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, April 30, 2007

Mom 1917-2007

Mannheim and My Mom

by Glen Creason

This is supposed to be about a concert by the Mannheim Steamroller and sure enough I did attend the show and listened to their crisp, wonderfully orchestrated performance. However, my thoughts were miles, indeed years away. After fourteen years of writing here I guess my readers might give me a pass since this was the weekend I had to bid farewell to my Mom. The final curtain fell on her grand performance, Monday April 23 as her entire family gathered to cheer her into eternity. On Sunday, in a full church at Forest Lawn I summoned up a lot of words to describe her good deeds and love for a family but the best words in Mister Webster’s dictionary just won’t come close to giving her, her due.
My Mom took me to my first musical performance in Long Beach when I was a little kid and despite my lack of enthusiasm for whomever that Liberace guy was she continued to make sure I got exposed to music, theater and even the unique Hollywood Bowl experience. My first movie was at the South Gate Drive-In and even if “the Beast from 20,000 Fathoms” will never make a “best of” list, Mom was holding me in her lap when the monster roared out of the sea. We visited the old Biltmore Theater and set in motion a lifetime love of staying on the audience side of the footlights, enjoying “My Fair Lady,” “Fiorella,” and “Bye Bye Birdie” to name just a few. Mom also liked to sing at home in a soprano somewhere between Vera Lynn and Jo Stafford. Perry Como was a big man in our home and when Ed Sullivan introduced the new music called Rock and Roll she even let us watch the show. I can see it on my memory movie screen: the lady shaking and rattling and rolling to Bill Haley back when such noise was new.
She was a Cerritos visitor occasionally and loved the big hall, the buzz in the theater before a performance and sitting in press seats with her ink-stained son. She last accompanied me to the Center to see the Ballet Jorgen performance of “Cinderella” a year ago March, using a walker to slowly make it to her seat. A loosely interpreted family legend had it that my Dad had never taken my Mom to the ballet and I gallantly offered my escort. Truth was that she had been many times, indeed my Dad took her to the theater hundreds of times but true to her gentle nature she let me think I was a hero. I was still in her debt about one hundred to one from my first record album she paid for at “Wallach’s Music City” to the performance of “Hair” at the Aquarius Theater when the hippie character hopped up on the arms of her chair in a loin cloth and darn near gave my Dad a coronary.
Her hearing faded away in her mid-80’s but she could still appreciate the rich tones of big band and her memories of dancing to Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller on Catalina Island were reawakened in the big hall when we saw the orchestra with her peers at a Sunday matinee. We had a great time a decade ago, taking three generations to see “Cats” and having a grand dinner at Arte Café including a festive martini to commence the feast. Even after four children, eleven grand and 17 great grandchildren her hair was barely speckled with gray and her mind was as clear and strong as it had been when she was a youngster. She was kind, generous, reliable and as honest as any person I have ever encountered. Her word was like legal tender and she never let us down, ever. Thanks to my great friends at the paper I had the extreme good fortune to pay tribute to this wonderful Mother in columns here four times and each brought her tears of joy. She used to love to read my words on the pages of the Los Cerritos Community News and it is with the heaviest of hearts that I pen the very last in her name.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Folk Reunion April 6, 2007

