Review: MYSTIC PIZZA at Lesher Center For The Arts

The production continues through February 25th.

By: Feb. 18, 2024
Review: MYSTIC PIZZA at Lesher Center For The Arts
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Mystic Pizza

Based on the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Motion Picture

Book by Sandy Rustin

With Story and Characters by Amy Holden Jones

Directed by Casey Hushion

Lesher Center for the Arts

Mystic Pizza, the musical jukebox adaptation of the 1988 film that launched the career of Julia Roberts, successfully merges hits from the 80’s and 90’s into the heartwarming story of three working-class girlfriends as they navigate romance in the small seaside town of Mystic, Connecticut. Harking back to the era of innocent rom-coms pre-Me Too, Mystic Pizza is a delight for the eyes and ears and a brief respite from what’s going on outside the theatre doors.

Review: MYSTIC PIZZA at Lesher Center For The Arts
Bride Jojo (Gianna Yanelli) shares a moment with friends (l to r: Krystina Alabado, Kyra Kennedy, and Rayanne Gonzales

The hits come fast and furious, with the numbers substituting for spoken exposition. Matching the music with the story’s action requires thought and succeeds here. Songs by John Cougar Mellencamp, Cyndi Lauper, Melissa Etheridge, Pat Benatar, and Rick Astley provided the soundtrack to that generation and spur the story of new love, love delayed and coming of age.

Adding to the nostalgic feel of the production are the seaside shanty set design by Nate Bertone, costumes by Jen Caprio, lighting by Ryan J. O’Gara and 80’s hair and wig design by Kaitlin Yagen. A six-piece band, with arrangements by Carmel Dean and musical direction by Kristin Stowell, excellently backs the talented ensemble.

Review: MYSTIC PIZZA at Lesher Center For The Arts
The cast (Krystina Alabado, Michael Thomas Grant, Jordan Friend, Gianna Yanelli, Chris Cardozo and Kyra Kennedy)

The ensemble contains holdovers from the original 2021 production: Krystina Alabado (American Psycho, American Idiot) as the hard partier Daisy Arujo, Kyra Kennedy (Waitress) returns as her smart but naïve sister Kat, Gianna Yanelli (Mean Girls) reprises her role as JoJo Barboza, who can’t commit to marriage and babies quit yet. Rayanne Gonzales also returns as Leona, owner of the failing Mystic Pizza and mother figure to the three girls.

The story revolves around the fate of the restaurant, and the gal’s romances – one with a local rock band townie, a Yale preppie, and a married architect. Most songs are power love ballads song to each other or against each other when love sours. All the principals have solid voices including Jordan Friend as Bill, Michael Thomas Grant as the preppie and Chris Cardoza as Tim Travers, the architect with a secret.

Review: MYSTIC PIZZA at Lesher Center For The Arts
The cast of the new musical "Mystic Pizza," presented by Center Repertory Company February 15-25 at Lesher Center for the Arts.

The direction is top-notch with wonderful scene transitions and choreography. Mystic Pizza is a successful adaptation from film to stage, chocks full of engaging and sympathetic characters singing a soundtrack guaranteed to play on our collective memories of easier times.

Mystic Pizza continues through February 25th. For more information, please visit the button below or call the box office at (925)-943-7469.

Photo Credit: Jason Niedle