Merry-Achi Christmas December 5, 2009
By Glen Creason
It surely must be the Christmas season when the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts stages the wonderful “Merry-Achi Christmas” and sets out the lobby cards for the “Colors of Christmas” that mark another year of Yule merriment in these parts. Bad economy or no the hall was crowded and the spirits were high along with the nativity presented as melodrama and lots of color, song and passion. Curtain raisers for this year’s adoration were the fantastico Mariachi Sol De Mexico de Jose Hernandez along with my favorite ladies of song: Mariachi Reyna De Los Angeles along with the Pacifico Dance Company. “Merry-Achi Christmas” is a beautiful regalo of song and dance that seems to get more and more grand as the years pass, this being a double digit anniversary of the groups taking the entire hall to Mexico at Christmas time. If you love things Mexican including the food, the dance, the ladies and the music as I do this is indeed a treat worth sampling each and every year.
While the show mixes mariachi with Feliz Navidad the joy is magnified by the large orchestras on stage blasting trumpets, briskly strumming guitars, stroking the violins or singing with heads thrown back. They passionately tell the stories of the season from Jesus and Mary to the glory of states of Mexico. This is not some hipster Christmas with hidden meanings but a fully expressed, emotional look at the holiday with plenty of corn included. There is, of course, an emphasis on the music of the seat of Mariachi music: Jalisco where Senor Hernandez hails from but there is more homage paid too to Veracruz and “El Jarape Tapatio" where the dancers tripped the light fantastic. There was the song “Jalisco” with the trademark soaring vocals and other favorites from that region in Guadalajara. These were sandwiched around the superb performance by the marvelous all-women mariachi group La Reyna de los Angeles who flawlessly performed Mexican favorites like “Noche Buena,” “Que Bonito Es Chihuahua,” “Solo Tuyo” along with the surprisingly crowd pleasing “Crazy” in the style of Patsy Cline and a rip-snorting “Orange Blossom Special.” Lest we forget the season, the show was dotted with the traditional tunes including “Ave Maria,” “Jingle Bells,” “Silver Bells,” a towering “O Holy Night,” “Little Drummer Boy” and the finale of “Feliz Navidad.” Yet Merry-Achi is about more than the holidays judging by the large crowd hungry for their favorite tunes from the Mother country.
“Sol De Mexico” returned to the stage for the final gallop and stayed mostly in a Mexican anthem mode that saw stirring renditions of their theme song, a nice “La Bamba” and the hugely popular “Viva Mexico” and “Volver” that had audience participation from stem to stern.
There was also a patriotic bow to the U.S. with a medley of flag wavers highlighted by a large scale “God Bless America.” The grand finale found the stage crowded with all of the performers in dazzling colors singing their heart out while smiling smiles that reached from here to Old Mexico.