Confession time. Until last Saturday I had never visited Boyle Heights. I know, I know. It’s a huge part of Los Angeles and essential to any true lover of the city. Well, I did finally make it thanks to the musical Eastside Heartbeats.
Eastside Heartbeats is an original musical from playwright Tom Waldman and lyricist James Holvay. It’s inaugural run is currently underway at Casa 0101, a community arts center in the heart of Boyle Heights. On Saturday, I attended a sold out matinee performance of the show.
As I waited for the doors to open I enjoyed perusing the photo exhibit currently on display: Roots of the Eastside Sound 1955-1965. The exhibit highlighted many of the eras top vocal acts that originated in East Los Angeles.
It was a fascinating glimpse into the region’s rich musical history. The most famous eastside artist of the time was Ritchie Valens and while he was highlighted it was interesting to learn there were many other talented homegrown acts.
In fact, Eastside Heartbeats is inspired by one such act – Cannibal & The Headhunters who rose to prominence during the era.
The story centers around a young doo wop group – Eastside Heartbeats and its ambitious lead singer, Jimmy Ramirez. You see, there are a lot of doo wop groups in the area but Jimmy believes the Heartbeats have what it takes to be truly successful. Unfortunately, his dad doesn’t and just wants him to settle down and get a “real” job but Jimmy has to follow his heart. Although the path to success is difficult and filled with prejudice he’s determined to succeed.
The musical is filled with heart and is chock full of songs from start to finish. The majority of the songs are original numbers yet sound as if they were written in the period. Some are upbeat and some are ballads but all are heartfelt. Plus, the singing was fantastic – not a bad note in the house. Also wonderful was the acting. I’ve seen a lot of community theater and the acting is not always up to par. In Eastside Heartbeats each role is perfectly cast and every actor gives it their all.
Eastside Heartbeats was a wonderful way to spend my Saturday afternoon. Filled with nostalgia, hope and heart it filled me with joy. The rest of the run is sold out and deservedly so. But it will be back for the month of May and I would definitely suggest grabbing a ticket now.