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, October 30, 2005

Anne Murray 10-29-2005

Anne Murray: Concert Comfortable at Cerritos

By Glen Creason

There comes a time in any person’s life, particularly ones from my generation when the last pretensions of cool vanish like steam off a hot rock. When this stage of maturity strikes we get to stop going to dry art films, watching PBS historical dramas and pretending not to like “Middle of the Road” pop music. Certainly, the grand empress of MOR is Anne Murray, the Canadian songstress with a string of hits and albums as long as the St. Lawrence Seaway. I like to think of Anne Murray’s versions of songs as comfortable and easy on the ears, which seems to be very popular in these parts. A jam-packed crowd loved every note at Cerritos and responded with much love, which the lady sent right back at them with two dozen of her best. Comfort music may be like comfort food, which most folks prefer to be honest. What would you like more, the lamb kidneys in balsamic vinegar sauce and buckwheat groats or meat loaf and mashed potatoes? Then again, Anne Murray ain’t chopped liver and her elegant outfits and charming, droll stage presence made for a very nice evening of song on Saturday night.
The band, like Anne Murray is not flashy but quite talented especially guitarists Aidan Mason and Georges Hebert plus unique pianist/musical director Steve Sexton. They were joined by the lush Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts Orchestra who offered an added touch of class to the proceedings. The early going was easy going with sweet versions of “I Just Fall In Love Again,” “Shadows in the Moonlight,” and a crisp “Dream a Little Dream of Me.” The music was broken up and so was the audience when the singer read some very amusing “fan” e-mail, which suggested that she was Secretary of the Treasury of Canada and her songs were sweetly soporific. The banter throughout showed the Murray ease on stage and gentle wit. There were some edges in “Somebody’s Knockin’,” and “Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About,” but an unplugged portion of the set offered several wonderful oldies like “Love Song,” “California Dreaming” and a pair of kids songs “Teddy bears Picnic” and “Hey Daddy.” One of the high points of the show was the gripping “Little Good News” followed up by Anne Murray’s four-star trademark “Snowbird” which had the faithful on their feet with the first of three standing ovations.
The second half of the concert had a country flavor starting with a medley that included “Oh Lonesome Me, “ “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “Make the World Go Away,” Skeeter Davis’ “End of the World” “Sea of Heartbreak” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight.” Part of Ms. Murray’s long, successful career is her good taste in songs which was further evidenced by the 50’s stalwart “Singing the Blues” and an unlikely 60’s gem “Daydream Believer.” The best of the best were her beautiful readings of the powerful “Time Don’t Run Out on Me” followed by an absolutely perfect “You Needed Me” that saw her extend her range with beautiful results.“Could I Have This Dance” drew everybody up for the second time and encores of “Danny’s Song” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” gave rise to one more standing ovation, finishing a night of comfortably delightful music.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Chi' Chinese Acrobats Oct. 22, 2005

Chi’ Chinese Acrobats at Cerritos: On Balance: Amazing

By Glen Creason

The first thought I have in describing the visit of “Chi’ Chinese Acrobats” to the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts is how to avoid saying the word amazing a hundred times. Attending with family, including my Mom who has as many years as keys on a piano we all gazed like wide-eyed kids at the performance on Saturday evening. The Chi’ in their name is derived from the Taoist philosophy and the principal of balance in the universe. This is at the center of seventeen portions of acrobat amazements, which the troupe makes look easy, but certainly are the product of years of intensive practice and study. The program is varied and fast-paced but the second level of their art is that no one seems to sweat and the few minor misses were swamped by dozens and dozens of split second timing maneuvers that boggled the senses of the large audience. All of this was presented in a modern, rather dazzling setting filled with inventive lighting, stark music, dramatic sets and bold costuming.
There are forty members under the direction of leader Liu Chun Jie who never seem to slow under a brisk trot while taking on the performance area that in this case meant almost the way to the ceiling of the center. The opening gambits of “zhong fan,” a “group contortion” and “Spanish web” showcased the ensemble but when the ladies juggled large parasols with their feet, crisply defying mortal potential the show began to take on a dramatic tension that continued to its conclusion around two hours later. The “hoop diving” demanded tremendous athletic abilities from the men, including some NBA quality hops in reaching hoops about rim level on a basketball court. They were not dunking but diving through these hoops. There were seven women spinning eight plates each as they gracefully danced a delicate and flawless choreography. Fifty-six plates! That’s near the number my daughter left in the sink on my last vacation. There was the astounding balance of a beautiful lady balancing six glasses of wine on glass panes while holding the pole in her mouth and swinging on a trapeze. Really! The first half ended with thirteen acrobats riding on one small bike. I can recall our own record on the old Schwinn at maybe three. Intermission allowed us to settle down a bit but the second half was just more senses defying anti-gravity. My personal favorites were the seemingly effortless scaling and sliding up and down of poles while stopping on a dime inches from the floor and giving nine Yuan change. There was also the nerve-racking seven chairs plus platform stack and balanced done to perfection Also, an utterly charming beauty flipping metal bowls from her feet to the top of her head while riding a flimsy unicycle. One of the trademark sets is the “silk robe” which is an enchanting display of female strength, stamina and grace done while spinning up and down a thirty foot length of silk material. In the crowd, children, their parents and octogenarians gazed, mesmerized by the machinations of these acrobats from far off China all thinking basically the same thing: Amazing!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Best Little Whorehouse in Texas Jan. 15, 2005

