Mystic Pizza Review – Coming of Age in Connecticut

Kristina Alabado, Kyra Kennedy, and Gianna Yanelli in MYSTIC PIZZA - Photo by Jason Niedle
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1988 saw the film release of “Mystic Pizza,” a romantic comedy about three teenaged Portuguese-American friends who work in a pizza parlor in Mystic, Connecticut. The popular coming-of-age movie starred newcomer Julia Roberts, and the rest is history. With story and characters by Amy Holden Jones, MGM created a teen sensation. Almost 30 years later, a creative quorum, including Sandy Rustin (book), and Carmel Dean (arrangements and orchestrations) thought that “Mystic Pizza” would make an excellent musical and began to work on the idea. In 2021, the musical MYSTIC PIZZA made its debut in Maine. In 2024, La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts is proud to present MYSTIC PIZZA.

Cast of MYSTIC PIZZA – Photo by Jason Niedle

The time is the fall of 1988, and the place is Mystic Connecticut. Sisters Daisy Arujo (Krystina Alabado) and Kat Arujo (Kyra Kennedy) and their buddie Jojo Barboza (Gianna Yanelli) are waitresses in the go-to pizza parlor in Mystic. They’re on the cusp of growing up and trying on different ideas for size. Jojo has already made her mark on the community by collapsing at her wedding ceremony to Bill Montijo (Jordan Friend); why-oh-why did the priest keep focusing on the permanence of marriage? Thus she remains single and more than hesitant to attend another ceremony – despite Bill’s encouragement. Daisy is just beginning to experiment with dating and boys when she meets the very wealthy Charles Gordon Windsor, Jr. (Michael Thomas Grant), a playboy wannabe who dazzles her with possibilities. Even if she is from “the wrong side of the tracks.” Meanwhile, a far more serious Kat is convinced that she is destined to be an astronomer. When she meets Tim, an older and dapper- but married – man, she starts to lose focus. On top of the convoluted relationships involved, Leona Silvia (Rayanne Gonzales), the owner of Mystic Pizza, may be going out of business. Unless, of course, TV’s Fireside Gourmet (Jeff Skowron) gives the place a thumbs up.

Gianna Yanelli, Krystina Alabado, Kyra Kennedy, and Rayanne Gonzales – Photo by Jason Niedle

Director Casey Husion keeps thing moving right along with the help of musical director Kristin Stowell and choreography by Connor Gallagher. The music is loud and merry, highlighting pop music of the 1980s, with the Mystic Pizza Band right there in the middle of the stage under conductor/keyboard 1 Jennifer Lin. Oldies but goodies should keep the joint hopping and the audience humming. This is razzle-dazzle as the enthusiastic dancers energize the show. The actors put their all into the tunes and really belt out the songs (especially Leona Silvia).

Cast of MYSTIC PIZZA – Photo by Jason Niedle

The production team does a creditable job of setting the stage, including Nate Bertone’s scenic and properties design, Jen Caprio’s costumes, Kaitlin Yagen’s hair and wigs, Ryan J. O’Gara’s lighting, and Josh Bessom’s sound. MYSTIC PIZZA is a lively, spirited jukebox musical which is long on music and dance, definitely a child of the 1980s. Audiences will have difficulty keeping their toes from tapping.

Cast of MYSTIC PIZZA – Photo by Jason Niedle

MYSTIC PIZZA runs through February 11, 2024, with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, at 8 p.m. on Fridays, on 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Sundays. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts is located at 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, CA 90638. Tickets range from $19 to $90 ($14 students). For information and reservations, call 562-944-9801 or 714-994-6310 or go online.

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