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"

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Ramsey Lewis and John Pizzarelli March 20, 2015

Cerritos Straightened Up and Flying Right

    By Glen Creason

    It was almost like the Performing Arts Center was built for the concert there on Friday night with two of the best musicians ever to stand (or sit) on the stage playing the music of one of the greatest Southern California based musicians ever to sing a sweet note. The truly great pianist Ramsey Lewis and the jazz-master John Pizzarelli make for a perfect pair to express the wonders of the intimate but exhilaratingly expressive Nat King Cole songbook that filled the hall on this evening with really memorable playing. Maestro Lewis has a talent so rare and refined that he can say a lot with little waste as he did for the show opening introduction to “Route 66” that seemed to cover every mile from Kingman to Pasadena. He looked dapper, like he had just came from the barber shop on his way to church but the man’s hands are ageless and when he explored “Hit That Jive Jack” playing the melody with his right hand and accompanying himself with his left the big Steinway & Sons grand piano just connected hearts all over the hall. On the other hand, John Pizzarelli not only played his Moll seven-string guitar like a master but provided the art of witty patter and a knowledge of Nat King Cole-iana that is encyclopedic. This thorough musicologial wisdom allowed the show to rise far above any tribute program  by mixing the chosen material between the familiar and beloved like “For Sentimental Reasons,” “Sweet Lorraine,” “Unforgettable” and “Straighten Up and Fly Right” to the delightful, forgotten gems like “Hit That Jive Jack,” “The Best Man,” and “Baby Baby All the Time” that turned out to be the peak performance in an evening of very tall musical mountains.  It certainly helped that the masters Lewis and Pizzarelli were ably abetted by the brilliantly inventive Joshua Ramos on bass and rock steady Charles “Rick” Heath on drums with both men keeping the sound pristine and perfect for the understated but perfectly pronounced vocals that Nat King Genius used to croon. Not only did the packed house get to enjoy some of the best playing ever in Cerritos, they left whistling great tunes and learning a lot about the labels, the songwriters,  the history of each song and plenty of laughs along the way. This was an experience that would lead any music lover into thanking their lucky stars that they were able to see and hear, in person a true genius of the piano with a master of the jazz guitar while enjoying music that will live until the polar ice caps melt.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

It's Magic March 15, 2015

It’s Magic…it really is

      By Glen Creason

      It is difficult to describe something that isn’t there as in the end result of many magic tricks but then again I have been writing reviews that sometimes disappear for quite some time now. Yet what was there on a Sunday in Cerritos was an embarrassment of magician riches all appearing and disappearing on the stage at the Performing Arts Center much to the delight of a pretty good-sized crowd that admired legerdemain and prestidigitation times five. This magic show as about a straight forward and simple as it comes except for the “tricks” that unfolded without as much as a hiccup during the full ninety minute banquet of old-fashioned magic the way they have been doing it at the Magic Castle in Hollywood for sixty odd years. There were half a dozen remarkable magic acts that were completely different except that they followed the rules of the art form so well not a soul in the audience had a clue as to how they were accomplished. Comedian Matt Marcy hosted and was spot on perfect, adding to the fun without ever staying too long or taking the show too seriously. Parts of the delight of any such show are the “volunteers” and at Cerritos there were many who will remain anonymous here even though they served well at this matinee.

     There was Mystina, the lone lady on the bill who used her graceful dancer’s physique to distract and perform in both black light and footlight including some amazing stuff with scarves and newspapers that were shredded or were they? Illusionist David Zirbel stood tall with some fine work with rings, and barrels full of beautiful magician’s assistants who appeared unscathed and disappeared quite magically.  Suave Danny Cole’s wardrobe was elegant and changing before our very eyes much to the amazement of those even a few feet away. The two-time magician of the year was flawless and in the grand tradition made it look effortless. For comedy relief juggler-comedian Dan Raspyni knocked out the house mostly with his self-effacing humor and use of audience participators while actually juggling like a thirty-year seasoned pro. Finally and certainly the grand finale was Mark Kalen and Jinger Leigh who performed classic illusions with aplomb and some wry humor. This did involve sawing ladies in half, swords passing through same and even levitation alongside the levity. A terrific show and now the disappearing review. 

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Buddy: the Buddy Holly Story March 6, 2015

Buddy: the Buddy Holly Story Turns Back the Cerritos Clock
                                                  By Glen Creason