Welcome to Cerritos: “the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”

By Glen Creason

More than twenty-five years have passed since an offbeat musical called “the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” took Broadway by storm and productions have come and gone anonymously like patrons of such establishments over the past couple of decades. While the focus and dialogue of this comedy are light and humorous with tongue held firmly in cheek the Park Avenue Group production seen at Cerritos over the weekend really hit the spot. With moral hypocrisy running rampant today and holier than thou folk jumping to their feet in some of the darndest places Larry L. King’s sweet little farce seemed deliciously appropriate to the time. The story is as old as the world’s oldest profession but “Best Little…” throws in some fine music and hee haw foot stomping to cowboy boot. The ladies of the evening at the Chicken Ranch outside of a Texas town maintain standards of civility and comportment that make them more hostesses than, well, whores. While the play is quite earthy and the cast is made up of gorgeous, scantily clad women you do end up empathizing with them and understand the reasons why they are there and why they find a home in a brothel. There is a real sisterhood here and no one seems to get hurt or abused. Of course, this IS a musical but the point is made that this is a place of victimless crime which is allowed to flourish with the unofficial blessing of local politicians and law enforcement. After all, it is “the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”
At the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts the musical was held together with two strong lynch pins in Tori Lynn Palazola as Miss Mona, the madam with a soft heart and Gary Kimble as the tough but pragmatic Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd. There is the understated love story between the profane old Sheriff and the never quite legitimate businesswoman that ends up being touching and funny. Miss Palazola carried off her role with great sympathy and an excellent country voice that shone on numbers like “Girl, You’re a Woman Now” and the bittersweet “Bus from Amarillo” that gave rise to genuine sniffles in a show devoted mostly to ogling and uproarious laughter. Kimble gave us a sheriff with leather toughness yet a glint of romance under the Stetson hat her wore throughout. Truthfully, he had the best lines by far but he always hit those dead on, getting genuine horse-laughs from the full house. Surprisingly his singing of the key ballad “Good Old Girl” was perfect, full of texture and emotion. Meme as Jewel also proved be an added joy with an impressive voice and presence that made her role bigger than the character normally would command. Aaron Fuksa took on the difficult role as Melvin P. Thorpe, the hypocritical philistine who sets out to throttle the joy out of this landmark establishment and ends up succeeding in his phony puritan pursuit. Fuksa was unctuous and worthy of the hisses from the audience at play’s end that demonstrated his successful work as the villain of the piece. Lastly, the girls were splendid: prancing, dancing and raising the pulses of certain audience members. Sweet faced Angie Blocher as “Shy” and Melissa D’Amico as Angel were up to their important roles and the ensemble number of “Hard Candy Christmas” lead by Angel was indeed one to remember.
In the end, the naysayers and false prophets bring down the “Best Little…” but not before the girls and Miss Mona show them to be the really and truly evil ones.

