Reviews of shows from the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts and other local venues published by the Los Cerritos Community News. The writer and paper are in their twentieth year of covering these events.

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Location: Fear City, Ca., United States

"My name is Addison DeWitt. My native habitat is the theater. In it I toil not, neither do I spin. I am a critic and commentator. I am essential to the theatre - as ants to a picnic, as the boll weevil to a cotton field." George Sanders in "All About Eve"

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Frank Ferrante in An Afternoon with Groucho April 13, 2014

An Afternoon With Groucho in Cerritos

    By Glen Creason

       Many folks in the very-full Sunday matinee performance of “An Afternoon with Groucho” were looking forward to re-connecting to their favorite comedian and re-living many of his funniest moments in a seven decade career that left him in a small handful of greats of American comedy.  Most of us hardly knew just how close that comedian would come to us, including making the audience very much a part of the act. Certainly part of the genius of the television era Groucho was his sharp-witted winning of the people watching from the seats in studio and at home.  The very entertaining show that came to our Cerritos was crafted by the extremely capable and polished hands and feet of Frank Ferrante who has been perfecting this performance piece since the 80’s when he was a drama student at USC. While folks were hungry to hear the old Groucho wit brought back to life, this afternoon show was actually far better than advertised.  This may be the last time I refer to Ferrante as his goal is to make you believe Groucho is back on stage again and the actor does the old and young man proud without being at all sentimental or sappy. Not only does he tell the story of the rise of the Marx brothers in small, colorful vignettes and dialogue from their shows in vaudeville and on the silver screen but he, like his mentor, is a master of ad-libbing.  The Groucho that came to Cerritos on this afternoon was very much in the 90703 and made the city a part of the celebration with hilarious results.  As a matter of fact he made the audience very important participants in the fun that included scolding a reviewer for taking such pathetic notes. Guilty as charged Julius.

     Fans did get to enjoy the great bon-mots from the films and heard the songs every Marx brothers aficionado know by heart like “Hello I Must Be Going,” “Everyone Says I Love You,” “Lydia the Tattooed Lady,” “Tit-willow” “Omaha Nebraska” and “Hooray for Captain Spaulding” which “Groucho” crooned in his very strong voice. Ferrante also used his physical comedy gifts to set up gags and make the Performing Arts stage like another scene from one of the classic Marx Brothers films. Yet, the very best bits in the show came from the superb timing and asides that were so essentially Groucho. It made you long to see this Groucho back at the mike of “You Bet Your Life” and when he bantered with the folks in the front row and a kid named Quentin you got a glimpse of the very true genius of one of America’s national treasures. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Norman Brown and Gerald Albright March 15, 2014

Norman Brown and Gerald Albright Fill It Up at Cerritos

               Glen Creason

     A full house in a festive mood greeted two master musicians on Saturday night and it might be a good thing they did not pay the men by the note because there were many, many thousands that ricocheted around the Performing Arts Center. Veterans of many a concert and musical  genre Norman Brown, the guitarist with the 78 rpm fingers and Gerald Albright, the saxophonist with the hurricane-like lungs filled it up while the well-dressed crowd rocked in rhythm all night.  Both men have plenty of soul and depth of musical understanding but the truly amazing part of this concert with the skill mixed with unreal stamina. Albright claimed to be AARP but he must be dipping his horn into the fountain of youth. Norman Brown heats that Eastman guitar up to white hot degrees.
     Norman Brown opened the show with some opening chords from “Shaft” and the concert then went all over the musical map with R&B, Blues, Pop, Jazz and Funk having destinations met in the mixed bag of fevered playing by both gents. He romped through “Love’s Holiday” from Earth Wind and Fire’s repertoire then visited the pretty hot smooth jazz of “After the Storm” with audience scat-participation. In a big 180 he moved through Jimi Hendrix’s “Who Knows” to “Keep It Movin’” with Gerald Albright engaging him in hot traded licks on their respective axes. Couples cuddled to “Any Love” and the first half closed with a brisk “Take a Ride.”
     Albright kept the pulses pounding in the his half especially in the wild “It’s a Man’s World,” which was followed by surprisingly high-octane “Bermuda Nights,” followed by the astoundingly fiery “Close to You” which put some hot sauce on the Carpenters song. In the finishing kick the romantic energy surged with “My My My,” a truly terrific “True Colors,” and with the help of the tireless Norman Brown “Champagne Life” which put the house on its feet where it stayed toward a grander conclusion.


