By JEAN LOWERISON | Downtown News
Quick! What iconic show is this line referring to: “Everything I need to know I can learn from a bird, a monster and a grouch”? If you didn’t say “Sesame Street,” shame on you.
The return of Lamb’s Players Theatre’s megahit “Mixtape” means it’s nostalgia time for Gen Xers (here defined as born between 1961 and 1981), and time for the rest of us to sit back and enjoy as those musical years rush by on the stage.
This “totally awesome musical journey through the ’80s,” written by Lamb’s regulars Colleen Kollar Smith and Jon Lorenz, opened at the Horton Grand Downtown in 2010 and ran for three and a half years. This version has already been extended through Sept. 1 at the mothership theater in Coronado.
Back from the original production are Joy Yandell, David S. Humphrey and the sterling five-man band led by Lorenz, and they are better than ever. New to “Mixtape” are Angela Chatelain Avila, Marqell Edward Clayton, Janaya Mahealani Jones, A.J. Mendoza and Shawn W. Smith. The latter four are making their Lamb’s Players debuts as well. All are excellent singing and dancing actors.
Smith and Lorenz have arranged the songs topically — there are sections about movies (“Top Gun,” “Risky Business,” “Ghostbusters” among them) and TV shows “Smurfs,” Cosby, “Hill Street Blues”) along with songs about relationships and the search for meaning (“Sweet Dreams,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”).
The physical fitness craze, with Jazzercise and Richard Simmons “sweatin’ to the oldies,” is memorialized and demonstrated.
Then there’s news of the decade (including the Challenger disaster) and the decade in sports, both wonderfully illustrated in projections (credit Michael McKeon).
No show covering the ’80s would be complete without Madonna’s “Material Girl,” and it’s here, in a splendid version.
Worthy of special mention is Yandell’s poignant interpretation of Suzanne Vega’s “Luca” (about domestic violence) with its plea “just don’t argue anymore.”
Times change, and though this might not have been its intent, AJ Mendoza’s interpretation of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” gave me the shivers in this political year.
The cast is sterling — and must be exhausted after the show, with all the running around, character changes and Smith’s intricate and impressive choreography. And those costume changes! Credit Jemima Dutra for the colorful costumes.
Mike Buckley’s dual-level set with slanted ramps works wonderfully, and the sound and lighting are well handled by Patrick Duffy and Nathan Peirson, respectively.
Millennials accustomed to downloading music may not even know what a mixtape (or, for that matter, a cassette player) is, but this show is a fine and amusing way to find out.
Plays through Sept. 1, 2019 at Lamb’s Players Theatre, 1142 Orange Ave., Coronado.
Tuesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Wednesday at 2 and 7:30 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 4 and 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m.
Tickets: 619-437-6000 or lambsplayers.org
— Jean Lowerison is a long-standing member of the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.