Gregory Popovich Jan. 15, 2005

The Genius of Gregory Popovich

By Glen Creason

I never saw Michelangelo lay back and paint on the Sistine ceiling, I did not watch as Beethoven created his 9th symphony nor did I dip the quill for old Will Shakespeare as he put pen to folio. I know these artists to be geniuses by their work but I did not live when they worked. I can only admire from afar and place them in a pantheon of greats that most certainly has not been added to in centuries. That is until today. While I can only guess at the struggle to achieve great art I have seen it and felt it and smelled it as of this week. I saw it with my own eyes, I petted it! I did witness on Saturday evening in the beautiful and quaint Marjorie Luke Theater in old Santa Barbara the work of a man so towering in his discipline and art that I can only liken him to the pillars of the artistic world: Michelangelo, Beethoven, Da Vinci, Shakespeare, Mozart, and Popovich.
Yes, Gregory Popovich, a giant among men and animals, a maestro whom I feel too humble to even mention in my pathetic ramblings. Yet I must, I must tell the world. An artist of such towering genius that one can only assume that he was sent here by God to perform this work, this holy order, this unthinkably impossible task that has defeated the brightest and the best. Gregory Popovich, juggler, clown, magician and ponderer of the impossible has trained cats! Yes, trained the pointy-eared masters of humanity. Those brutes who have ruled us with an iron paw for all these many years from the time of the ratters of Thebes to the imperious paw of my own Perkins in the Twenty-first century. It is our lot, I have assumed, to serve them and obey but Popovich plays a tune called “the World Turned Upside Down” and the little felines climb, bound, and look adorably innocent as they scale ten foot poles, ride train cars, push strollers and jump from human to platforms revolving around a scary kitty-cat solar system in the sky.
Yes, these are genuine felines, those who groom their flanks when time permits, little furry wonders who would normally be napping and demanding crunchies at bowls somewhere in human-land. Under Popovich’s hypnotic spell they are not spooked by a thousand howling and awwwwing Homo sapiens including around eight-hundred children who would most certainly swing them by their tails if they had half a chance. Despite the mauling of hordes of children and a scattering of adults the cats sat on Gregory the Great’s shoulders as he hawked videos and programs (even Shakespeare asked for a few farthings from the groundlings!) in the lobby after this awe inspiring performance. I heard there were even some adults who came without children which seems preposterous but may be true. The show cruised pleasantly on past the one hour mark but in the last fifteen minutes we saw things we will never forget. Outstanding in this assemblage of the finest felixidae thespians was an inky auteur that darted across the stage with insouciant aplomb several times to the great amusement of the assembled hordes. Yet one dozen brave and bold be-furred thrill-seekers have allowed Master Gregory to join them into the most potent dramatic force performing in front of of world’s footlights. I doubt I will ever, ever see the likes of this again. Bravo Maestro Popovich, you have scaled a height much higher than Everest, you have tamed natures most untamable beast.

Crusaders Jan. 29, 2005

Crusaders and One at Cerritos Center

By Glen Creason

The Crusaders conquered the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday night with a group of musicians so polished and professional it was easy to take excellence for granted. Cruising on all six cylinders the sextet lead by originals Wilton Felder on sax and Joe Sample on keyboards roared through a first half of sounds defying their “smooth” designation on charts. Ray Parker Jr. on guitar and trombonist Stephen Baxter are not O.G’s but vital members along with Kendrick Scott on drums and strong bass man Nick Sample. Joe Sample is the clear leader and his charming patter aided the cause of cool from the first solid notes to the reluctant farewell amidst ecstatic applause of “the Thrill Is Gone” which was only true in the lyrics.
The veteran group could teach lessons on team play to the Lakers as no one man took the center stage and all performed beautifully. On “Creepin” Wilton Felder’s sensual, kinetic sax carried the tune but on “I Felt the Love” Joe Sample’s piano was an electric current charging up the band and crowd. “So Far Away” started out smooth but got nice and rough thanks to the trombone/sax interplay. High points were certainly “Way Back Home” which was alternately dreamy then exhilarating and the stirring guitar work by Ray Parker Jr. on “Put It Where You Want It” which really swung and provided probably the high point of the show to that point. All of the Crusader’s work was good and plenty and plenty good throughout.
Then something extra special happened with the arrival of Randy Crawford to the microphone and part two of the concert took off like a rocket ship filled with soulful emotion. The dynamic yet diminutive darling of Cerritos on this night was Ms. Crawford who put on a clinic in vocal artistry. Far from the vocal trapeze somersaulters of modern times Randy Crawford knows how to treat a lyric and just how much to hold a note until the listener feels the song. “Rio de Janeiro Blue” got the joint a little warm but “One Day I’ll Fly Away” just left a warm glow on the enraptured house. “Soul Shadows” had a sweet, percolating sensuality in a funk mode and “Street Life” caused such an audience commotion you just knew La Crawford could do no wrong. Everything she touched with her pipes on this night turned to gold. Closing her eyes, gathering her thoughts getting a deep feeling of the music she then translated this into her restrained, emotional style of singing. Truly amazing was her passionate reading of the John Lennon classic “Imagine” which got a crowd thinking, feeling and really getting the perfectly topical meaning of the song. The explosive applause at its conclusion was thrilling. This was a hip, very enthusiastic, talking back, feeling the music crowd that spurred the group and singer on to higher heights as in the closing rush of encores including a non-too mournful “the Thrill Is Gone.” The Crusaders conquered at Cerritos but Randy Crawford won the hearts on this nice night of not all that smooth jazz at the Center.

