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, February 25, 2008

Riders in the Sky February 24, 2008

Riders in the Sky Radio Theater: A Star Is Born

By Glen Creason

The Riders in the Sky electrified the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts stage on Sunday afternoon bringing to life old time radio done “the cowboy way.” The normal hi-jinks of Too Slim, Ranger Doug, Woody Paul and Joey Kane along with sound effects by Professor Zeno and dulcet announcing tones from Texas Bix Bender made for a fast and fun-filled matinee mixing music, moos and Machiavellian comeuppance. However, it was the debut of a local ingénue, playing Miss Marm that brought the Cerritos faithful to their feet repeatedly on this afternoon. Despite the stage manager leaving the script closed at her lectern in act one of “Biscuits, Bullets and the Federal Emergency Management Administration,” Gloria Kappe gracefully regained her composure and place in the show then performing like a seasoned professional. As a matter of fact, in act two she was able to reach emotive heights, hitting the flirtatious Too Slim repeatedly with a wet salmon to repulse his galootish advances when she had her sights on Ranger Doug. Many left the theater asking what is next for Mrs. Kappe in the thespian arena. The Riders are no strangers to the big hall and indeed refer to it as “the most glorious place we get to play” and they seemed to get juiced by the big crowd. They played cowboy music like “Back In the Saddle Again,” “Cool Water,” “Rawhide,” “Blue Shadows on the Trail,” and “Happy Trails” well enough to make you forget this is a comedy show. Very fine work was heard on the sweet lullaby “Lie Still Little Doggies,” the lovely love ballad “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You,” and a sizzling “Orange Blossom Special” featuring Woody Paul’s flying fiddle. However, the hilarious radio show and other tongue in cheek wonders like “That’s How the Yodel Was Born,” “I Cooked Everything” modeled after “I’ve Been Everywhere,” “F.E.M.A. (from YMCA,) “Dead Man’s Curve” and the doo wop of “There’s a Moon Out Tonight” showed they can step outside their spurs and shine. Of course, the Riders are real pros and they know how to get a laugh and to yodel but on this day the spotlight really shone on the former Cerritos mayor and her return to the boards after a few decades hiatus. As a local wag was heard to say out in the lobby “once she got going, she was really good!”

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Memoirs of Abraham Lincoln February 22, 2008

Mister Lincoln Lives Again in Cerritos

By Glen Creason

When Granville Van Dusen set out to perform a one-man show on the life of Abraham Lincoln he took on a great responsibility. Mister Lincoln is often qualified as our greatest president and one of the most interesting historical figures from any era. To do this great man justice you need to put on a polished evening of wit and wisdom with countless hours of research behind the production. This show is an obvious labor of love for Lincoln and his legacy. Expertly written by Peter Beach King and perfectly directed by Delbert Mann, the work is superbly finished by this fine acting performance. After about two minutes, Van Dusen has the audience rapt and believing he IS the great man with skills that are truly awe inspiring. Formerly known for his abundant work on the small and big screen this actor has taken a quantum leap on this show that is excellent, edifying, and very entertaining from start to finish. Even his resemblance to Mister Lincoln is uncanny as he strides about the stage in period costume with a mixture of homespun wisdom and deep thought flowing from his lips. Van Dusen/Lincoln never stops talking and rarely hesitates for almost 90, action packed minutes. It is a staggering amount of dialogue that covers every part of the Lincoln legacy, over the controversies, past the heartbreaks and suffers no fools in the process. All is dispatched with great wit and emotion, giving the audience a real feel for the man who has become a legend. It is also a wonderful history lesson for buffs or even the several kids in the audience who seemed to really respond to the Lincoln wit.
The show sets out to tell the “plain, unvarnished truth” that may explode some myths, clarify some of the misconceptions and shed much of the mountains of abuse the great man suffered in his public days. The early scenes of the performance certainly hold much of the wit of Lincoln and many examples of the great storyteller. Later on, when he deals with the causes and carnage of the Civil War the tone grows much darker. When he finished the first half with a magnificent reading of the “Gettysburg Address” it just made you finally feel those words you have read so many times but this time with goose bumps.
The second half was much more personal and emotional, dealing with the losses of his two sons and the deep love he had for the much-maligned first lady Mary Todd Lincoln. When he describes her as “an island of tranquility” you can certainly feel the deep affection he had for this woman. There is also a rather deep and detailed conversation on the hatred for slavery that Lincoln held and the Kansas-Nebraska act the eventually caused the war to rip the country in half. There is also a personal touch when Lincoln describes the misery of the prison camps and the terrible toll of 1.1 million men who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the War of the Rebellion. Van Dusen, closes the show with an eerie last scene where he heads out the door to the Ford Theater and to his death. Like many in the audience I was very sad to see him go.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Moiseyev Dance Company February 16, 2008

