It was a warm Sunday afternoon. We parked in the lot behind the art museum (MARTE). A couple of girls walked by carrying replicas of overstuffed chairs and pink ballet shoes. We walked to the front of the Presidential Theater alongside a girl with a large, foam teacup costume and a couple of mothers fussing with big, green feathery things. We wondered if these were cast members or if children were dressing in costume to watch the performance of Bella y La Bestia (Beauty and the Beast).
So, yes, as it turns out we were lining up in front of the theater right alongside the cast members, with their costumes half-in-hand and with their make-up sparkling. This performance of Beauty and the Beast was a production of the Macholah School of Dance - two shows on one date to benefit a shelter for persons with cancer who live far outside of the capital city of San Salvador and need treatments in city hospitals. (Visit www.cpses.org to learn more about Albergue La Divina Misericordia.) The cast members included preschool children through high school (or maybe college-age) youth.
It was our first time inside the theater - a very ample space which quickly filled up with proud parents and grandparents, families with children, and a few curious adults like us. We learned about the play online when looking for something to do over the weekend. Buying the tickets online was not exactly straightforward, since we had to go pick them up at one of the malls and fill out a bunch of paperwork in person. In the end, there we were, ready for what we expected to be a performance similar to any school play.
The music was recorded, with a power point background that supplemented the simple stage scenery with with cartoon-like drawings to create the town, the castle and the forest. It was super easy to follow the plot and the songs, because of course, we all of the songs from the classic animated version of Beauty and the Beast memorized, and how fun to hear these songs in Spanish! Belle was awesome at lip-syncing, and was both a convincing actress and polished dancer.
We thoroughly enjoyed the entire performance. The lighting and costumes were fantastic. The dancers were clearly of varying abilities according to experience and innate talent, but they clearly were very well-rehearsed and many of the dancers were truly outstanding. The choreography of the "Be Our Guest" number was impressive. One show highlight were the littlest dancers who were dressed as birds and appeared in a few different scenes including their own dance number (which was absolutely adorable). And, the replica overstuffed chairs? Those turned out to be the head-pieces for the dancing furniture who did some pretty great leaps across the stage.
There were plenty of cell phones and cameras taking photos and recording throughout the performance. I grabbed a couple of quick photos, trying not to be too disruptive (though really, people took hundreds of photos, which are no doubt all over social media).
Maybe going to a dance school production of Beauty and the Beast is not what one might expect to do on a warm weekend in El Salvador, but then again, why not?