‘Arena A House Musical’ chronicles the legacy of the famous gay Latin nightclub


“Arena A House Musical” is based on 1990s house music that was pumped from Hollywood’s legendary Arena nightclub.

The play is a coming-of-age story following Lucio Torrez, a young music minister in his father’s apostolic church, and his friends during a turbulent decade when HIV/AIDS wiped out a generation of LGBTQ+ people of color.

Torrez’s father sends his son to a conversion therapy camp, hoping his son will ‘pray for gay people to go away’, but Torrez seeks to live his truth, find his voice and a place where he can be free.

Abel Alvarado, who created and wrote “Arena A House Musical,” said it was a story of staying true to yourself and finding a chosen family, according to a press release about the play.

“Arena: A House Musical is a love letter to our LGBTQ+ ancestors, the House music of the era and the iconic nightclub Arena: A place where our community was able to shine and thrive in its true authenticity,” said he declared.

Former LA Councilman Tom LaBonge Helped Tear Down Circus Disco

Arena History

Arena was located on Santa Monica Boulevard, just east of La Palma Avenue. A former ice factory, the 22,000 square foot structure opened as a nightclub in 1990.

It belonged to Gene La Pietra, who also owned Circus Disco, a colossal club next door to the Arena that opened in 1974.

La Pietra also owned the six-acre property where the two clubs were located.

After Union Ice decided to close its Hollywood location in 1985, LaPietra and then-partner Ed Lemos bought the huge freezer building on Santa Monica Boulevard.

At first they wanted to use the extra parking for their club and planned to rent the massive rectangular freezer.

When no one wanted to rent the structure, the owners of Circus Disco decided to open another club.

The old building has been completely renovated, with a grand new entrance placed under a 50-foot high glass atrium.

Inside, clubbers encountered a wall of video screens. To the left or right was the gigantic wooden dance floor. A long ramp, on the left, gradually leads to the second floor.

Each level featured several full-service bars. The second floor had a large patio.

For a time, dinner was included in the price of entree, which ranged from under $10 to over $20. The dancers could rest and eat on tables lined up on the second floor, under a row of portholes. A glass-walled room featured R&B and hip hop beats.

Arena demolished

Circus Disco was the oldest and oldest LGBTQ+ Latino nightclub in Los Angeles. For 40 years, it was not only a place to socialize and have fun, but also a sanctuary for the Latino LGBTQ community to develop a sense of identity, community, and social support.

Arena was also a safe space for LGBTQ+ Latinos.

But in 2014, La Pietra petitioned the Los Angeles City Council to rezone his six-acre property from industrial to residential and commercial, with plans for a mega-condo development.

The board unanimously approved the change, sealing the clubs’ fate. La Pietra sold the property for around $75 million to a developer who would demolish the two clubs and build over 750 luxury condominiums.

Both clubs had their last dances on December 31, 2015. They closed on January 1, 2016.

“Arena A House Musical” will conclude on July 17 at CASA 0101 Theater. Tickets are $35 for general admission, $30 for students and seniors, $25 for Boyle Heights residents with ID, and $75 for VIPs.

The play includes adult and nudity themes and is recommended for ages 17 and older.

Jerry C. Greiner