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"

Monday, March 27, 2006

Persuasions and Gospel Hummingbirds March 26, 2006

Persuasions and Gospel Hummingbirds at Cerritos: Less Is More, More or Less.

By Glen Creason

In the time the country calls “March madness” in honor of our national basketball tournament there was a mismatch at the Performing Arts Center on Sunday. In a show with a spiritual bent the verse “many are called but few are chosen” rang true for a concert that had two distinctive halves of action. The Persuasions, oddly enough the “warm-up” act here dominated and dazzled throughout, winning the hall for a solid, sensational hour. When we filed out for intermission I said to a friend “I wouldn’t want to follow these guys on stage.” This proved to be straight prophecy, unfortunately. The Gospel Hummingbirds seemed to be off their game and made up for in volume what they lacked in musical marksmanship. There were more than a few expressions of worship at the conclusion but not all positive.
The best you could say about the headliners were that their hearts were in the right place and the songs they sang were sanctified certainly. Yet, the wall of sound their message was couched in buried much of the delicacy of their three part harmonies and gave sameness to melodies the crowd might have recognized and joined with joyfully. The result was rather mundane R&B with a some shouts toward heaven that were difficult to hear in the thunderous bass-percussion waves that drove some from the hall of gospel like Adam and Eve high-tailed out from the garden in Genesis.
On the other hand, the Persuasions with nary an instrument on stage filled the great hall to the top row with rejoicing produced only by their strong six voices and seamless harmonies. The set was marvelously eclectic with great stuff from the length and breadth of popular music. Starting with the appropriate “Still Aint Got No Band” the gentlemen gilded several genres with their talents including the doo wop silk of “Save the Last Dance for Me,” a wonderfully fresh “Besame Mucho,” and an absolutely breathtaking “People Get Ready” that placed this classic on a hall of fame shelf for all to see.
Still, this was a gospel show and the Persuasions can more than make a joyful noise unto the Lord. They gave us “the Fire Next Time,” “I Want to Be Ready,” a high-octane “Christian’s Automobile,” a somber but potent “Lord’s Prayer,” the transcendent “Touch the Hem of His Garment” and a rousing “When the Saints Go Marching In.” The group even brought in the incredible young fella Reggie Moore who made the best of his time, giving energy and strength to the already powerfully persuasive group. Yet, demonstrating their experience and musical gifts Jayotis Washington, Jim Hayes, Joe Russell, Ray Sanders and B.J. Jones provided highlights as different as a send up of the Mario Lanza smash for the mid-1950’s “So In Love,” the crowd-pleasing “Buffalo Soldiers” “the Good Ship Lollipop” for the kids, the wonderful “Gypsy Woman” and as a cherry on top the U2 beauty “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” For 44 years the Persuasion have been proving that the human voice is the most powerful and perfect instrument in music and on this afternoon their point was more than well taken.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Southern California Beach Party March 17, 2006