Firesign Theater Feb. 5, 2005

Firesign Theater: Hand Me the Pliars at Cerritos By Glen Creason

As sad as it is to remember it was 35 years ago that I sat cross-legged on a dorm room floor in historic Weyburn Hall and listened to my first “Firesign Theater” album. It seems that almost any party featured at least a slice of “Don’t Crush That Dwarf” or “I Think We’re All Bozos on This Bus” while all of my pals shouted punchlines and inhaled the fumes of the late sixties. Phrases such as “squeeze the wheeze,” “groat cakes again!” and places called Cunegonde have survived these four decades and are entered in indelible ink on the pages of our now graying memories. Firesign may have been four guys named Phil Austin, Peter Bergman, David Ossman and Phil Proctor but we knew and loved them as Nick Danger, Officer Bradshaw, Eleanor and Lilly Lamont. They were the best part of the counter-culture’s assault on normality, so far past the bounds of the status quo that it delights today to remember just how crazily unique their routines unfolded.
Still, lots of stuff from the sixties seemed cool then and now don’t look so great under our bifocals. Skin tight pants, sleeping on the floor of crash pads, smoking, hitch-hiking and ear-splitting music come to mind. If you remember the smells of a be-in you can identify I’m sure. Anyway, “Firesign Theater” came to the Performing Arts Center on Saturday night and we had to be there to see and hear it. Those of us now on the dark side of 50 with our white hair (if we still have any) and broadened horizons so to speak were more than curious about how the boys would fare in today’s strange times.
The good news is that the group performed mostly new material and by George they still have it. At first it seems a little strained as the audience had precious few familiar lines to shout back at the performers but soon they got wrapped up in the weirdness that is the fabric of the guys’ humor. The few times when they did go back to the old stuff the hard core fans sat up in their chairs and repeated nuances that bolted out of the subconscious like creatures from the deep sea. The bad news is that if you weren’t there in the beginning through the thickets of off-beat sound effects and characters you probably wouldn’t have a clue what this was all about (right Amy?!) This time we began in a place called Bilville and raced through routines as offbeat and unexplainable as ever. There was the obvious Martha Blueitt, some particularly hilarious school menus, “Reverend Me” lampooning TV preachers, a soap called “Lawyer’s Hospital” and the smooth Hind’s Travelogue” that took us places unmapped in reality. “The Upstage Players” twisted Shakespeare, “Radio Now” gave us “rat in a box” and old pal “Ralph ‘Spoiledsport” the familiar car huckster brought back some dusty old memories. Liverface the butcher made an appearance, ditto Uncle Pharoah, Yves St. Stool and dear darling Nick Danger held court to the final gun. Despite the far fetched premises and wildly original situations there were messages in the tom-foolery including the absurdity of making war, chasing money and trying to buy creativity. Despite scrutiny the boys haven’t faced since Kenny Jones’ probing interview back in the day “Firesign Theater” was up to the task of laughter, the kind of clever, insightful and absolutely unparalleled craziness that has not been heard for many a moon. We left singing a song and remembering better days. “Porgy Tirebiter! He's a spy and a girl delighter, Orgie Firefighter! He's just a student like you. If you're looking for a Captain of the Ringball Team, You can bet he won't be there. You'll find him pa-popping off at Pop's Sodium Shoppe, Tr-trailing a red, with red hair. Doobie doo-wah... Porgy Tirebiter! Just a student like you! (PORGY:) "Like me?!" Just a student like you! (Father:) "Stop singing and finish your homework !" Just a student like you! ooooooooooo..."

