Time to Fire that Oven Up — La Mirada Theatre is Serving up a Perfect “Fatia de Mystic Pizza!”
JANUARY 22, 2024 — LA MIRADA
Working at MYSTIC PIZZA — a pizzeria in the port town of Mystic, Connecticut — Daisy, Kat, and Jojo serve pies made with a secret sauce that seems to delight everyone…even dour restaurant critics.
It's summertime, and high school is behind them, but the future seems frightening. Will they end up doling out slices in this hardscrabble, Portuguese fishing town for the rest of their lives? The musical follows the trio through a summer of change and tough decisions about life, love, and careers. By summer's end, the three friends learn new things about themselves and those they love, but their friendship and sisterhood remain intact.
The first Lively McCabe Entertainment musical version of “Mystic Pizza” (based on the 1988 rom-com MGM film starring Julia Roberts) was first produced by Ogunquit Playhouse in Ogunquit, Maine in the fall of 2021. Gordon Greenberg (Irving Berlin’s “Holiday Inn”) and Sas Goldberg (“Significant Others”) penned the book then, based on Amy Holden Jones’ story and characters. This came years after a fictional Broadway musical adaptation of the film had surfaced as a plot point in the early part of season 2 of the NBC sitcom “30-Rock” in 2007.
Now, in a grand World Premiere restaging, exploding on stage right now at La Mirada Theatre, a new jukebox musical has been adapted by book author Sandy Rustin, full of heart and humor, and features over twenty songs by some of the best pop-stars of the 80's and 90's, like Melissa Etheridge, Robert Palmer, Debbie Gibson, Berlin, Phil Collins, Mike and the Mechanics, Fine Young Cannibals, Bryan Adams, Huey Lewis, John Mellencamp and many others.
It follows our three winning protagonists, two of which are sisters, as they come-of-age while living in a small, New England fishing village, offering warm, inviting, funny glimpses into navigating the first throes of love.
Even Leona, the gruff proprietor of the place (Rayanne Gonzales) has a friendly and lovable side. There in the restaurant, while slinging pizza and mopping the floor, the voluptuous Daisy Araujo (Krystina Alabado), her level-headed kid sister Katherine “Kat” Arujo (Kyra Kennedy) and their wise-cracking friend Josephina “Jojo” Barboza (Gianna Yanelli) work their way through the kinds of romantic crises that is the musical’s real raisons d'etre.
The story begins with a catastrophic wedding at which Jojo, the panicky bride, falls into a swoon just as she reaches the altar. Although she loves Bill (Jordan Friend), a burly yet sensitive and very long-suffering lobsterman, she's less enthusiastic about the idea of getting married.
Daisy is indeed the town’s flirty, yet fragile bombshell. She doesn't have to work very hard to capture the attention of anyone she meets, and during the course of the narrative she rivets the eye of the rich ne'er-do-well Charles Gordon Windsor, Jr. (Michael Thomas Grant), who proves quite capable of a surprise or two himself.
Meanwhile, the hard-working, Yale-bound Kat is hired as a babysitter by Tim, a perfect father (Chris Cardozo), but who happens to be married, and finds that proximity to this dreamboat is ruining her hard-won composure.
But even with the blossoming romances and raw chemistry in the air, it still comes with a mix of disappointments and lessons learned. Not to worry though. Things have a way of working out, and ''Mystic Pizza'' seems to always have fresh outlooks and a blithe and sunny brand of magic.
The show is energetic right from the start with John Mellencamp’s spirited “Small Town” that instantly immerses us in the lives of these townies and becomes its mantra. All the songs are well chosen and placed in just the right spots to help drive the story line. The infectious score features dance-party mega-hits from “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” and “All I Need is a Miracle,” to “Small Town,” an electrifying “Hit Me with your Best Shot,” “The Power of Love,” “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” and Tommy James & The Shondelles' ”I Think We’re Alone Now.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Friend, a consummate vocalist and dancer, punches out “Addicted to Love,” with revved up passion, telling us just how committed he is to Ms. Yanelli’s Jojo, but their Berlin duet “Take My Breath Away” (indelible in the 1986 film “Top Gun”) highlights their exquisite vocals and undeniable chemistry.