Southern California Beach Party at Cerritos: Shooting the Musical Curl

By Glen Creason

Dude! What a totally bitchen’ concert! You could say three thousand former gremmies and a hodad or two were stoked to surf city by the out of sight sounds of the sweet “Endless Summer Band” lead by the Beach Boys’ Al Jardine on cruising night at the Performing Arts Center.” Man, even Dean of Jan and Dean was on stage singing in that totally cool falsetto blasting the past with everything from “Drag City to “Dead Man’s Curve. I haven’t felt this good since I had a date with Sexy Lexi Tarnowski at the Rosecrans Drive-In back when gas was twenty-seven cents a gallon and Spanada was a fine wine.
Strangely enough, on a night that was billed as a Beach party, an activity I haven’t joined in many a grunion run I made an epiphany that I hope everyone else in attendance did likewise. Little did I know when I tuned into KRLA or KHJ in my high school years to groove on surf music that these tunes would become a defining sound for my place in this world. Being a native So. Cal. “boy” I say with pride that this is OUR music and at this show it came to life beautifully. Like gazing out at the mighty Pacific Ocean itself this stuff just does not get old. The Beach Boys and the rest of the genre have aged pretty well even if all of us haven’t. Yet, on this evening my peers were up and dancing with all they had, dusting off moves I aint seen since that last sock hop at O’Connor gym. I’ll bet there was a lot of Alleve used on Saturday morning after this rump-shaking resurrection. Yet, for a glorious two and a half hours we were all roaring up Beach Boulevard in a big Fairlane ragtop, with warmth on our sun-bleached full head of hair heading for the Huntington pier and the surf was up.
Al Jardine, a founding member of the Beach Boys has put together a skilled band involving two of his talented sons and other vets of the surf music scene. Musical director Billy Hinsche (remember Dino, Desi and Billy?), bassist Ed Carter and sax-man Richie Cannata lead the way but young Adam Jardine pulled yeoman’s duty on the demanding vocals. Their set was a virtual hall of fame jukebox including a very clean sound and spot-on harmony. “California Girls,” “Catch a Wave,” “Dance, Dance, Dance.” “Don’t Worry Baby,” “I Get Around” and “Little Deuce Coupe” represented the play list of the Summer time car radio of my youth. Then again, when Jardine broke out a six pack of chart toppers including the marvelous “Sloop John B,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” “Cool, Cool, Water” “Good Vibrations,” “Kokomo,” and the very groovy “Help Me Rhonda” the entire hall was flipped back to the Summer of 65.
The opening set starred Dean Torrance with another fine band that would have been a very hard act to follow by any standards except that Beach Boy golden hour that followed. Adding greatly to the sound was Cerritos’ own Phillip Bardowell who sang the Jan parts, laid down a thick bass and added some nice reggae. Dean sang his trademarks “Little Old Lady from Pasadena,” “New Girl in School,” “Drag City” and vroom vroom “Dead Man’s Curve” and the band rocked hard, getting entire sections of the delighted audience to their feet for wild frugging in a finale that roared through “Let’s Dance,” “Little Honda,” “Runaround Sue,” “Twist and Shout,” and the finale, a rocking Surf City. Certainly the highlight of this excellent, high-energy set was the emergence of a future guitar super star in the girl-person of eight-year-old Melissa who won the “air guitar” audience participation contest during a rocked out “Johnny B. Goode.” Melissa won the hearts of the assembled and a brand new Fender guitar. While the guys in the band were great they weren’t even remotely as cute as Melissa.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Boney James March 11, 2006

Boney James: Short and Sizzling at Cerritos

By Glen Creason

If the old show biz adage “leave em’ wanting more” holds water then Boney James will continue to sell out every show in sight around these parts. In a tight and very condensed ninety minute show, the charismatic saxophonist blew away the sellout crowd with free-flowing solos and power plant energy from his Boneyness and a great band at the Performing Arts Center on Saturday night. He left the joint laughing joyfully at the skills of each fine musician in his ensemble playing off one another like they had rehearsed it a hundred times a hundred. The joke appears to be on us since Mr. James seems to be having so much fun playing with his mates, the audience is just gravy in this musical feast. Despite the brevity of the whole, the band made the minutes count. James is a rarity in contemporary music: an instrumentalist who tops the charts and goes platinum without many words being sung.
Boney James plays a full-throttle R&B-tinged brand of jazz that only gets smooth in spaces between the heated licks from his tenor, alto and soprano ax. He strutted the stage unencumbered by a power cord and bounded from one end to the other blasting off flurries of notes that made you wonder how long he could sustain the flow. His opening salvo continued toward fifteen minutes which was typical but by the time the group launched into “Grand Central” they were just breaking a sweat. “Stone Groove” was exactly that, aided greatly by rip-shorting bass from Sam Sims and a rocking percussion duo of kit drummer Williams and the superb Lenny Castro. “Better With Time” was a passionate ballad, propelled by James’ “little” horn and the vocal talents of lead guitarist Norris Jones. Jones darn near stole the stage from the star when he was given the spotlight. His guitar playing was marvelous, he sang like a seasoned vet, danced up a storm and also seemed to have the ladies’ interest all across the hall.
Despite flashier stuff during the night, the highlight on this night was the beautiful, layered send up of Bill Wither’s classic “Aint No Sunshine” that showcased the ripped bass lines of Sam Sims, a truly awesome guitar solo by Jones and a very sweet soprano sax job by James himself. Their version only served to recognize the enduring quality of this tune and it’s solid place in pop history. On what we suspected was “Boneyizm” the band turned it over to the two drummers who turned it into a percussion marathon, unseen since the day of Buddy Miles. The thing was a happening as in “Sweet Thing” which fluttered like a butterfly and “It’s a Beautiful Thing” featuring some crowd-wowing theatrics that saw Boney James take his sax amongst enraptured and on their feet dancing fans all the way up to the top of the orchestra. Now, in a full lather the band kept it up with “Ride” that put pedal to the metal and with the place rocking gave up one single encore of “Grazing in the Grass,” a smooth, swinging groove that ended with several thousand folks begging for more. Boney James is much more Grover Washington Jr. than John Coltrane but that has its place in contemporary music. This was a fun show packed with plenty of shining solos and tight ensemble jams that made for accessible, friendly, chair boogie quite agreeable to this packed Cerritos house.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Ballet Jorgen Canada: Cinderella March 3, 2006