Sunday, March 09, 2014

West Side Story March 8, 2014

    West Side Story Dances at Cerritos
                                     By Glen Creason

     It was eye-opening to see the fresh and energetic “West Side Story” that hit the stage at the Performing Arts Center over the weekend. Especially for those of us who learned and listened to the big-budget film made of the musical and the songs we have sung ever since. You would be hard-pressed to find a more powerhouse trinity than Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Jerome Robbins who wrote the music, lyrics and choreographed in that order. There is great genius at work here and the young cast at Cerritos did not squander the chance to prove the shows exalted pedigree.  Still, as played in the here and now the show does naturally bend more toward the women and is less a tragedy and more of a musical. Luckily, the women in this cast were extraordinarily good both singing and dancing. MaryJoanna Grisso was absolutely sensational with a powerful yet sweet soprano that made even familiar tunes like “Tonight,” “I Feel Pretty” and “Somewhere” celebrations of the songwriter’s art. Michelle Alves was terrific, lighting up the stage in every minute she held court and youthful Jarrod Biron Green was convincing and very sympathetic as the star-crossed Tony whose love for Maria transcends even his terrible mistake made in a moment of passion.  Alexander Cruz as Bolo was both stylish and strong in the demanding role of the Puerto Rican gang-leader who must stand up to the racism thrust at him and his immigrant community.

     Still, the real stars of this show were the entire cast since the dancing is at the heart of telling this modern day rendering of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Choreographer Joey McNeeley was masterful in recreating Jerome Robbins masterpiece of dance without once showing a molecule of age on the extremely fine ensemble numbers. Director David Saint kept the show very true to the classic original but left room for the exuberant young cast to express their take on the telling of this age old tale. With a live orchestra, interesting sets and costumes the production really left very little to be desired. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Boz Scaggs February 14, 2014

                       Boz Scaggs: What Can I Say
                                     By Glen Creason

     You really have to hand it to Boz Scaggs. He started decades ago  as a rhythm playing rock and roll guitarist, then went solo as a polyester-clad crooner, then a “white-soul singer, then back to a blues man-guitarist and now just a fearless and  cool old veteran who knows how to entertain a big auditorium.  That he did in Cerritos before a packed house of fans that grooved on the hits from the 70’s but also patiently absorbed his new material that showed he has only improved with age. Wish we could all say that.  He gave the people what they wanted with “Georgia,” “Lowdown,” “Lido Shuffle,”“What Can I Say” and the lesser performed “Sierra” from those crooning years and it sounded just like it did booming from our Pioneer speakers back in the days of cuffed baggies and platform shows.  He also showed his versatility by throwing in a sweet cover of “Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl,” a really delicate and fine “Corrina Corrina” along with a bluesy “Dry Spell” which matched the weather outside.
     Yet, the proof of Scaggs’ long experience and supreme confidence was to step on the stage with a band and back-up singer how had the capacity to make the audience forget who was the headliner. Singer Ms. Monet absolutely electrified the hall with high-voltage versions of Boz’s “Miss Sun” and two old soul faves “Thank You” and “Thank You Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin” that sounded much better than the original in my humble opinion.  He also turned loose guitarist Drew Zingg on a deeply delicious reading of the old Bobby Blue Bland song “Loan Me a Dime” that stood the house on its ear, its good ear. Boz Scaggs didn’t need to worry as he held his position as head man with some sweet guitar and vocals that don’t sound like a guy who has been at it for forty plus years.  A very happy crowd who stood and cheered long at the conclusion no doubt went home and pulled out their “Silk Degrees” and said again “what can I say?”

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Three Mo' Tenors February 8, 2014

Three Mo’ Tenors: Ten Kinds of Cool at Cerritos

        By Glen Creason

     The fine franchise of “Three Mo’ Tenors” started out as an offshoot of the very classical “Three Tenors” of Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and Jose Carrera who got folksy with audiences using their powerhouse pipes to surprisingly sing a pop song or two along with arias that sailed on the high C’s. The newest iteration of the Three Mo’s lets loose of the classical and while nodding at a couple of arias mostly allows the three gentlemen to showcase the powers of the tenor voice in ten separate genre. At Cerritos the esteemed tenors were Victor Robinson, Duane A. Moody and Phumizile Sojola who surprised and delighted a pretty full house at the Performing Arts Center.

     While the evening started with Verdi and Puccini it soon quickly moved toward Broadway and the Philadelphia Soul Sound with plenty of high notes and high spirits. Robinson sounded wonderful on “Bring Him Home” from “Les Miserables” and the trio joined in perfect harmony for the towering “Make Them Hear You” from the musical “Ragtime” that is exactly right for this show. There were no sour notes as the men gave their all to blues, pop, and R& B with more voice than you would be used to hearing. There was some sensational South African soul from Mister Sojola in “My Darling,” some “Paris Blues” and even a Queen medley that reached notes even Freddy Mercury might envy. Other sentimental journeys were tributes to Ray Charles and the great soul groups of the 60’s and 70’s including “Love Train,” “My Girl” and “La La Means I Love You” that hit the spot. Pianist Keith Burton kept it on point from one style to another moving easily from a funky “Midnight Train to Georgia” to soaring gospel sounds like a moving “Lord How Come Me Here” that proved to be the best of the entire show. However, Duane Moody stood the hall on its ear with his tour de force of “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired” that may have meant some folks did not need to go to church in the morning.  The show was finished by a reprise of the magnificent “Make Them Hear You” that was indeed heard in the big hall by all. 