Manhattan Transfer Feb. 19, 2005

Manhattan Transfer: Steady On and On

By Glen Creason

It’s funny that the Manhattan Transfer has been doing what they do for more than a quarter of a century and are still at the top of their game. That sporting slant at popular music is a hybrid of four part Jazz harmony applied to songs from assorted genres, particularly some classic, up-tempo songs from America’s native musical form called everything from Be-Bop to Progressive Jazz. Whatever box you put the music in the Transfer takes it out and chisels it into a song sculpture suited to their particular talents. Vocalese is one of those talents in which the group uses the human voice like a musical instrument, striking the notes with briskness and precision that is often too fast to separate but quite enjoyable to hear. When they get in the groove they can be truly great and for the most part at Cerritos they had it going on.
The foursome, with a strong quartet behind them came out vocalese-ing with a lickety-split “Doodlin’” blended straight up into “Stomp of King Porter” in which the best moments belonged to the ladies Cheryl Bentyne and especially Janis Siegel. It really helps that the band has the extremely versatile and accomplished Yaron Gershovsky directing the quartet while playing superb piano solos which spice up each and every song. Their “Route 66” was well paved and smooth at a tempo well beneath the normal speed limit and “Candy” was very nice, sweet without being saccharine. Janis Siegel continued to shine using her pipes as a trumpet in “a Tisket a Tasket” that really swung. The charged up “Stompin’ at the Mahogany Hall” and “the Joint Is Jumpin'’” set the tone for a high energy second half.
While the curtain raising set was very good the post intermission offerings bordered on sensational. More eclectic material and certainly tighter harmonies got the audience involved and focused on the bigger musical picture. The old Rascal’s gem “Groovin’” never sounded so good and both Rufus Wainwright pieces “My Phone Is on Vibrate for You” and “Greek Song” showed the band growing and changing with the times gracefully. They took chances, danced over near the edge and won over the house that had come to hear them play their many” hits.” Adding a superb cellist from New York whose name was drowned out by the copious applause was a beautiful touch. The lovely lady’s sweet sound elevated everything she touched and made one long for more. “Walking in New York” from Manhattan Transfer’s latest CD demonstrated the longevity of their appeal with fluid singing and plenty of passion. This band works hard and takes the music to heart. To please the three decades worth of believers who had gathered at the Performing Arts Center they busted off a seriously swinging chunk of their oldies and still goodies at the finish. “Operator” was awesome, “Tweet, Tweet” really flew, “Do You Believe in Jazz” made believers out of everybody and “Birdland” was way more than fine. Standing O’s and encores just added more glimmer to the Manhattan Transfer’s luster.

Harlem Gospel Choir Feb. 26, 2005

Lifted Up by the Harlem Gospel Choir at Cerritos

By Glen Creason

"Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise" (Psalm 98:4).

