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One-woman act teems with voices

Bethany Owen loves being on stage with Marilyn, Madonna and Reba, even if they all come from her own comedic interpretation.

August 28, 2013|By Rhea Mahbubani
  • Huntington Beach resident Bethany Owen, known as "The Woman of 1001 Voices and Faces," is performing her one-woman music, comedy and voice impressions variety show at the Attic Community Theater in Santa Ana.
Huntington Beach resident Bethany Owen, known as "The… (KEVIN CHANG / HB…)

On Friday, enter Bethany Owen's show at your own risk. She plans to change her garments — on stage.

Subscribing to the adage that clothes — and hair — make the girl, the Huntington Beach resident will swap dresses, shirts and trousers for her portrayal of Madonna, Patsy Cline, Marilyn Monroe, Shania Twain, Reba McEntire and other heavy hitters in "One Voice" at the Attic Community Theater in Santa Ana.

With her sewing machine in tow, the voice impressionist constructs versatile base garments and outfits suitable for fast removal and layering. Once under the spotlight, she turns to clothing racks, shrouded in darkness behind her, for costume changes that are choreographed down to the second.

During the 90-minute whirlwind show — garnished with comedy, dance, music and a colorful medley of wigs — Owen doesn't step into the wings even once. Her acts traditionally conclude with a dramatic rendition of "Over the Rainbow," performed by Owen as Judy Garland dressed as a tramp.

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"In reality, there's only one very grainy piece of film from all her live performances [in which she does the song] this way and I got a glimpse of that," she said. "I was just blown away and I thought, 'This can't die on the vine. I have to recreate it.'"

Growing up, though, Owen had a different goal. She wanted to be a ballerina. The Edison High School graduate fondly remembers performing with flamenco dancer José Greco, the Atlanta Ballet and the Orange County Ballet Theater.

She was 17 when an illness, never properly diagnosed by doctors, damaged her immune system. Unable to recover her strength, she was forced to take bed rest and shelve her dreams. Not one to give up, however, Owen auditioned for a show band called Full Moon, which touts a dance-music formula. Though selected as the group's choreographer, Owen also was tasked with providing the voice of the Edith Bunker character from the popular 1970s sitcom "All in the Family."

What began as an experiment quickly became the most requested routine in the act, she recalled. Owen's solo career grew out of this exposure and took root at casinos and on cruise ships.

Three decades later, Owen's "girls" excite her, and if the character doesn't generate a rush from the audience, she will pick another.

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