Sunday, February 02, 2014

George Kahumoku Jr. and Da Ukulele Boyz with Ledward Kaapana February 1, 2014

George Kahumoku Jr. and the Ukulele Boy Make Cerritos Tropical Paradise
                          By Glen Creason

     This was truly one of the most exotic concerts in Cerritos history and a winner in all respects. While the music came from one of our fifty states it represented a culture that is actually little known here on the mainland except maybe for the many Hawaiians who filled up the Performing Arts Center for this long and sweet show. If you thought this might be like a Vegas style Hawaiian themed evening you would have another thought coming as this night gave us four superb musicians who were masters of the instruments that fully express Hawaiian culture. There was also down to earth hula dancing and a few tunes on the autoharp that made that complicated tool just perfect for these compositions. The first half was segmented with the Ukulele Boys, George Kahumoku and Ledward Kaapana each doing a mini-show that could have satisfied many an audience. However, this crowd was hungry for a Polynesian banquet and got almost three full hours of a musical feast.

       Da Ukulele Boyz really did start with a set you would hate to follow as they progressed from the levity of “Sweet Okole” to the lilting beauty of “Kapalina” to the best version of “Still the One” you will ever hear and a pulse-quickening “G-major Fleas” that brought a huge roar from the house. Headliner George Kahumoku didn’t seem to mind following these young powerhouses and his confidence was fully understood after his singing and playing of “Aloha Oe,” “Tutu Pele,” and “Hi’ ilawe” that was used in the film “the Descendants.” Maestro Ledward Kaapana followed with dazzling playing of “Kalapana,” “Sparkling Waters,” “Everybody Is Somebody’s Fool,” and a delightful slack key composition “Sleeping Shellfish.”  Really, the beginnings were a concert in themselves but the second half was very special indeed with all four musicians gathering on stage and riffing together in a sort of Hawaiian jam session that was deeply enjoyable for not only the delighted audience but the men in front of the footlights who glowed with Hawaiian happiness.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Tribute to Glenn Miller & Vocal Groups January 26,2014

Marvelous Memories in Four Part Harmony with the Tex Beneke Orchestra

                        By Glen Creason

     Wow! This was a concert that was like a triple-overtime playoff game before a sold-out stadium, except everyone playing had gray hair and looked very distinguished.  Actually this show was a fine vintage as in the still very sharp performers and  evergreen  big band vocal harmony songs that swung in excess of three hours of this matinee of dreams. Behind it all was the Tex Beneke Orchestra lead by Jim Snodgrass (Beneke died in 2000) who set up a sensational platform for four of the best vocal groups from what is now called “the swinging years” of Big Band music. The very happy audience murmured in gleeful appreciation whenever their old favorites flowed from the sweet horn sections which was quite often as some three dozen gold-plated beauties were performed in full or as parts of medleys. The vocal groups: the Ink Spots, the Modernaires, the Pied Pipers and the Four Aces were all tight in their harmonies and thoroughly capable to doing the old gems justice.  The show was further brightened by the light but effective comedy of M.C.  Robert G. Lee who gently ribbed  the mature demographic about the obvious that they might recognize the tunes being played on this afternoon.

     The music was splendid and was practically an audio Wikipedia of the greats of Glenn Miller including “String of Pearls, “ “Tuxedo Junction,” “Pennsylvania 65000,” “Sun Valley Jump,” and “In the Mood” that made the memories rise up in unison above the great hall.  The Ink Spots gave them “Java Jive,” “the Best Things in Life Are Free” and the always gorgeous “If I Didn’t Care” with lead tenor James Taylor hitting the high notes with ease.  The Modernaires went for the gold on “Kalamazoo,” “Moonlight Serenade” and a very swinging “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” The first half was a concert on its own but the second half was no letdown with the Pied Pipers adding more shine to the Glenn Miller repertoire and harkening back to the Sinatra days with “I’ll Never Smile Again,” “the Sunny Side of the Street” and “East of the Sun.” Lastly the Four Aces dealt nothing but winners that caused a few swoons in the still rapt house. Highlights included a silky smooth “3 Coins in a Fountain,” “Mister Sandman”and“Love Is a Many Splendored Thing.” For the three hours that the memories flowed inside the great hall, it was just like high school in the 1940’s or college in the 1950’s without a care in the world. Not a bad feeling, even for a youngster like me.