has been working at the resort for 54 years. Wow! This Vista resident came to the resort in 1964 as a waitress for $1.00 an hour. With diligence she advanced to become the Food and Beverage Manager and now Adriene Edwards works in the Theatre Office performing numerous duties including Group Sales. Her daughter was the Stage Manager for Mamma Mia. Adriene, who also confessed to being a Moonlight Angel, had an amusing story for my Vista readers. Way back when he was new to California, Adriene hired a restaurant host by the name of Randall Hicks. Yes, THE Randall Hicks
While we were waiting for the doors to open, we walked around and found a small wall garden with a statue of Lawrence Welk. We also browsed the gift shop and made some last minute Christmas purchases. Upon exiting the gift shop we heard singing and discovered a small group of singers who were entertaining the now almost full waiting area. The songs were familiar Holiday tunes presented Acappella in a very Jazzy and smooth manner. The “Holiday Hipsters” aka Athena Espinosa, Sarah Errington, JD Dumas, and Chris Tweedy were putting smiles and Holiday spirit on everyone’s faces. They sang until the doors opened.
As we found our seats I overheard numerous conversations that told me many of the attendees were here being treated by a family member for Christmas or Hanukkah. There were 8 rows of 30 seats plus shorter rows behind. Everyone took their seats in an orderly fashion and soon about 250 people were eagerly awaiting the start of the show. It appeared to be a sellout short of a couple of seats. The curtains were open and looking on stage you could see a dock area with a beautiful Mediterranean sunset in the background. Conversations waned as we got close to time for the production to begin and then the lights dimmed.
As you may or may not know, ABBA’s musical hits tell the story of a teen’s search for her birth father on a Greek island paradise when old family friends head to a Greek island paradise for the wedding of young Sophie and Sky. Fun begins when it’s revealed that Sophie has decided to finally meet her long-lost dad by inviting him to the festivities. Only one problem… it could be one of three guys so she invited them all! This comedic story ensues as Sophie and her mother, Donna, head down memory lane with Harry, Bill, Sam, and all their friends to the classic hits of ABBA!
The Welk Theatre production includes some of the best talent in the region who are no strangers to the Welk Resort Theatre stage. Their credits are extensive and speak to the talent pool in this production of Mamma Mia. Local Welk Theatre alums Olivia Hodson and Natalie Nucci star as Sophie and Donna respectively, but they have previously starred with Welk’s productions such as Fiddler on the Roof, My Fair Lady, and Kiss of the Spiderwoman.
The show also features the very tangible talents of David Humphrey (Sam), Mike Bradford (Harry), and Lance Arthur Smith (Bill) as Sophie’s possible fathers. The rest of this cast includes the charming Richard Bermudez (Sky), Barbara Shoenhofer (Tanya), Nancy Snow Carr (Rosie), Jillian Barnett (Lisa), Cheyenne Omani (Ali), Jake Bradford (Eddie), and Shirley Johnston (Alexandrios).
One observation I want to point out is the overall acting skill of this cast. I have been to over a hundred musical shows in my lifetime. There are actors on stage, there are dancers, and there are singers on stage for every musical show. While the chorography was a tad weak I found this cast to overall be very talented singers and actors. I say this because the facial expressions always matched the words they sang. You could actually feel the emotions they were projecting. This on stage talent made what could have been just another Mamma Mia, an unforgettable experience. We are still talking about this performance a week later.
The opening number was a short medley followed by the solo, “I Have a Dream”, sung poignantly by Olivia Hodson. The background scene while she sang was that of a full moon that looked similar to the full moon we had seen overhead in Vista the night before. Hodson’s dramatic maturity belies her youthful appearance and enthusiasm. She is captivating and a very believable daughter as she portrays Sophie. Part vixen and part angel, her “Sophie” radiated with the aspiration of a young woman with the world in front of her. And boy, oh boy could she ever hold a note. I found her singing enchanting.
The feeling and the projection from the stage as Natalie Nucci (Donna) sang “The Winner Takes it All” was strong and vibrant. Emotion permeated the lyrics as she bestowed this tune on a rapt audience. Nucci’s scenes with “Sophie” were tender and moving. Mother and daughter displayed emotions long buried. Graceful yet bold were her movements across the stage. Not surprising, Nucci is a musical dance teacher at North County Academy of Dance.
Throughout the performance David Humphrey (Sam), offered the audience very believable looks. He was at various times, disturbed, wondering, irritated, troubled, and a patient understanding man. The comedic rapport with his fellow cast members Mike Bradford (Harry), and Lance Arthur Smith (Bill) was excellent. Both Bradford and Smith upheld their respective rolls comparable to the other versions of Mamma Mia.
Barbara Shoenhofer (Tanya) with her willowy looks had everyone comparing her to Christine Baranski who played Tanya in the “Mamma Mia! Here we go Again” movie. Her vibrant dancing stole several scenes and garnered a large applause at the end of the show.
The last two numbers in the show had everyone on their feet and clapping. Yes, everyone! Not a single person stayed in their seat. Again, I listened to comments being exchanged as everyone filed out of the theatre. Ok, may it was a little bit of eavesdropping but the talk was loud, excited and positive. I wasn’t the only one that had been impressed.
The production of Mamma Mia at the Welk Resort Theatre continues through the 24th of February, 2019. Matinee Performances are on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 1:00 pm. Evening Performances are on Thursday at 7:00 pm, and Saturday at 8:00 pm.
ABBA is a Swedish pop group formed in Stockholm in 1972 by Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. The group’s name is an acronym of the first letters of their first names. ABBA’s total record sales are reported to be at least 400 million records worldwide, making them one of the best-selling music artists of all time. In 1999, ABBA’s music was adapted into the successful musical “Mamma Mia!” that toured worldwide. A film of the same name, was released in 2008 and a sequel to that movie “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”, was released in 2018.