The Magnificence of Moiseyev at Cerritos

By Glen Creason

I had heard good things about the Moiseyev Dance Company and their legendary concerts but it really was like being told the Grand Canyon is a nice bit of scenery. You really need to pull out all the positive adjectives in Dr. Roget’s thesaurus to describe this phenomenal experience but spectacular or magnificent or incredible come to mind. In the fifteen years of covering shows at the great hall I can’t recall anything with this kind of visceral excitement and depth of artistry. The dancers represent the crème de la crème and the rigorous training makes demands that only a select few can satisfy. Not only are the dances dazzling masterpieces of choreography but the physical demands and athleticism required by the men and women elevate the show into something otherworldly in its execution and effect on an audience. Each and every number in the full evening of dance gave rise to explosive applause that erupted from the last row in the upper balcony, through the mezzanine to the orchestra and to every box surrounding the stage.
The evening began with a sweet and sentimental video tribute to the founder Igor Moiseyev who passed in 2007 after over seventy years of making this company one of the greatest in the world. The applause was heartfelt and huge but when the curtain opened to a dark stage and the footlights came up, the clapping turned to shouts of joyful awe. The entire troupe came out to greet the packed house in a dazzling display of colorful costumes, chief hues being the Russian favorites: red, black, white and gold. The utterly spectacular opening piece was called “Russian Dance Summer” beginning with an innocent courtship then flowing into what seemed like an entire village of country folk encouraging the romance. As was the case for the rest of the evening, the costume design was superb, the dancing amazing and the obvious joy in the performance by the performers was completely mesmerizing. Each segment in this show saluted certain people and their folk dances from Mother Russia. The nomadic Kalmuks and their kinship with the animals near the Volga River were demonstrated by a most electrifying, dance accompanied by an accordion and featuring a tremble from the intense Ramil Mekhdiev that was absolutely wonderful. The good-natured Tartars were next, expressed by the coquettish and graceful dancing of the Olgas Volina and Chernasov. The “Polyanka” or summer gathering of young people was featured in what can only be described as pure exuberance. The athleticism of the dancers certainly exceeded anything we see on any sporting court, diamond or pitch. Moldavia was the last Russian outpost saluted in the first half, highlighted by girls in babushkas doing “zhok” or beautiful and stately dances that morphed into a wild 78-rpm romp to the finish. The first half closed with a visit to Greece and a supremely athletic and demanding dance to what we know as the Zorba theme.
The second half maintained this unreal level of energy and joyful expression of the soul of the Russian people. “Yablotchko” once more allowed the gents of Moiseyev to strut their stuff as showing the hardships of the lives of sailors and their hopeful resolve to continue. The dance was demanding and full of military precision, as twenty-five men seemed to move as one. The most colorful and interesting piece for color alone was “Gypsies” that offered the ladies a chance to shine whirling in their fantastic flowing skirts. A spirited “Dance of Argentinean Cowboys” was almost flamenco with just three men in black filling the hall with bravado and the percussion of their flashing boots. “Manahan National Play Two Boys in a Fight” was a terrific, humorous interlude that got the kids in the hall into frenzy when the fighting tykes turned out to be one man. The show closed with the most balletic and elaborate number of all, “The Polovetsian Dances” which was exotic, dramatic and just spectacular in its scope and execution. When the show finished and the entire ensemble came forward to accept adulation the waves of applause seemed to reach all the way to the motherland of the great Moiseyev himself.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Bill Medley and Paul Revere and the Raiders February 3, 2008

Bill Medley and Friends Bring the 60’s
Back in Style at Cerritos

By Glen Creason

You really have to be in pop music awe to sit at the silver, snakeskin, cowboy-booted feet of Bill Medley who reigned supreme over the Performing Arts stage this weekend. After all, this is the same man who is the famed opening phrase singer on the most played song in radio history. More stations have played and more folks have listened to the Righteous Brothers “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” than any other song, ever. The Righteous Bros. also have the distinction of authoring the first LP I ever purchased, over at Wallach’s Music City way back in the day. At Cerritos, Medley looked fit and sounded fine, from the opening notes of “Little Latin Lupe-Lu” to the stirring reading with his own son of that most popular song ever. The man is a professional entertainer and to ensure the audience’s attention and appreciation he packed in some bells and whistles that made the show glow with memory and a bit of class. These extras included wonderful power points on the career and amazing ascendancy of the Righteous Brothers from their shows at the old Hanger to hanging out with the Beatles. There was a warm tribute to the late Bobby Hatfield that left more than a few in the crowd reaching into coat pockets for the Kleenex also.
The show featured some good, old-fashioned rock and roll including a Medley-medley of “Long Tall Sally,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Peggy Sue” and “Higher and Higher” that let Medley’s bass tones rumble over the old winners. Of course, there were the trademark ballads including the sublime “Soul and Inspiration,” “Unchained Melody” and “that song” at the end. Yet, some of the finer moments included a few from Bill Medley’s latest blues album, a salute to Ray Charles with “Born to Lose,” “You Don’t Know Me,” and “I Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” that are well suited to that finely aged, deep bass voice. Also the Medley family helped out Dad with beautiful daughter McKenna singing in duet on “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” and a very strong “At Last” as a solo. Son Darrin not only sang lead for the opening act but stood in for the Bobby Hatfield part on “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” and made “…Time of My Life” a total family affair. Bill Medley has been knocking them dead since 1962 and he kept up his string in this 2008 effort in front of a packed crowd of those indifferent to football and the blustery weather. The show was opened by the delightful and hilarious Paul Revere and the Raiders, roaring through an hour of merriment in their strange little time machine. Their shows have always been centered on the eccentric and effusive leader who kept up a string of wit and ribaldry that broke up the crowd repeatedly. He stood at a console, looking very much like the front end of a Nash Metro and handled props and quips at a rapid-fire clip The “Raiders” are also a pretty darn good band, playing some of the many gold records the group garnered in the 60’s. “Just Like Me,” “Kicks,” “Hunger,” “Good Thing” and their original boogie-woogie piano instrumental hit “Like Long Hair” that took the enthusiastic audience back to those years of “Where the Action Is” on our old TV consoles. Handsome, young Darrin Medley took the old Mark Lindsey role as eye candy and lead singer but guitarist Doug Heath spiced up many a number with his spirited guitar leads. The group, now sailing past the forty year mark can still give a good show because they don’t take themselves too seriously and have a great time along with the audience in reliving that happy-go-lucky optimism of youth, even if it is being celebrated by a 70 year old kid named Paul Revere.