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‘Mystic Pizza’ Brings ‘80s to La Mirada Theater

MYSTIC: Jake Swain, Monika Peña, Kyra Kennedy, Jeff Skowron, Gianna Yanelli, Krystina Alabado, Rachel Kae Wirtz and Domo D’dante star in “MYSTIC PIZZA,” directed by Casey Hushion and playing at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts.

January 25, 2024

By Stepheny Gehrig

The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts is showcasing the West Coast premier of “Mystic Pizza” with an impressive headliner cast.

Inspiring a nostalgic ‘80s women-empowering rom-com, “Mystic Pizza” indulges in the cheesy aspects of romance while touching on hard-hitting themes of race, class, identity, and femininity. The musical’s thematic undertones are balanced with fun-filled and toe-tapping renditions of the ‘80s hits like “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “Take My Breath Away”. 

In a small-town pizza joint, the three leading women Daisy Arujo (Krystina Alabado), Kat Arujo (Kyra Kennedy) and Jojo Barboza (Gianna Yanelli) lean on each other to navigate their relationships with family, partners and even each other. With a blithe atmosphere that is carefully constructed throughout the musical, “Mystic Pizza” successfully integrates the wistfulness of a brief college romance while also touching on deeper issues regarding love. 

Incorporating these pop culture hits of the ‘80s allows for the thematic messages to be elevated and better understood by the audience as the messages regarding race, class, identity and femininity become more palatable. But, the song choices, at times, felt a bit awkward, which is at no fault of the actors but of the production itself. When difficult topics regarding race and class were discussed between characters, the use of pop songs seemed distasteful and, in a way, disparaging.

A rendition of “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” becomes off-putting when an impactful and pivotal argument about race between father Chuck Windsor (Jake Swain) and son Charles Gordon Windsor Jr. (Michael Thomas Grant). Now, Swain’s performance as an actor and singer was entertaining and enjoyable. However, the use of that song in that particular instance lessens the impact of the issue the musical is attempting to tackle.  

The relationship between Jordan Friend, who played Bill Montijo, and Yanelli, deserves its own praise as both actors charmingly bring to stage passion and humor. Friend and Yanelli complement each other on stage allowing for their on-stage relationship to seem the most realistic and relatable. 

Chris Cardozo and Rayanne Gonzales, who played Tim Travers and Leona Silvia, respectively,  gave stunning performances. Cardozo’s romantic and graceful voice is jaw dropping, leaving a lasting memory for all audience members. Gonzales is perfectly cast as businesswoman Leona as she effectively fulfills the role of a guiding and caring figure in leading women’s lives. From the minute Gonzales sang her first note of the show, audience members were thrilled to hear such a beautiful, resounding voice. Leaving audiences begging for more, the cheers and claps of the audience were well-earned for Gonzales. 

Unfortunately, prior to intermission, the cast seemed to lack genuine connection or camaraderie. Most relationships seemed stoic, at least until the second half of the show. However, as the show progressed, the relationships between the characters became more believable. It might be due to the jitters of the show’s first runnings that made the relationships seem surface level, so there is hope that as the show continues, the dynamic and interactions between characters improve. 

As sisters, Alabado and Kennedy display the hardships and intricacies of familial relationships. Although the arguments on stage seem shallow, the resolution between the two is authentic and emotional. As performers, with powerful, moving voices Alabado and Kennedy are able to successfully convey the emotion of the characters.

Overall, “Mystic Pizza” is a fun and enjoyable musical that reaches much deeper than expected. The show is able to touch on many deep-rooted issues that — even though it’s set in the ‘80s — are still prevalent today. With a well-formed, thorough plot and likable characters, “Mystic Pizza” is a fabulous show that is worth seeing while it’s in La Mirada.  

With tickets starting at $19, “Mystic Pizza” will reside at the La Mirada Theatre until Feb. 11. The show runs about two hours and 20 minutes, including intermission and is recommended for ages 12 and older due to some themes.