      On a weekend when the clocks spin forward it was ironic that the musical on the Center for the Performing Arts stage spun it backwards delightfully fifty-six years.  The show that came here was top-rate with nostalgic sets and costumes, a solid sound system and strong performances from all over the cast. Certainly, many in this well-seasoned Cerritos audience remember hearing Buddy Holly’s irresistible sound coming out of their car radios back in those cruising days but to hear the songs live with modern technology was lots of fun and achingly evocative of a time we still cherish. As far as this production went on Friday night at Cerritos Todd Meredith as Buddy stood tall in his acting and playing to the point where you caught a glimpse at the young man who captivated America for a couple of years in the early days of rock and roll. The beauty of Holly’s amazing gift however is that his uncanny ability to write pop hooks with simple, straightforward lyrics allow them to survive to this day. Every song played in this show was a winner, each a half a century evergreen hit.  It helped this Buddy that he was surrounded by a fine supporting cast including Steve Steiner as High-Pockets, Jenny Stodd as the bereaved Maria Elena, Marianne Depietro in several roles, the acrobatic Bill Morey as bass-man-showman Joe B. Mauldin and Nathan Yates Douglass as the put-upon Norman Petty. Special mention should be made of the truly sensational efforts put forward by David Reeve throughout in his dancing and singing along with Eddie Maldonado who absolutely lit up the stage every time he gyrated upon it including two show stopping numbers “Shout” with Reeve and a super-heated La Bamba that would have Richie Valens smiling from beyond. Truthfully, Reeve and Maldonado took a good story with memorable songs and turned up the heat and added some chile to the banquet.  Yet, the real megastar of this show is the music of Buddy Holly who was a true genius of popular music, creating great stuff record after record after record until his young life was snuffed out in that terrible plane crash in Clear Lake Iowa back in 1959 on the day the music died.  This show makes sure the audience gets to remember why Buddy Holly brought rock and roll into the 60’s with songs like “That’ll Be the Day,” “Peggy Sue, “ “Words of Love,” “Every day,” “Well Alright,” “True Love Ways,” It’s So Easy” and the true to the spirit “Rave On.”

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Collin Raye and BJ Thomas January 31, 2015

Collin Raye and BJ Thomas Sing Them as They Should Be Sung

                       By Glen Creason

     While the house was full on Saturday night for a concert of  nostalgia there should have been more young singers in the house to listen to the masters demonstrate the art of vocalizing. Collin Raye and BJ Thomas never said as much but they represent an old-fashioned way of singing a song, with the lyrics and melody first and embellishments much later.  While both men have never strode the opera stage or performed before the footlights of Broadway they both have thousands of hours honing their craft and it shows from the first confident note to the last sweet sounds from the stage.
     Collin Raye opened the evening’s entertainment and should have easily carried any full concert but this show was like a box of Sees candy with your two favorites filling the concert of sweet delights. Raye may appear in the Country and Western section of a record store but he expands the genre quite a bit and really shines on sentimental ballads that are beyond any genre. He ran the gamut from the rollicking “Little Red Rodeo” and “That’s My Story and I’m Sticking to It” to the Kleenex eliciting “Little Rock,” “Still Feel You,” “In This Life,” and “If You Get There Before I Do” that increased precipitation in the hall by a few handkerchiefs. He also moved outside his own stuff to excellent covers of Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds” and twin Glenn Campbell glories “Gentle on My Mind” and the soaring “Galveston” that Raye made shine with his clear as a bell tenor. Finally, to reach way beyond his own oevre he even did a dramatic version of the One Direction song "The Story of My Life" and made it sound pretty good.  While this man may be most famous for hits in another decade he is one fine singer right today.

    Speaking of other decades, the concert was concluded by BJ Thomas whose evergreen baritone does not seem to have a speck of dust upon it, despite over fifty years of stretching his voice out over concert halls across the world.  Looking fit and rather elegant Thomas sailed easily through a dozen and a half winners from a fine career stretching back five decades, seeming to defy father time considering his first hits rang over the airwaves when I was a high school kid. This voice is one of a kind; relaxed yet able to leap tall buildings and flexible toward ballads or the kind of cautionary tales that make pop music an important part of American culture. He was at his best in those pop songs we remember: “Hooked on a Feeling,” “Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song.” “Little Green Apples,” “This Guys In Love With You” and the obligatory “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” that he made vibrate just like it was 1969 again. He also showed his experience and range when he ventured into R&B stuff like “Get Ready,” “Inside My Life” and the well-heated “Can’t Turn You Loose.” Thomas is helped along by a really fine band, led by amazing guitarist Tom Wild who wields a fender as well as any rock and roll player seen in these parts. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain January 24, 2015

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain: Indeed Amazing

                 By Glen Creason

     You have so much fun at a Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain concert that you sort of forget the solid musicianship and meticulous planning that goes into these sound extravaganzas that delight and educate the full houses that seem to follow them everywhere.  The Performing Arts Center was fortunate enough to have this wonderful ensemble for two dates which seems way too little for what they have to offer. You really would have to bring in a juke box to offer up the variety and inspiration the group offers with compositions from Jazz, R&B, Country, Folk, Music Hall, Pop, Disco, Punk, Blues, Funk and more that the eight person group play in such perfect harmony that it sounds like one celestial uke interpreting the joy in all music. The band has been together for thirty years and they sound about as tight as a pair of Southern California skinny jeans which no one in attendance was wearing for this show. What makes their concerts so much fun is that there is not one single, solitary shred of ennui on stage except the calculated kind and there are moments of pure harmonic ecstasy that you might expect at a rock concert or full orchestra playing a symphony.

