Review: Grab a Drink and Enjoy UNDERGROUND by Blindspot Collective and the Coronado Playhouse

Playing through July 30th at Coronado Playhouse

By: Jul. 09, 2023
Review: Grab a Drink and Enjoy UNDERGROUND by Blindspot Collective and the Coronado Playhouse
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UNDERGROUND at Coronado Playhouse is a fun creative, and innovative production, so it's no surprise that this immersive, world-premiere musical inspired by the discography of Ben Folds to the stage is a Blindspot Collective production.  Set in a local pub, the show is a lot of fun as the audiences get to enjoy the games, drinks, and an atmosphere where everybody has a story and working in hospitality is never boring. UNDERGROUND is playing at Coronado Playhouse through July 30th.

If you don’t know Ben Folds's music, he’s a singer/songwriter who writes and performs songs with strong stories and emotional hooks.  He plays the piano with complicated and ear-catching melodies, and tight harmonies while emphasizing that the piano is both a melodic and percussive instrument. Folds’ music is bold and complex, and immersive, which makes it a rich source of inspiration for a musical.

The playhouse has been turned into a local bar called the Underground, where everyone knows everyone else.  If you have ever worked in a restaurant or in hospitality, this atmosphere feels natural and is a good fit for the story structure.  Filled with servers whose interpersonal lives are tangled both personally and professionally, regulars who gather to watch the high school football game, to people reconnecting after a long while, there is love, laughter, heartbreak, celebration, and mysterious strangers. Plus drinks, so what more could you want?

Over the course of the show, everybody's stories slowly unfold - after all, it's difficult to keep secrets from long-time friends, but almost impossible to keep something from a good bartender.

Review: Grab a Drink and Enjoy UNDERGROUND by Blindspot Collective and the Coronado Playhouse

 The cast includes Amanda Blair, Hannah Bosworth, Kevin Bradel, Hunter BrownSam Castillo, Hero Cordileone, Lu Garcia, Shane Hennessey, Joe Kao, Georgia Ladd, D. Mckenna, Dakota Ringer, Jerry Rodriguez, Sarah Jane Salonga, Dacara Seward, and Marisa Taylor Scott.

The ensemble is strong and has some great vocal moments and harmonies. I don’t want to give away any specifics of the story and spoil the stories that are revealed. but want to highlight a few standouts that include Dakota Ringer and Amanda Blair who have great banter as friends who also keep the bar running during this shift, and Joe Kao as a waiter (and musician) trying to get Dacara Seward’s feisty waitress to talk to him. 

Review: Grab a Drink and Enjoy UNDERGROUND by Blindspot Collective and the Coronado Playhouse

 Shane Hennessey is a first-time customer of the bar, who has a knack for uncovering people’s secrets while avoiding sharing his own.  He has a strong voice and presence and a moving number in the second act along with Sarah Jane Salonga and Lu Garcia.

Hunter Brown consistently turns in memorable performances and this time is no different as Jimmy, along with Hero Cordileone as Lisa, who together have a captivating and emotional number in the first act.

Directed and choreographed by Amy Cordileone, the show’s scenic design by Jacob Sampson is immersive with all of the tables scattered throughout the theater. Lighting by Caroline Andrew compliments the set while also helpfully directing the audience's attention to the correct place within the theatre. Costumes by Tammy Molenaar fit the mood and location, and the bar staff logo shirts are very cute. Videos by Blake McCarty are an excellent eclectic and entertaining mix.

The band brings a multi-layered sound to the space, with Michael Tyree as the conductor, pianist, and violinist, Joe Kao on accordion, autoharp, and keys, Edward LaBarbera on bass, Tina Chin on guitar, and Michael Masessa on percussion. Cole Atencio rises to the sound design and mixing challenge since everyone is always moving throughout the space.

As part of the immersive experience, the performers are constantly in motion and performing around and near you, moving tables and jumping on them, so it is best to always keep your head on a swivel.  Because of this, it can initially be a bit confusing to figure out who is who as their stories unfold. It can also sometimes make it difficult to hear some of the dialogue over the music depending on where they are facing.

Raise a glass because every story is interesting and everybody is “happy at the underground”.

How To Get Tickets

Underground plays July 7 - 30 at 8pm on Thursdays and Fridays; 2pm and 8pm on Saturdays; and 3pm on Sundays. All performances will be held at Coronado Playhouse, located at 1835 Strand Way, Coronado, CA 92118.  For more information, contact the box office at (619) 435-4856 or visit www.coronadoplayhouse.org.



Photo Credit:  Cast of UNDERGROUND, photos credited to Ken Jacques photography.




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