“ABBA has always been a huge part of our family. I woke up to ‘Dancing Queen’ in the house; that’s played at every birthday,” said Alisa Melendez, the Carlsbad native who will be starring in Broadway SD’s production of Mamma Mia!
“To think about playing it in San Diego, where I’m from, where I’ve listened to this album driving down PCH, where I’ve danced to these songs in the gymnasium of where I went to middle school at Tri-City Christian… It truly is the biggest blessing for me.”
As a kid growing up, Melendez’s family had a special love for the music of ABBA. After her parents saw a production of Mamma Mia! in San Diego and bought a copy of the play’s soundtrack, the entire family became huge fans. So it’s only fitting that Melendez will grace the Broadway San Diego stage as the lead role of Sophie Sheridan when the nationally touring musical hits San Diego in November. This is the 25th anniversary of the Mamma Mia! tour, which officially launches in Denver on Oct. 31. The tour will hit 35+ cities through August of 2024.
Melendez has always been an entertainer, despite growing up in a family of chiropractors—both of her parents, two brothers, and their wives are chiropractors. But Melendez didn’t see a future for herself in the medical world. Her family, she said, have never been anything but supportive of her stage aspirations.
Growing up, she performed in local shows at school, community theater, and church while idolizing stars like Miley Cyrus and Bernadette Peters. Her room was papered with photos of her favorites, including a photo of Sophie from Mamma Mia! hanging just above her bed.
Melendez said she has been lucky enough to know what she wanted to do in life since middle school. After a year at Coronado High School, she convinced her family to let her attend the Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA) for high school, commuting each day from Carlsbad. She would wake up at dawn to catch the train to the OC, and would often not return until after dark due to rehearsals.
“It was hard leaving a school where I knew everyone to go to a new to go to a new school… part of me didn’t want to leave. But [my family was] like, ‘You love this so much. You’re really passionate about it,'” she said. “They encouraged me to go.”
Following high school, Melendez made the big move to the Big Apple. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in musical theater from Pace University in New York City, where she currently lives.
Since graduating, Melendez’s theatrical career has taken off, with roles in plays like Rent, Les Miserables, and Almost Famous right here at the Old Globe. But the role of Sophie is close to her heart.
“The first tour I ever saw was Mamma Mia! in San Francisco for my 16th birthday. I begged my mom to take me. And I was like, ‘I want to play Sophie one day,’” she said. “I just can’t believe it.”
Tickets for Broadway SD’s production of Mamma Mia! are currently on sale. The show runs from Nov. 7 through Nov. 12 at the San Diego Civic Theatre.