Eastside Heartbeats - Theatre Review

A review by Suzanne Birrell.

The Eastside Heartbeats, a new rock 'n roll musical opened to an enthusiastic crowd on Cinco De Mayo. The red carpet gala opening was attended by such notables as Chris Montez (Let's Dance)- for whom an up and coming band called  the Beatles opened for in 1963 - as well as Sal Rodriguez, Drummer, Percussionist and Vocalist for the band War,  Lawrence Perez, Guitar Player for The Premiers, Larry Rendon, Saxophone Player for Thee Midniters, Mike Rincon, Bass Guitar Player and Leader of The Blendells, Ersi Arvizu, Vocalist from the Eastside singing group, The Sisters, and many more musicians and singers who hailed from the East side


Eastside Heartbeats tells the fictional story of Jimmy Ramirez, leader of the four-man vocal group, the Eastside Heartbeats.  The group has conquered East L.A., but Jimmy and the others have bigger goals.  They aim to be #1 in the nation, Mexican-American superstars.  But first they have to make a record.  Eastside Heartbeats is inspired by the true story of Cannibal and the Headhunters, the musical group which opened for The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl in 1965.

That the Eastside Heartbeats features the raw garage band sound of the 60's is probably due to the fact that James Holvay, Composer & Lyricist for the musical was a prolific songwriter of the era. He wrote "Kind of a Drag," which reached #1 for the Buckinghams in 1967; wrote the hit songs "Susan," "Don't You Care" and "Hey Baby (They're Playing Our Song);" as a teenager, Holvay wrote two sides for Dee Clark: "I Can't Run Away" and "She's My Baby;" Guitarist for the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars; on tours he performed with Rhythm and Blues stars as Wilson Pickett, The Supremes and The Four Tops.

Eastside Heartbeats is more than a story of four young men who had a dream and persevered, it is also a story of family and tradition. Kenneth Lopez as Jimmy Ramirez, Marco Infante as Mario, Jesse Maldonado as Andy, and Matthew Ramos as Ronnie play the members of the singing group the Eastside Heartbeats. Each plays a distinct personality and all are believable in their roles. The show is anchored with their solid performances. The magic does not stop there. Gabriel Gonzalez playing Jimmy's father Carlos Ramirez almost stole the show with his performance of a Mexican father who doesn't want to encourage his son and is burdened by a secret. In "I Had My Say" and "What's Happening Here" he demonstrated real virtuosity with the well written material.

Jahmaul Bakare as friend Eddie Mitchell also wowed the audience with his performance. We all laughed with the song "Bad Dads" that he performed with Kenneth Lopez. The last song of the first act is where he really wowed us: "What's Happening Here," a great song, great performances all around with Jaymaul Bakare singing a descant over the rest of the cast. WOW.

In comparison, the second act opened rather weakly, but once passed the extraneous dialogue the song "We got Fans" brought us back into the swing of things. Diana Castillon playing Sonia Ramirez, the mother of Jimmy, was not given a lot of solo moments but when given the opportunity she shined.  Jordan Charles had great comic posturing as Hal Fisher, the promoter. "Thank-you Mr. Epstein" performed with Bernardita Nassar as his girlfriend Teresa Gomez was absolutely fun.

The static set design by César Retana-Holguin was perfect in function and design. The choreography by Urbanie Lucero was such that you wanted to see it all on a bigger stage.

Eastside Heartbeats is an unusual musical in that there is no romantic back story. The back story is in the family dynamics much like Fiddler on the Roof. Eastside Heartbeats does suffer from a script that could use a bit of trimming and a couple of songs which are not memorable but there is definitely enough magic to make it an entertaining and memorable evening. I recommend it. You'll leave singing "La-la-la."

Also be sure to check out the Photo Exhibit in the Gallery from the private collection of David Reyes and curated by Jimmy Centeno.

Ample parking in a lot just south of the theatre. The easiest way to get there is take Hollywood Blvd. which turns into Sunset which turns into Ceasar Chavez and turn right on St. Louis and take that to First Street.

Eastside Heartbeats will be presented on CASA 0101 Theater's Main Stage located at 2102 East First Street (at St. Louis Street across the street from the Hollenbeck Police Station), Boyle Heights, CA  90033


Fridays at 8:00 p.m.,

Saturdays at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. and on

Sundays at 5:00 p.m.

through May 29, 2016.

Listen to Ashton Marcus' interview with https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsCq7wBLiTk

Listen to the interviews with the rest of the cast : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyxVxjZyUok

Tickets are $30 per person for General Admission; $25 per person for Students, Seniors, Boyle Heights residents and Groups of 10 - 19, and $20 per person for groups of 20 or more.  This show is recommended for all ages.  Advance reservations are highly recommended.


For tickets, please call the CASA 0101 Theater Box Office at 323-263-7684, E-mail tickets@casa0101.org, or buy online at www.casa0101.org.  To view B-roll rehearsal footage of EASTSIDE HEARTBEATS, please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GABTt7u8jxs .  The running time of the show is 141 minutes.

Posted By Suzanne Birrell on May 09, 2016 11:41 am | Permalink