Saturday, April 13, 2024

Mystic Pizza is a musical with the works

The Center Repertory Company, just outside of San Francisco in Walnut Creek, has itself not only a slice of perfection but the whole damn pie in its production of Mystic Pizza, a jukebox musical that will warm up the Lesher Center stage through Feb. 25 with its cheesy goodness.

This turned out to be one of the most fun nights had at a theatre for months so pardon all of the puns. But the musical, based upon the film that helped shape the career of Julia Roberts, has put together the most amazing ensemble that not only do the three leads shine, but so do their respective love interests and the ensemble.

Fresh from its West Coast Premiere in the LA area, the cast has had a chance to build on the chemistry among its characters.  

Krystina Alabado, Gianna Yanelli, and Kyra Kennedy make us forget Roberts and her movie co-stars as they make the parts their own as a trio of friends who work together at the local pizza parlor. 

Each has a romantic partner to work from and they too excel. Alabado, as Daily (the Roberts role) has the same energy as Roberts and she has a great partner to work off of in Michael Thomas Grant, who plays the spoiled rich boy with no direction. Grant’s good looks show why he can capture the attention of Alabado but it’s his voice that wins us over.

Kennedy as Kat is just so captivating that it’s easy to see why she still has the role that she originated from the start. She shows vulnerability and naivety in life even those she is book-smart. She works well off Chris Cardoza, a tempting older man to Kennedy’s 18-year-old character. Book writer Sandy Rustin also deserves kudos for the structure of their scenes, which were too complicated and overly detailed to have brought exactly from screen to stage.  Rustin’s cleverness is evident throughout, knowing when and how to make movie scenes effective on stage.

Yanelli as Jojo, who also originated her role, is a spitfire much like Lili Taylor in the movie. Until you see this, you might forget how pivotal the character is in keeping the friends together and the plot moving.  She is lucky to play against Jordan Friend who is the perfect combination of actor and musician and, like in the movie, wants to taken seriously as a suitor and not just someone to have sex with. Their chemistry is believable so we root for them from the beginning.

There’s really no one who doesn’t excel, from Rayanne Gonzalez as the owner of the pizzeria to Domo D’Dante in his multitude of roles — and his arms looked good as every character, and off stage.

What makes this a cut above the regular jukebox musical is it starts with a story. Instead of trying to force a plot between catchy songs, Rustin, director Casey Hushion and choreographer Connor Gallagher probably painstakingly found classic 1980s and ’90s  songs to use between scenes. What we end up with is a “pizza” with the works: great acting and an amazing story, all topped with classic songs from Cyndi Lauper, Pat Benatar, Wilson Phillips, Huey Lewis, and Rick Astley.

Like girls….you should go if you wanna have fun. 

Tickets and information at: Events | Lesher Center for the Arts.

Kevin M. Thomas

Kevin M. Thomas, or @ReelKev, is an arts blogger and entertainment reporter. In addition to his own website, and ReelKev YouTube channel, Kevin used to be the LGBT arts writer for and contributes to as well as a semi-regular on San Francisco's cable TV show, "10 Percent."

Kevin M. Thomas has 156 posts and counting. See all posts by Kevin M. Thomas

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