We’ve heard some mighty fine gospel singing at Cerritos in the past and have felt an elevation of the spirit a few times before in the great cathedral, er hall. Still, the visit of the Harlem Gospel Choir this week was special and sanctified by the energy and pure inspired singing of this talented ensemble from NYC. Allen Bailey’s near twenty year journey from Harlem finally landed the ten singers and three man band in the Performing Arts Center on a totally appropriate Sunday. They made for some roof-shaking, soul-warming music done with a fervor that belied its spiritual roots. Each member of the troupe had their chance to shine and each kept the praise and energy high while once in a while dipping into the audience/slash congregation for help.
Sister Tiffany brought church to order with the show commencing “This Is the Day” and opened some eyes and ears alongside the crisp choir harmony and colorful costumes shining from the crowded stage. Brother Craig began a trend of visiting the folks in the hall on “I Believe I Can Fly” while strolling from section to section, bonding with the faithful and crooning most sweetly.
The utterly electrifying Sister Marshette just tore the place up with a high-octane “Man from Galilee” utilizing a strength of voice that could have been heard on old Mt. Hebron. Along the way some very brave audience participators raised arms and wavering voices for the lord.
A set of spirituals settled nicely including a fiery “Ride on King Jesus,” the always wise “Down by the Riverside” and “This Little Light of Mine” that shined from upper balcony to the back of the stage. The Harlem Gospel Choir is comprised of an all-star team of church singers from that part of New York and these men and women are very, very good. The second half of the show didn’t require much seat-time for the exuberant crowd who danced and shouted their refrains to the up-tempo thrills of “Joyful, Joyful,” with Sister Joshua’s elevating vocal and Brother Eric’s touch of gospel rap. “O Happy Day” was sweetened by Sister Sister Tammy’s singing, the good-natured Nancy joining from the first rows and pretty ten year old Margie getting a scarf in commemoration of the fund for the children. There was also the show closing thrills and chills of “I Get Joy” that sent people into the winter afternoon with a nice glow on. Highlights in the wonderful closing chapters was the country preacher’s blues-shouting stylings on “I Know Jesus” and the secular made sacred on the group’s very own “Celebration” with a stage packed with audience including local luminaries gripped by the spirit. This was the first visit to the Performing Arts Center for the HGC but it looks like they have made a convert or two thousand. Allen Bailey and his Harlem Gospel Choir made a joyful noise, they made an agreeably loud noise, and they rejoiced, and sang praise.

Dave Barry April 2, 2005

Dave Barry at Cerritos: I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP!!!”

by Glen Creason

One of the funniest human beings on planet earth visited the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts over the weekend. Dave Barry, once of the Miami Herald newspaper, author of numerous books and Pulitzer prize winner seems as ordinary as a suburban mall until he opens his mouth or sits down to a word processor. Using his weekly syndicated column as a springboard he has taken mundane, everyday living situations and turned them into hilarious vignettes that folks will be laughing about when Baby Boomers are as vanished as the mastodons. In the tradition of Mark Twain or Will Rogers Barry looks at the weirdness of American culture and gently smudges the veneer of normality that glosses families, towns, regions and the whole country. Mostly, he stays in his house and peeks out at the strange happenings that fill the news. It is not so much the journey of the tale but the observations, wit and bemusement he finds there that fills his stuff with genuine comic genius.
At Cerritos he caused much mirth and left us plenty of stories to tell our friends. Much of it was from columns or books but the fresh telling made the corners of our mouths turn upward and those frown lines disappear. Examples: how stupid the family of Lassie appeared on the TV show, having a little boy whose name changed from season to season without anyone noticing, who fell into quicksand repeatedly, who never seemed to learn, depending on a dog to bail them out week after week. He followed this canine thread about his dumb dogs who, after a hurricane demolished the back patio still stood at the one standing item, the back door, waiting to go out. He talked about public perception of California “where crazed celebrities have highly publicized trials and get off Scott free.” Also Miami who he insists has a new motto “we weren’t shooting at you, honest!” He offered advise on parenting also. To achieve correction of any behavior with teens, just threaten to sing in public. This segued into the time he had the opportunity to pick up his then 13 year old in the Weinermobile.
Barry spent most of his time in his South Florida home writing but there were times when his readers coaxed him out. North Dakota riled about his comments about their possible name chance named a sewage treatment center after him. There was also an experience with first lady Barbara Bush back when and his inability to keep his foot out of his mouth. THE funniest section for me was his bit on turning 50 and those first letters from AARP. He uncovered the medical fact that after reaching that milestone age the lobe controlling nouns disappears and we are left attempting to describe stories as “you know that guy, the one who was over there, you know doing that stuff.” He told the really hilarious tale of the beached, dead whale in Oregon and the misguided attempt to blow up the carcass with dynamite. He shouted that he didn’t care if Social Security ran out of money and young people didn’t get theirs, "it’s revenge for Hip Hop" he gleefully pointed out. Lastly, there was the wonderful description of the differences in the talents of man and woman. He marveled at the intelligence and wisdom of females who could actually watch an entire hour of television without once changing the channel. On he went describing burning underpants with a roller disco Barbie, the travails of the 60’s, the plot of electricity, a puking record in an F-16, blog mania and playing in a band with Stephen King. I don’t think the hall has had such a great, cleansing laugh since Bill Cosby’s last visit.