     At Cerritos they culled from their huge song repertoire a couple of dozen winners interspersed with that trademark British drollery that in this circumstance seemed wholly appropriate.  There was what you might expect from ukuleles: the 1922 hit “Running Wild,” “Hot Tamales” once played by blues man Robert Johnson and a sizzling “Limehouse Blues” that really let the band to exercise their musical muscles. There were also tongue in cheek delights like David Bowie’s “Life on Mars,” Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” the BeeGees “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,” Dolly Parton’s “Joshua” and a high-octane “Shaft” that while fun,  got some heads a nodding in the hall. The glorious thing about the Ukulele Orchestra is that this team plays together so well the epiphanies sort of sneak up on you and you get so caught up in the music that five or ten or an hour and forty-five minutes vanish delightfully before your eyes and ears. When the group locks into something like Saint-Saens “Danse Macabre” or the silly exhilaration of “Song 2” or “Woo Hoo” as it is known you forget about ukuleles or the many very funny jokes and remember what makes music magical. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Camelot January 9, 2015

     Cerritos Become Camelot for an Evening

                                                                  By Glen Creason

    It’s impossible to see the musical Camelot and not whistle the theme for weeks if not months to come as the good-sized Cerritos crowd was doing on their ways to their cars after the healthy helping of the Lerner and Lowe classic on Friday evening.  The original Broadway run of the musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe carved an indelible mark in the popular imagination with Richard Burton, Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet lighting up the stage and performing on the cast album that topped the charts for over a year in the innocent years of the Kennedy administration.  Still, it is strange that this great musical is produced so rarely and especially around Southern California where Hollywood further solidified its place in the American consciousness by making a film that further glorifies the stage version with Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero. The show at Cerritos was surprising in a couple of ways since the memories of the songs and story goes back 45 years. First, it is very long and full of fine songs and a plot that turns from light-hearted to deeply tragic from the opening act to the last. This production was thoroughly serious with beautiful costumes, evocative sets, fascinating lighting, and a strong full orchestra on hand plus a little bit of an adjustment to the film theme that made the story modern and quite compelling.

        The cast here was very strong where it needed to be with Adam Grabau as King Arthur and Mary McNulty as Guinevere who gave the roles a touch of humanity enough to make the temptations of the flesh all that understandable. Both possessed strong voices and McNulty did a fine job on “the Simple Joys of Maidenhood” and the delicate “Before I Gaze at You Again” along with Grabau’s resolute “Camelot” that truly surpassed the film version. The very difficult task of Lancelot was well done by Tim Rogan who remained sympathetic despite his chivalry’s tiresomely rigid code of honor and finally his breaking toward intended adultery because of a powerful desire for Guinevere.  This production keeps the affair between the queen and the knight rather distant in an achingly unfulfilled way. When Rogan sings “If Ever I Would Leave You” all of his resolve to remain pure melts away and a few tears were dabbed in the audience. Mark Poppleton was excellent in the dual role of the garrulous King Pellinore and a rather grand Merlyn. Yet, the show was very much stolen by Kasidy Devlin as the evil bastard son Mordred who seemed to appear from somewhere deeply evil in the second act and absolutely lit up the stage with his understated yet unremitting devotion to destroying everything good and fine about Camelot. The show was tight and kept the audience guessing until Devlin came on board and sent it all up a very entertaining notch.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Dave Koz and Friends Christmas Tour 2014

          Koz at Cerritos for Christmas: a Welcome Tradition

                                                      By Glen Creason

     For seventeen seasons Dave Koz has brought a group of top entertainers to the Performing Arts Center to celebrate Christmas without ever producing a bag of coal for the fans who pack the joint each yuletide. This year he invited the electrifying Jonathon Butler, the surprisingly fresh Christopher Cross and newcomer Maysa with pipes almost bigger than the hall could hold. As a glittering ornament atop the concert Christmas tree the music was sweetened by the Musuca Children’s Choir. These kids made “Carol of the Bells” a beautiful beginning to an action packed show featuring a couple of dozen songs including the evergreens of the holidays brought forward in all manner of form including ensemble pieces and rousing solos. Much of the night was filled with light-hearted familiars as in “Let It Snow,” “Sleigh Ride,” “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” and a duet in the American Idol style of “This Christmas.” Each star was allowed a moment in the spotlight to step outside the holiday: Maysa performed her “Inside My Dream,” Jonathon Butler broke off from “O’ Holy Night” and into his gospel rave “You’re My Everything” and Christopher Cross played a medley from his unreal successes of 1981 that were like pulling the old sweater vest out of the closet and finding it stylish again.

     Of course, at the center of it all was the affable and awesomely talented Koz who good-naturedly bantered with his guests at every turn but stepped in to blow some pretty warm sax at exactly the right times. He also saluted his Jewish roots with the truly terrific “8 Candles” and even dashed off Adam Sandler’s “Chanukah Song.” There were very nice moments in the overall warmth of the show including Christopher Cross’ moving “We Will Remember You” to those serving in the military around the globe and a conclusion of having vets stand and take a bow. Also an admirable “Dream of Peace” with the kid’s choir that was as sweet as grandma’s divinity followed by some rather high voltage secular stuff including “Ride Like the Wind” by Cross that actually rode the Winter wind pretty hard.