One of the things I love about Beauty and the Beast is that its central heroine, Belle, isn’t afraid to be herself and doesn’t go with the program just because it’s what is expected of her. She’s thought of as the village weirdo because she reads books and doesn’t go gaga over big hunks like Gaston. I adored the recent Disney film even more than the original cartoon, and just recently saw a local stage version of the musical at Casa 0101.
The theater was packed at the Sunday matinee I attended, which isn’t always the case for small LA stages, especially when they’re not close to Hollywood or the NoHo Theatre District. Casa 0101 is in Boyle Heights, part of East LA, a primarily Hispanic neighborhood near downtown. Little girls dressed in Belle costumes eagerly awaited to see their favorite characters come to life in this lively production.
Although the show ran over 2 hours with an intermission, the kids still seemed to be engaged and had a good time. The show went off without a hitch, with the exception of a couple sound glitches, and the cast kept up their energy throughout. The costumes and sets were gorgeous adding to the allure and gave it a professional finish.
I’ve been to Casa 0101 several times now and have seen members of the cast in multiple shows. They just keep getting better. The theater is dedicated to bringing theater, art, and education to underserved communities and to celebrate the diversity that makes Los Angeles rich in culture. The fact that children are being exposed to the arts, especially when funding has been cut so drastically, is a tribute to the theater and the organizations that support it.
Beauty and the Beast at Casa 0101
Casa 0101 is a 99-seat Equity waiver theater, like most small theaters in Los Angeles, and staging a musical production with a large cast and complicated sets is an accomplishment in itself. Some of the actors played multiple roles, but it never took away from the energy of the production.
Sarah Kennedy played Belle on the afternoon I attended. I saw her play Princess Jasmine in Aladdin at Casa 0101. She has a beautiful singing voice and played the role expertly. Andreas Pantazis was perfectly cast in the role of Gaston. Though, not as strong of a singer, he made up for it in personality and has the body type that could only be Gaston. A codpiece might have been a good idea because his tights were “tight.”
Caleb Green played Lumiere. He’s adorable and energetic but for some reason his voice was garbled. It may have been an issue with his mic, but I found him hard to understand. Other standouts were Allison Flanagan as Madame de la Grande Bouche. (the opera singer turned into an armoire) She has a formidable operatic voice and was hilarious in her cabinet. Jacquelin Schofield does an admirable Mrs. Potts and sounded almost exactly like Angela Landsbury.
The Beast was played by Omar Mata with deep emotion and pathos as the unkind Prince who is turned into a Beast, softening his attitude after falling in love with Belle. When the spell is finally broken, the Beast turns into Jesse Maldonado (to avert a long costume change) and I just had to laugh because he’s much shorter than Mata. Jesse played multiple roles in this production and I’ve seen him in several CASA 0101 shows, including Eastside Heartbeats. He’s always animated and fun to watch.
In another funny role, Michael Gallardo, a big guy, and part of the ensemble doubles as one of the silly girls who pine after Gaston.
Beauty and the Beast was directed by Rigo Tejeda, musically directed by Caroline Benzon and choreographed by Lia Metz. All did an amazing job with the blessing of the Disney Corporation.
The show has been extended through January 28, 2018
For show times and tickets for Beauty and the Beast, visit the CASA 0101 website
12102 E. First St, Boyle Heights, CA 90033 323-263.7684