David Sanborn/ Craig Chaquico August 26, 2005

David Sanborn and Craig Chaquico at Cerritos:
Loud and Proud

By Glen Creason

As usual, there was not a speck of dust on the glittering Performing Arts Center as I commenced my twelfth season of musical joy under the cool flags of Cerritos. Then again, if there was any evident on Friday night it would have been blasted off by high volume sound that belied the title smooth jazz as was billed in the David Sanborn and Craig Chaquico pairing of Friday evening. It’s not that they both were not terrific but they were loud; loud like hard rock loud; like ear-plugs loud; like all Baby Boomers could hear every note loud. Perhaps the intimation that contemporary jazz means wandering, low-pressure noodling drove them to pump it up but they had the sounds ripping and much of the audience rocking at this show.
Chaquico opened and pretty much stole the show with his affable stage presence and guitar virtuosity. His strengths are built from decades of performance as a prodigy for Jefferson Starship and then for the past ten years as a very popular “smooth” jazz instrumentalist. After a flashy intro with samples of phone messages, electronic blurts and ethereal forest ambient noise Chaquico got down to business with “Jazz Noon” that opened a few ears and ear plug packages but showed his exuberant and joyful style. Chaquico often plays off his fine band lead by extraordinary sax-man Kevin Paladini, keyboardist Ozzie Ahlers and one fine drummer named Wade Olsen. His second number traveled “any road that doesn’t lead to work” which struck a resonant chord with me and was followed by the sweet groove of “Dream Date” filled with humor and intricate interplay within the group. “Autumn Blue” may have been the sets best, with Paladini shining brightly and Chaquico giving tribute to his father by playing this one with strong emotion. “Return of the Eagle” was a journey of exploration that made that bird fly inside the hall and “Gathering of the Tribes” alongside Ozzie Ahler’s “Equinox” expanded the space with guitar notes like stars in the sky of the Chaquico constellation. “Find Your Way Back” harkened back to the Starship days and gave the artist a chance to meet the assembled face to face as he took a stroll around the orchestra seats flashing smiles and notes.
David Sanborn gave the Cerritos faithful more long, strong and well amplified sounds coming out of the chute with Herbie Mann’s old gem “Comin’ Home Baby” and “Full House” that showed the sax-maestro and Sanborn band to be in fine fettle. Sanborn’s tone is strong, well-measured and straightforward as he demonstrated in the lyrical “Macudo” and the evening highlight of “Chicago Song” which blew away the crowd in a tribute to the Windy city. They broke stride momentarily with the ethereal, dreamy “Lisa” but galloped to the finish line with a rollicking version of King Curtis’ “Soul Serenade” and an encore of “the Dream” that instead of reflecting its subject matter raised the temperatures in the hall markedly. Sanborn was more than ably assisted by the wondrous organ playing of Rickey Peterson who with superb bassist Christian McBride and quietly sensational guitarist Nick Moroch performed their own concert alongside the fluid alto sax of the headliner.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Doc Watson Hills and Home October 8, 2005

