Year End Elsie Awards
Ellsie Awards for Cerritos Center: 2005
By Glen Creason
“Time is a Circus, always packing up and moving away.” – Ben Hecht
The Ellsies are out for the past year at the Performing Arts Center and the illustrious awards laud some eighteen performances that stand above the rest for this troubled year of 2005. While the time held more than its share of sorrow and misery, especially in the path of Hurricane Katrina it had bright moments too, some on our little stage here in Cerritos. Certainly, the thrills and inspiration of my year in the great hall gave me the gumption to press on when all seemed rather dark. Once again the Performing Arts Center was able to show the local scene how to balance the productions on their stages and give us the tried and true along with the fledglings and future stars before their glimmer becomes a nova. Surprisingly, several of the best shows seen this year were done in front of smaller crowds which only served to make me lament the loss of locals in not giving the newer acts a try. The month of December was indeed a time rich with superb shows that slipped under the radar for a few. It is my fervent wish that the experts in the offices of the Center be congratulated and allowed to keep up the great work. Cerritos, as a city can be extremely proud of the tradition upheld here and the all important wisdom of the professional administrative staff at the Center. When you have people like the superb Lori Levine-Yonan and the sage of Center Drive: Michael Wolf in your corner you have a nucleus of unlimited potential. I also must tip my pen which scribbles in the darkness to the tirelessly positive hostess Faith Lazar, living legend India Holloway and the absolute best box office staff in any theater in creation. Te salud!
Without further ado here are the Ellsies:
The recent visit of the little known-about “Do Jump” troupe proved to be more than marvelous. The kid-friendly but adult pleasing group from the Northwest proved that entertainment does not have to include violence, explosions, car-crashes and sex to capture imaginations. A dozen, energetic dancer/acrobat/comedians and a whole lot of creative intellect provided a fascinating two hours on the Cerritos stage.
Once again the Chieftains capture this award that might well bear their name. As the show changes each visit and always stays at the highest level it is a bar set way high for the genre. Paddy Maloney’s baleful “Derek’s Tune” saluting the fallen Chieftain Derek Bell was moving and so was the jet-fueled dancing of the Pilatzke Brothers of Canada.
E-Ethnic: South of the Border
A treat for the ears and the eyes were Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles the adorable and powerful lady singers on the bill at Merry-Achi Christmas. Their reading of “Solo Tuya” had the gente on their feet from the first note. These ladies are beautiful and very talented.
One of several sleeper shows this year was Julie Budd, an old-school Broadway singer with a seemingly unlimited emotional well when singing the great old songs. Her version of “With One Look” from Sunset Boulevard was simply stunning. The evening was a master’s class in putting your all into a lyric.
Dragging me back some thirty five years Firesign Theater came to the Center with what looked to be a stirring of the brain cells once obliterated in my college years. Instead of being a mere novelty they performed a hilarious couple of hours of their bizarre, unexplainable, yet mostly new comedy. I didn’t waste my youth, I was learning something in college but it was Firesign Theater dialogue.
In a year when more prayers were sent upstairs than ever, the appearance of the Harlem Gospel Choir was well-timed indeed. The afternoon was so sanctified and so special it is hard to single out one moment but when they sang “Ride on King Jesus” it made you want to jump on board but when they turned the Kool and the Gang song “Celebration” into a church song you just felt like shaking a leg for the lord.
Concord Jazz brought several of the brightest vocal lights in Jazz for an evening of tasteful and dazzling song. The truly excellent Karrin Allyson hosted and showed why she is one of the best of the best, especially on “Over and Over Again.” The surprise was in the delicate form of youngster Sara Gazarek who borrowed “Too Young to Go Steady” from Ms. Allyson and knocked out the joint with her sweetly measured and velvety performance.
No contest on this one, Mr. Dave Barry by a landslide of exploding rotten whale meat. America’s greatest print humorist put the entire hall in stitches for the duration of this long show. I’m still laughing about his picking up his thirteen year old son from Junior High School while driving the Weiner mobile. As Dave Barry himself often says “I’m not making this up!”
From an unlikely platform (Broadway on Ice) musical comedian Dale Gonyea dove into a thirty minute foray into extemporaneous song including several versions of the official-unofficial city song of Cerritos (rhyming it with deep friend fritos) and other amazingly clever tunes of geographical accuracy including mentions of South Gate, Bellflower, Artesia, and Cudahy. How many evenings at the theater can make that claim?
Impossible to take measure of just one when two songs stood so tall.
“Mille Cherubini” by Finbar Wright in the Irish Tenors Christmas Concert was as pure and rich as a day at the Sees Candy kitchen. Mister Wright needed to step up for the ailing John McDermott and on this beauty he stopped time altogether.
“O’ Holy Night” by Jonathon Butler at the Smooth Jazz Christmas show where the guitarist and singer took the old chestnut and turned it into a rousing O’ holy standing ovation!
E-from the day
Creedence Clearwater Revisited once more won over the Boomer crowd at the Center with a recreation of the soundtrack of our 60’s heyday. Firing up the gold ones from our salad days they ripped up a medley including “Up Around the Bend,” “Run Through the Jungle,” “Traveling Band,” and “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” that made it feel like we could wear those 501 jeans and tie dyes once again.
When Cerritos has the pleasure to offer the stage to a genuine American national treasure it has to be special. All-Time great Doc Watson did not rest on his laurels but astounded with his fine voice, guitar wizardry and musical wisdom. Despite his long concert with the excellent David Holt the song that stood out was the psychedelic era gem “Nights in White Satin” that Doc made his own.
Soul veterana Randy Crawford held court at the Crusaders concert and wowed the packed hall with back to back powerhouse performances of “Street life” and a “you could have heard a pin drop” reading of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” The little lady was in tip-top form.
From an unusual source we have the winner for best vocal performance in a year where singing was tops at the Center. Providing voice at the fine Broadway on Ice show Davis Gaines took a song from the not blockbuster “Jekyll and Hyde” musical called “This Is the Moment” and gave a heart-stopping, powerhouse rendition to remember for the ages. When he finished, the ice he stood on was a puddle.
At the charming Jim Brickman show there was much to celebrate but the amazing, multi-faceted violin solo by Tracy Silverman of George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” literally defies description. Brickman and friends gave us the audience what they came for but Silverman took them where they never expected to go.
E-Single musical performance:
Despite a disappointing crowd the superb men’s vocal ensemble Cantus gave one of the best concerts in hall history. In a night of spectacular harmonies and vocal artistry their magnificent version of the Indian raga “Ramhali” was only surpassed by the wonderful “Betelhemu” all the way from South Africa. Cantus should come again and so should everybody who did not come to this year’s show.
E-Show of the Year:
The stars seemed to all be aligned for this balm-like evening of sweet New Orleans R&B healing starring Marcia Ball and Delbert McClinton. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s destruction the stunned audience listened to Ms. Ball play Randy Newman’s classic “Louisiana 1927” with their hearts beating in one sympathetic rhythm. Even though it was a very up-beat show it served to remind everyone how vital the culture of the Big Easy is to the entire country.