The Slipper Fits: Ballet Jorgen’s Cinderella at Cerritos

By Glen Creason

Family lore has it that the matriarch of my clan always wanted to take in a ballet with Dad but never made it and was still wanting in her 8th decade. Lucky for us, the Performing Arts Center was bringing such civility to the southland in a form of the Jorgan Ballet’s production of “Cinderella.” It was almost as if we had ordered the event. So, we had a first time for a Mother and son to attend a ballet and first time to put pen to paper on this venerable art form. This might be part confession and part apology but this “Cinderella” was magical in more ways than one. For an initial experience the results were delightful, illuminating and quite satisfying. The Canadian Ballet Jorgen presented a bright and energetic take on the classic with ingenuous, moveable sets, the great Prokofiev score, smart costumes that added texture and color to the stage plus young but very polished dancers who infused the whole with an optimistic glow.
This was not the Disney version with pumpkin coaches, twittering birds or castles on the hill. Not a single talking mouse was in sight. Instead, we found the sublime Tara Butler as the put-upon Cinderella longing and dreaming of escaping from her oppressive role in a household dominated by her mean-spirited yet dopey stepsisters and downright rotten step-mom. Act I centered on the household with the sweet Cinderella doing her dreamy thing and the sisters behaving badly as is their wont. Angel Wong and especially Clea Iveson were excellent as the clumsy, slightly askew and petulant stepsiblings who show one mean face at home and a second, unctuous one to possible suitors. They and their mother (played well by Craig Sanok) are unkind to an old beggar woman who in turn, gives Cinderella some seeds to plant in return for her kindness. The second portion of this act blossoms dramatically as the seeds are planted, the girl snoozes and fairies appear to make her dreams come true. Bonnie Crawford as the Lead Fairy dazzled in her time on stage spreading enchantment across the story and into the audience with perfect dancing and acting in this key role. Like a scene from Project Runway, the party dress appears and Cinderella readies herself secretly for the ball.
Act II introduces the Prince, danced by the tall and stately Toby George who was able to carry off the storybook romance to the very stroke of midnight. Ms. Butler seized her time to shine here and the solo upon her arrival at the ball was wonderful. We all know the story, including the captivating entrance of Cinderella, the love at first sight gleam in the Prince’s eye and the quick departure with one, precious slipper left behind. All that is left for Act III is the Prince’s search for the perfect fit and Cinderella’s glorious unveiling plus the ultimate come-uppance for step-Mom and sisters. Once again, as the fairies appeared the production soared and set designer Glenn Davidson’s marvelous enchanted trees in the forest with clanging metal branches were particularly effective in achieving a mysterious ambience. Outstanding in this forest were Jennifer Bartsch, Cameron Baldassarra and Cristina Tucciarone as the impish fairies. Finally, the slipper fits and the lucky couple celebrate with several magnificent dances; placing great demands on the Prince’s vitality but young Mr. George made it work wonderfully. Certainly this Cinderella won the hearts of the Cerritos audience and altered my family’s ballet education once and for all. At Cerritos, the slipper fit quite nicely.