Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Review: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Proves Too Ambitious for CASA 0101

One glance at the program for Casa 0101’s Beauty and the Beast and you can see that it takes a village to put on a show - quite a large village, in fact. No less than three producing entities, an LA Councilman, three individual producers, an executive producer, a 19-person production team, and a cast of 25 had a hand in making sure the show goes on. That doesn’t even include the countless unnamed volunteers, parents, friends, and others who are also an important part of this homegrown Boyle Heights theatre company.

Last year Casa 0101 produced a lovely dual language version of Disney’s Aladdin, which was so popular it extended its run and eventually transferred to a larger venue. Hoping to repeat that success, they have set their sights on another Disney classic but, this time, the production proves too ambitious an undertaking for the company. Since this is the holiday season, I thought I’d turn to the best gift giver I know to see if he might be able to help them out.

Jacquelin Schofield (Mrs. Potts), Andrea Somera (Belle) and Omar Mata
(The Beast). All photos by Ed Krieger
Dear Santa,

Casa 0101 has been very good this year so I wanted to ask if you could give them some extra special help with a few of the items below for their current production of Beauty and the Beast. Even without them, Andrea Somera has a lovely voice and makes a charming Belle, but any or all of these additions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

1. Please give Casa 0101 a way to cover the house right corridor so the audience does not have to watch the actors and stagehands make all of their crosses. It is very distracting and we would rather focus on what is happening on stage. Could you also take their backstage light (SL) that shines through the black curtain whenever someone turns it on? Maybe they won’t miss it.

2. I would love it if you could you do something about the large cumbersome set pieces that roll on and off stage throughout the show. They’re loud, difficult to maneuver, and get in the way more often than not. Bigger isn’t always better and these make the scene changes ponderous affairs.

3. If you could give the sound board operator a hand too that would be great. He or she caught up after a couple of numbers but it was an awkward beginning without the mics turned on. I didn’t miss the spotlight until it finally came on mid-number but maybe that should start at the beginning too. You know best.

4. As this is a family musical, please give the costumer some pants for Gaston. His shiny black Lycra tights are so skin tight (SO skin tight) and his vest so short you can see every seam in his undergarments and a few things you wish you didn’t. It isn’t funny; it’s crude and feels inappropriate with so many young children in the audience.

5. Would you also give the costumer a pair of scissors to cut the tag off Maurice’s scarf? When Belle puts it on her father, she says she made it for him but the store tag hanging from it begs to differ. Also, halfway through the act, one of the other characters comments that Cogsworth is turning more into a clock and has sprouted a windup key on his back. Problem is, the key was there from the beginning of the show. Maybe he was missing a piece of fabric to camouflage it? In any case, I’m sure you can help.

L-R: Jeremy Saje, Omar Mata and Caleb Green

6. Santa, could you also help Lumiere with his wig? It flew off during Act One and I thought it was accidental but, when the actor came back, he didn’t wear it the rest of the show. He didn’t wear it in the production photos either so I guess it was intentional. If that’s the case, maybe he just needs a jar of cold cream for his whiteface makeup...unless it was a statement. I really don’t know for sure.

7. I also don’t know if the fights were meant to be comic or realistic. At times the sound effects came on the action and at others they came several beats after the action. I guess I was confused since it was inconsistent. At least I didn’t worry that anyone would get hurt, though, since I could see that the actors were making the sounds themselves.

8. Maybe you could also let the cast know they don’t need affected voices or unnatural dialects to make their characters work. Even though this is a musical, the rules of acting still apply. You can’t go big unless you stay grounded and if your accent muddles your words the audience can’t understand you.

9. And speaking of those kids in the audience, please add a stop watch to the director’s Christmas stocking. It’s a bit unrealistic to expect young children to sit through a first act that is an hour and a half long without giving them a way to exit the theater other than the doorway where actors make their stage entrances. The staff can make all the announcements they want about staying in your seats but when a child has to go, they’re going. I’d also have them take down the sign that says no one will be admitted once the show starts so don’t knock. Plenty of people were lucky enough to be seated once the show began so they really didn’t need it.

10. Oh, one other thing...please give the 17-year old Salt Shaker a scholarship to a dance conservatory when he graduates from high school. He is well on his way to becoming a terrific professional dancer and I would like to see him have the opportunity to continue his studies.

An avid theatregoer and musical fan

Maxwell Peters and Andreas Pantazis

December 8, 2017 – January 21, 2018
CASA 0101 Theater
2102 East First Street
Boyle Heights, CA 90033

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