Folk Reunion at Cerritos Brings Back Harmonious Memories

By Glen Creason

If you remember peggars, cardigans, flattops, Ivy-league fashion, car coats,brillcream and penny loafers there are chances you would have felt quite comfortable at the Performing Arts Center for a sort of folk hootenanny from back in the day. While few of us could still ride on the handlebars of a Schwinn today we can still deeply enjoy the sounds of the Kingston Trio and the Brothers Four who comprised this Folk Reunion on Friday evening. While only one of the seven gents on stage were in the groups from the beginning the music still sounds just as sweet as it did flowing from the old zenith portable phonograph in my Big Sis’ bedroom. That is not to say these are groups merely recreating the sounds, they are more the heir apparent to conserving the marvelous four part harmonies and further uncovering of the great treasure chest of American folk music. Each are linked by blood to the originals.
Appropriately, the Brothers Four busted out with “I Hear America Singing” which demonstrated immediately that they were pristine in their four-part harmony and filled with plenty of folk fervor. Old favorites flowed comfortably and as the big crowd sighed in recognition “Yellow Bird,” “Sloop John B.,” “Marianne” and “Jamaica Farewell” flowed thick and sweet, like a chocolate malt down at Harvey’s Broiler. The old Australian top-ten hit “Tie Me Kangaroo Down” was done tongue in cheek followed by a rollicking Eddy Peabody style ragtime banjo solo and a sea shanty with real pep. You could certainly understand the great popularity of this kind of music as it raged in the 50’s when the bros. crooned “Four Strong Winds,” the exquisite “Green Leaves of Summer” and in encore “Greenfields” with seamless perfection. A lengthy and rewarding train medley finished the fine set and included “Wabash Cannonball,” “This Train,” “the City of New Orleans,” and “Rock Island Line.” The Brothers got a rousing, standing ovation from the huge crowd, moving like the wave at a sporting event from the orchestra to the back reaches of the hall.
The concert was closed by the Kingston Trio and their full satchel of great folk songs. When they launched into “Tijuana Jail” you just had to feel like you were cruising down Bellflower Boulevard in a Chevy Biscayne while listening to KRLA. The were quite animated in their antics but kept to the classic vein with “In the Early Morning Rain,” “Greenback Dollar,” “They Call the Wind Mariah,” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” from the Pete Seeger songbook. The was a new song slipped into the classics but a very fine one indeed by modern songwriter called “All the Hard Days Are Done” coupled with a playful Medieval madrigal in the form of a round. The Trio also pleased the packed house by offering up their classic “MTA” and the all-time big Kingston Trio smash “Tom Dooley” sounding just a good and tight as ever. The harmonies were heavenly, the playing with gusto and the standing ovations followed after a beautiful set of encores including “Road to Freedom” and in an Brothers Four inclusive ensemble hoot of Woody Guthrie’s anthem “This Land Is Your Land” that made you proud to be an folkie-loving American.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood March 30, 2007

Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood Just Make It Up at Cerritos

By Glen Creason

Thinking on your feet is not easy for most people. Thinking on your feet, while being constantly harried and entertaining in front of three thousand people is quite another thing altogether. Such was the task of the amazingly resourceful, endlessly hilarious and extraordinarily creative Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood in their sold-out comedy improv show on Friday evening at the Performing Arts Center. These two stars of the smash comedy show “Whose Line Is It Anyway” use the format of the hit show in their own live show, making hilarity out of thin air. The gents take suggestions from the audience, and then create scenes with daunting distractions and mind-bending wrinkles thrown at them like standing before a knife-thrower in the carnival. Except in this case, there are thousands of knife throwers and just two targets. It was a delightful and astounding display of verbal dexterity and long experience in the comedy field that turned the ridiculous into the sublimely funny throughout. The fantastic thing about the entire evening was the demonstration of the joys of language and humor without demeaning humiliation and self-flagellation. These two men use English like a professional juggler and just never drop the words that flow in torrents.
There are a few physical props but words are the key ingredient in all of the bits. To warm up they formed a story on the run using silly suggested words from the audience, a telephone book poked at randomly and their well-muscled wits. So we witnessed a skit about the Donkey Day Festival in Poland which hinged on heating repair and garbled instructions. Volunteer kids Jessica, Sabrina and Chad delightedly honked bicycle horns to make Colin and Brad change slants on describing a tale of plastics, pet turtles and a society threatening shampoo shortage. It may seem odd but the lady in front of me was whooping with joy to the point I feared for her respiration and the entire section rocked with laughter. This is a show that is loved by ages from 8 to 108 so the next segment took suggestions from that demographic. Brad was sent out in the lobby and the crowd cooked up a crime that he would be forced to confess to without ever hearing a word. Using clues from Mr. Mochrin he finally did admit to doing away with his wife, Chewbacca, while shoplifting Honey Nut Cheerios that tasted like Germans, in Apalachicola, Florida at the Jell-O-Inspection plant with a scythe. Believe it or not, it took him about three minutes.
There was great language dexterity tossed about in the exhausting but very entertaining exercise involving audience suggestions couched by “questions only,’’ “one syllable words,” “innuendo (if you know what I mean)” and “Doctor Seuss rhymes.” Can you see where this is going? Can you imagine the laughter? Have you ever heard anything like this? Could it be that improv is the purest form of comedy? Is it possible anyone could make humor out of religious professors, bedpans and a humane cat shelter? Why am I writing in questions if it were not true? The place was full and the yucks were true. Two men, on stage in front of everybody, doing their thing, if you know what I mean. It was certain before the curtain that Colin and Brad did use up every dictionary we had. The last two bits were the funniest of the night and left the place in stitches. One involved two audience members as sound effects engineers but Colin and especially Brad where extraordinarily challenged since one was a shy young girl named April whose sound effects scale ranged from embarrassed giggle to embarrassed giggle. Then there were the 99 mousetraps, an alphabet game and both men blindfolded, barefooted, singing in operatic form and sometimes in pain. You just had to be there.