Under the direction of Kristin Stowell, the band wraps itself around each of these pop tunes and is a driving force in delivering emotions. Connor Gallagher’s choreography compliments the energy of the show with joyous, bouncy movements that embrace the rock tone. And the costumes by Jennifer Caprio appropriately contrast the classes for denizens’ wear as opposed to collegiate styles for upper class.
All of the actors in this show have genuine gifts and are extraordinary singers. Krystina Alabado has a fierce energy ("I'm the Only One"). Kyra Kennedy gives Kat a quiet, substantial presence and steady, open gaze qualities very much like the ones she admires in the smoothly appealing Chris Cardozo. And Gianna Yanelli, who is given what’s intended as the more comic role, still manages to find humor in her ongoing problems with the earnest Bill.
Jordan Friend turns good-natured, fisherman Bill into a model of misplaced patience ("Mad About You"), but strikes paydirt in the end. And Michael Thomas Grant does more than hold his ground with the scene-stealing Krystina Alabado in a mesmirizing "Please Forgive Me," originally from Bryan Adams.
There are also wonderful performances around the edges of this musical, too, namely, by an amazing Rayanne Gonzales as the pizza owner with the secret, and Jeff Skowron performing triple duty as Chuck Windsor, the Priest, and as the pompously funny TV gourmet whose review will either make or break the pizza shop. Other notable players include Louis Pardo, Jake Swain, Monika Peña, Rachel Kae Wirtz, April Josephine, Alyssa M. Simmons and Domo D'dante.
So, if you’re truly looking for a hot slice of theatrical fun, you might want to head out to see the latest show at the La Mirada… “Mystic Pizza” is right now serving up its specialty in the Tony/Emmy/Ovation-nominated, state-of-the-art Broadway-style theatre (considered the best theatre in Southern California by many), playing now through February 19th. Following that run, the show moves to the San Francisco and Sacramento area and further stops.
LA MIRADA THEATRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS & LIVELY McCABE ENTERTAINMENT, McCOY RIGBY ENTERTAINMENT, and RIVERSIDE THEATRICALS PRESENT THE WEST COAST PREMIERE OF THE BRAND NEW MUSICAL, MYSTIC PIZZA. Based on the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Motion Picture with story and characters by Amy Holden Jones; Book by Sandy Rustin (Clue, The Cottage); Arrangements and Orchestrations by Carmel Dean (Funny Girl, American Idiot); Musical Direction by Kristin Stowell (Songbird); Choreography by Connor Gallagher (Beetlejuice, Did You See What Walter Paisley Did Today?); Direction by Casey Hushion (Mean Girls, Clue).
The Design Team features Set and Properties Design by Nate Bertone; Lighting Design by Ryan J. O’Gara; Sound Design by Josh Bessom; Costume Design by Jennifer Caprio; Hair/Wig/Make-up Design by Kaitlin Yagen; Properties Supervisor Kevin Williams. Tour Booking: Justine Spingler & Magaly Barone, Principals, Columbia Artists Theatricals. Associate Director is Natalie Malotke. The Casting Director is Julia Flores. The Production Stage Manager is Jill Gold.
The Cast of MYSTIC PIZZA features: Gianna Yanelli as “Josephina (JoJo) Barboza,” Kyra Kennedy as “Katherine (Kat) Arujo,” Krystina Alabado as “Daisy Arujo,” Rayanne Gonzales as “Leona Silvia,” Jordan Friend as “Bill Montijo,” Michael Thomas Grant as “Charles Gordon Windsor, Jr.,” and Chris Cardozo as “Tim Travers.” The Ensemble features Domo D’dante, Michael James, April Josephine, Louis Pardo, Monika Peña, Alyssa M. Simmons, Jeff Skowron, Jake Swain, and Rachel Wirtz. Swings are Chachi Delgado and Tayler Mettra.
MYSTIC PIZZA previewed January 19th and opened Saturday night, January 20th at 8 pm, and will continue their run through Sunday, February 11, 2024 at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd in La Mirada. Performances are Thursdays at 7:30 pm; Fridays at 8 pm; Saturdays at 2 pm & 8 pm and Sundays at 1:30 pm & 6:30 pm. There is no performance on Sunday, January 21 at 6:30 pm. For ticket information, see tickets online at: lamiradatheatre.com
Arts & Entertainment Reviewer
The Show Report
PHOTO CREDIT: Jason Niedle