Doc Watson at Cerritos: a Happy Hills and Homecoming
By Glen Creason

The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts was the place of delighted celebration of real country music done by the grand masters this last lucky Saturday. The show is called Hills and Home which connotes the music that hails from Appalachia near the boyhood roots of this night’s hero. This was planned as a musical stroll in those lands down yonder with the music sometimes called bluegrass but this evening went further than those green hills. Doc Watson, a genuine, bona fide, national treasure as in deserves to have his picture on our money, made a rare visit and spread some sweet down home sounds to the locals. Arthel Watson, mostly called Doc and his folksy approach plus tremendous musical gifts is one of the most beloved performers in America. A visit from the flat-picking guitar genius to our hall is an honor and a great privilege but he did not sport any laurels he did not earn on this night. Joined by the very talented, in his own right, David Holt and grandson Richard, Doc played, sang, told stories and gave lessons in American musical history that sink deeper than a Southern Red Oak.
The first half of the show was a polished mix of classic country, bluegrass and blues tunes performed with a precision and passion made to look easy by these maestros. It was practically the contents of the jukebox in bluegrass heaven with “Way Downtown,” “Shady Grove,” “Little Log Cabin in the Lane” and “Soldiers Joy” leading the way. Doc told fascinating tales of his education and played in the styles of his influences like Fiddling John Carson, the Delmore Brothers, Etta Baker and the superb Merle Watson while drawing out the notes on “Deep River Blues” and bending them on “Railroad Bill.” David Holt had his times to shine especially on the perfect “Steel Guitar Blues” and a rollicking “Whiskey Before Breakfast.” Just to show he isn’t one-dimensional Doc got out his harmonica and did a beautiful “Rain Crow Bill” with a dazzling body percussion accompaniment by David Holt.
I may be prejudiced but as the son of a telephone operator I loved Doc’s “Telephone Girl” he learned from the family victrola back in the 30’s. The second half was a daring mixture of blues and country but the most astounding four minutes was Doc Watson playing a stirring and very well received version of the Moody Blues pop hit “Nights in White Satin.” It never sounded so good. Mitch Greenhill joined the group along with Richard Watson and the concert took a bluesy turn toward “Bright Lights, Big City,” Willie Dixon’s “I’m Ready,” and “Big Boss Man” sandwiched around a sturdy “Workingman’s Blues.” Grandson Richard led the way on a lovely duet of “Summertime” that resonated through the awed hall. For a very solid two hours Doc Watson played with strength of voice and hand that defied his eighty-two years. His finish of “I Am a Pilgrim,” “Walk On,” “Trouble In Mind,” a sterling “Black Mountain Rag” and an encore of “I Can’t Be Satisfied” just offered further proof of Doc Watson’s towering genius and enduring dedication to his craft.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Will Rogers Follies Oct. 1, 2005

Will Rogers Follies at Cerritos: Never Met a Show This Good I Didn’t Like

By Glen Creason

The first leg of the ballyhooed Broadway series came to the Performing Arts Center over the weekend with a sensationally big and beautiful production of “the Will Rogers Follies.” If the quality, care, color and scale of this show are a portent of things to come, locals are in for Broadway musicals the way they do them on the great White Way. There was plenty of talent, energy, fine songs, oodles of gorgeous girls and some wonderful dance numbers on the big stage. This was an extravaganza that appeared to spare no expense in delivering the Cy Coleman score and Betty Comden plus Adolph Green lyrics to this celebration of the life of American humorist Will Rogers. The show was in very good hands from the direction/choreography of Steven Minning, Tony Walton's inventive sets, Mike Baldasarri’s artful lighting and Willa Kim’s stupendous costuming.
Rogers had a gentle humor, an easy-going approach that made him welcomed all across America and his experiences and observations have a familiar ring today. Played subtly by F. Michael Zaller the show’s Rogers is a humble vaudevillian that rises to places never dreamt of in his Oklahoma youth where he was taunted for having Indian blood. The narrative takes us through his early years in Wild West Shows, middle American music halls and finally to the Ziegfeld Follies where Rogers ends up being a virtual comedian laureate of the United States. We see an America coming of age as does Will then follow the testing of character presented by the stock market crash and great depression that present a much more serious role for Rogers in bringing the spirits of the nation up. All of this is served up with heaping helpings of wit, lavish dance numbers filled with many sweet, young hoofers and some songs to remember. Amy Decker as Betty Blake Rogers lead the way with her solid soprano on “My Unknown Someone,” “My Big Mistake,” and the memorable “No Man Left for Me.” Zaller did a fine job throughout but particularly on the poignant “Look Around” that certainly rang true for today. Keleen Snowgren shone as the sexy but sharp Ziegfeld’s Favorite and Chris McDaniel was strong as Roger’s pop. The show was boosted also by two unexpected turns: the superb Joanne Wilson and her trained pups that delighted all and the master trick roping in day-glo glory of Texas Jack Fullbright. Each was a wonderful show within the already fine show. While the production has much to offer in song I confess I greatly enjoyed the spectacular numbers filled with flawless pulchritude as in “the Ziegfeld Follies,” “the Powder Puff Ballet” and the feast for the eyes of “Presents for Mrs. Rogers.” Each of the lovely ladies represented a jewel presented to Mrs. Rogers while wearing a gown of impressive construction. Thus presenting a magnificent tableaux that boggled the gentlemen in attendance. In the end however, it was the words and wisdom of Will Rogers that lingered longest. The finale of his premature death but undying love for Betty left the audience with an appreciation for the man beyond the dazzle and dance.