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September 30, 2014

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Guest Columnist:

‘Mamma Mia!’ star Alison Ewing: ‘I had gotten the bug … I was born to do this!’

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Erik Kabik / Retna / ErikKabik.com

Alison Ewing, Christine Sherril and Mary Callanan in “Mamma Mia!” at the Tropicana in May.

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Joe Moeller and Alison Ewing perform "Does Your Mother Know?" during "Mamma Mia!" at the Tropicana in May.

‘Mamma Mia!’ at Tropicana

Alison Ewing, Christine Sherril and Mary Callanan in Launch slideshow »

‘Mamma Mia!’ Grand Opening at Tropicana

The official grand opening night of Launch slideshow »

As Robin Leach arrives for his annual summer vacation under the Tuscan sun in Italy — he also visited Lake Como and Lake Maggiore this year — many of our Strip personalities have again stepped forward in his absence to pen their own words of wisdom. We continue today with Alison Ewing, who portrays “Tanya” in “Mamma Mia!” at the Tropicana.

Ever since I was a little girl, I can remember charging a ticket price for my performances. It was 5 cents for a show in my living room, me dancing around in my sister’s old, oversized dance-recital costumes while lip syncing to a worn-down record of The New Christy Minstrels.

Sadly, the only returning patrons to my musical variety show were the old lady next door, Mrs. Corley, and my dog, Lucy. Both of them dozed and passed gas through my performance.

But I had faith in my theatrical future and myself. I was born to do this! I just needed more experience — and a more refined audience.

That experience came with my first “real” gig, a role in a musical. The local community theater in Mason City, Iowa, was holding auditions for “The Music Man” when I was 9. This was it. The biggest play to audition in years. I lived in “River City” Iowa, and we were going to do the musical that made our little town famous.

My father knew what I knew, that I was destined to be cast in this musical, and he marched me down to auditions at the local community center. With my name pinned on my ruffled shirt collar and sheet music in my hand, I proudly strutted into the audition room. Dad had told me to introduce myself, announce what I was going to sing and then seal the deal with one fun fact about myself.

I handed my music to the piano player, inhaled deeply and then shouted across the room, “Hello! My name is Alison. I will be singing ‘Oh What a Beautiful Morning’ from ‘Oklahoma,’ and I can belch the alphabet!” I booked a part in the show.

Well, I had only one line, but I said it with everything I had! “Papa, Papa! The Wells Fargo wagon is a comin’ just around the depot!” I also accidentally kicked my shoe into the audience during a dance number, but I was sure that it kept the patrons awake. I should have thought of that back in my living room with Mrs. Corley.

But when the curtain came down at the end and I took my bow, that was it. I had gotten the bug. It was too late. I loved the theater. I loved my part in this show. I loved my line in the show. There was nothing else to do but act, and I wanted more.

From there, my parents put me in acting class with the same man who directed “The Music Man.” There were eight of us, and we spent our Saturdays miming exercises, guessing the invisible object, playing red light/green light, working on monologues and doing scene work. At 11, this was so much better than making mud pies in the back yard. I was a thespian working on my craft, and I was on my way to the big time.

Who knew that 30 years later, the big time would be portraying “Tanya” in Las Vegas’ “Mamma Mia!” at the new Tropicana. I never pictured myself working in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas was for big stars rocking out in concert. Las Vegas was an exotic location clear across the country where acrobats twisted and twirled 100 feet over the audience. Las Vegas was a place of poker chips, bright lights and big spenders.

How did I end up here? Yet here I am, night after night, performing on the Strip in a famous hotel in my orange spandex and silver platform boots. I get to play dress-up every night.

I am back in my living room again performing for Mrs. Corley. But this time the crowds are cheering, laughing and singing along. Las Vegas is weird, wacky, exciting and full of life. I am a part of that. What an honor.

And how wonderful it is to be living my dream.

Check out our other guest columns today from Joe Moeller and Mary Callanan, two of Alison’s castmates in “Mamma Mia!,” and Sir Elton John’s partner David Furnish, who has opened the champagne lounge Fizz at Caesars Palace, and on Tuesday get ready for beautiful Tracey Gittins of “Fantasy” at the Luxor and the topless show’s comedian impressionist Sean E. Cooper.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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