Emotionally Truthful Jukebox Musical at Coronado Playhouse

Amanda Blair, Shane Hennessey and band members (Photos courtesy of Ken Jacques).

The world premiere Ben Folds alternative rock show, Underground, is notable for being the first staging that Coronado Playhouse has presented with another theatre company. Labeled as an immersive musical mashup, the terrific production is in partnership with Blindspot Collective.

Taking place at a local dive bar, the characters mainly consist of a mix of staff and patrons. As a big football game plays on the televisions, audiences learn about the lives of a variety of people, including waitress, Annie (Amanda Blair), bartender, Nick (Dakota Ringer) and a friendly and mysterious stranger (Shane Hennessey).

What immediately stands out is how the production team transforms the venue into a bar. Director, Amy Cordileone, video designer, Executive Artistic Director Blake McCarty, set designer, Jacob Sampson, costume designer, Tammy Molenaar and lighting designer, Caroline Andrew are equally crucial to making audiences feel transported as they enter the auditorium.

While the presentation of the piece hooks audiences, the evening would not work without strong plotlines.

Scenes naturally mix songs from Folds’ solo career and from his band, Ben Folds Five, as well as funny and dramatic spoken conversations written by McCarty. Each of the tales involving the employees and customers are grounded in reality, with sequences ranging from hilarious to tragic.

Relationships involving romance, family and friendship are explored and the connections are generally realistically messy. Some plots are not tied up neatly, but McCarty still injects hope into the events that occur.

McCarty and his collaborators, Cordileone, Donnie Tuel and Rachel Tuggle Whorton, incorporate lighthearted and serious songs from Folds that fit the narratives being told. Musical numbers such as “Effington,” “Rockin’ the Suburbs” and the title song (featuring humorous choreography from Cordileone) are full of witty lyrics, and tunes such as “Losing Lisa” and “Still Fighting It” are so powerful, that they might move audience members to tears.

Hannah Bosworth, Georgia Ladd and Shane Hennessey.

Hannah Bosworth, Georgia Ladd and Shane Hennessey.

Every number is handled well by the performers and the band. Although Cole Atencio’s miking could make certain lyrics hard to understand at the performance I saw, his audio still showcases the vocalists and musicians.

A few of the artists who shine during their stage time are Blair, Ringer, Hennessey, Hunter Brown, Georgia Ladd and Hannah Bosworth. They not only have strong singing voices, but they give their roles memorable personalities that add to the authenticity of the staging.

Backing up the ensemble is the band led by conductor/pianist and violinist, Michael Tyree. The musicians capture Folds’ unique songwriting style.

McCarty’s dialogue and Folds’ music and lyrics result in a fun and emotionally truthful event. Based off of the high-quality on display, the first collaboration between Coronado Playhouse and Blindspot is a big success.


Show times are Thursdays at 8:00 pm, Fridays at 8:00 pm, Saturdays at 2:00 pm, and Sundays at 2:00 pm.

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Photo of Blindspot Collective Theatre & Performance in San Diego
Blindspot Collective Theatre & Performance in San Diego
Website: Blindspot Collective
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Updated 3 months ago. Return to top.


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