[THEATER REVIEW] Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Charms at CASA 0101

(From left) Jacquelin Schofield (Mrs. Potts), Omar Mata (Beast), Caleb Green (Lumiere) and Jeremy Saje (Cogsworth). Photo: Ed Krieger.

Disney’s musical, Beauty and the Beast, is a favorite for all ages. A multi-cultural production is currently onstage at CASA 0101 Theatre in Boyle Heights, co-sponsored by Los Angeles Councilmember Gil Cedillo, CASA 0101Theatre, TNH Productions and El Centro Del Pueblo.

The musical, a hit on Broadway in 1994, retells a traditional French fairy tale about the love affair between a bookish young woman from a provincial town and a scary looking beast who is actually a prince who has been bewitched by an enchantress as punishment for his selfish and cold-hearted ways. The spell affects everyone in the prince’s castle, including his staff who are transformed into household objects in accord with their positions. Ashamed of his ugly appearance, Beast lives in seclusion, his only contact with the outer world a magic mirror. He also has an enchanted rose, which will bloom until he reaches the age of 21. To break the spell, the Beast must earn the love of a woman before the final petal falls from the rose or he and his household will forever be doomed.

It is always surprising to see a full-blown musical in a relatively small setting. This production, directed by Rigo Tejeda, hits the mark with rapid set changes, spectacular costumes and a talented cast. The show, with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, book by Linda Woolverton, includes Academy Award winning songs, “Beauty and the Beast,” “Be Our Guest” and “Belle.” Fast-pace choreography is by Lia Metz. Caroline Benzon is musical director

Andreas Pantazis as Gaston and Andrea Somera as Belle. Photo: Ed Krieger.

Notable among the large cast of 25 actors are Andrea Somera as Belle and Omar Mata as Beast. Andreas Pantazis is appropriately boorish as the arrogant ladies’ man Gaston whose sidekick Le Fou (Maxwell Peters) amazes the audience with his pratfalls and somersaults. Among the enchanted servants in the castle standouts were Caleb Green as Lumiere, Jeremy Saje as Cosworth, and Jacquelin Schofield as Mrs. Potts.

Casa 0101 was founded by Josefina Lopez, author of “Real Women Have Curves,” to fulfill her dream of bringing art and live theater to Boyle Heights, a historic community at the edge of downtown Los Angeles, which has been the focus of many recent news stories about the ongoing clash of gentrification and development. This show is an excellent way to visit the area and see what is going on. The theater was a mere six miles from my Silver Lake home. It is located immediately across First Street from the Hollenbeck Police Station and can be reached by the Metro Gold Line.

Beauty and the Beast runs Fridays at 8, Saturdays at 3 and 8, Sundays at 4 p.m. through January 21st at Casa 0101 Theatre, 2101 East 1st. Street, Boyle Heights. $35 General; $30 Students and Seniors; $25 Children 10 and under. (323) 263-7684 or www.casa0101.org. Free parking Fridays and Saturdays at the Boyle Heights City Hall at Chicago Street or on the street.

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