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"

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Chicago the Musical January 24, 2009

"Chicago" the Musical at Cerritos

By Glen Creason and Kathleen Sheehy

The musical “Chicago” hit the boards of Cerritos over the weekend and it is amazing just how topical the piece seems thirty years plus since it caused a sensation on Broadway. Actually, the original play goes way back to 1926 when a Chicago Tribune reporter named Maurine Dallas Watkins penned the story of Roxy Hart and Velma Kelly, two murderesses who managed to escape punishment with the help of a crafty lawyer and then parlay their infamous reputations into show business careers. In this era of celebrity circus trials and lawyers magically gaining acquittals against all odds the farce here does not seem all that far from the truth. This musical was overshadowed by the success of “A Chorus Line” originally but was reborn as a smash in the 90’s with the stress on Bob Fosse’s choreography. At Cerritos, the show literally shimmers with the vibrant and sleek Fosse influence and succeeds thoroughly thanks to the crisp, energetic choreography and tight musical numbers exercised by a very strong cast.
I brought along my dear teenaged “Chicago” aficionado Kathleen who has seen the hit movie repeatedly and knows every move in the show backwards, forwards and mostly sideways. Not only is Kathleen a formidable critic she is a natural redhead, a quality of dubious authenticity in the character of Roxy. Still, despite the rather sketchy ethics of Ms. Hart and the broad stretching of morality by Velma and Billy the lawyer in the show it was agreed that these very same colorful villains made the entire evening most enjoyable. Even if the proceedings are drawn with broad strokes with tongue in cheek there is that kernel of truth that the public loves the drama of celebrities gone wrong. Even young Kathleen has lived through OJ, Robert Blake and Phil Spector but this musical is a lot more fun. While the entire ensemble for this show at the Performing Arts Center was very good four excellent actors in the key roles elevated the performance. Both Roxy and Velma were sensational in dance and song as played by Michelle DeJean and Terra C. MacLeod. These are characters that demand unlimited energy and precise comedic timing involving physical comedy, singing and expert dancing. Both actresses managed to handle every aspect here with gusto. Jeff McCarthy as Billy Flynn was perfect in the role lighting up the stage with his presence and sparkling in the occasional demands for hoofing and singing. D. Micchiche was sensational as the pious Mary Sunshine singing with a coloratura soprano that rang off the top of the upper balcony at Cerritos. Also Ben Elledge was very good as the feckless Amos Hart and Roz Ryan as Mama Morton was dead on for her middle-woman in the shenanigans in the jail. The show revolves around three boffo numbers “All That Jazz,” “Razzle Dazzle” and Class” which were done with great skill but in truth, they were just three of twenty worth whistling on the way out to the car. The entire production thrived with sexy and dance-functional costumes, an interesting but unobtrusive set and lighting that made it all look naughty but nice. Overall, my critic at large, Kathleen gave this Cerritos show two thumbs up except for maybe the authenticity of Roxy's hair color.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Flying Karamazov Brothers in 4-Play January 10, 2009

Playing 4 with the Flying Karamazov Brothers at Cerritos

By Glen Creason

It’s nice to see that the one-time hippie street performance group the Flying Karamazov Brothers can fill the big theater at Cerritos and hold court for almost two hours. After all, they started all this nonsense back in the last gasps of the 60’s in an attempt to keep from taking real jobs. By my old math reckoning this means they have been doing this for pert near forty years which is a long time, even for jugglers. Most certainly the house was filled with old-time fans and those who were not even thought of when the boys first juggled on the streets of San Francisco way back when Richard Nixon was president. The Brothers still have a subculture bent and an irreverent attitude but the golden kernel of entertainment in the show is serious juggling. At their best the four gentlemen are following in glorious vaudeville tradition, trading quips and dazzling the crowd with the constant movement of props ranging from clubs to rubber balls to on this night a shoe. When they get in the groove the show is riveting and funny with some whiffs of the Marx brothers tossed in, giving one hope for greater fun. My unofficial godfather used to describe his own personal theory of psychology based not on sex or power or ego but on the strongest urge to keep from working a day job. The Karamazov’s have stayed outside the establishment for four decades which is pretty impressive in itself.
At Cerritos they ran through more than a dozen routines with weird angles on each and every one. Drumming taiko on empty cardboard boxes, appearing as devils and opposing angels, dancing Polish clogging, playing French horns, flutes and guitars and choosing objects with exposition for the final number of terror objects were just signposts on the road to 4 Play which is what the show is called. There was a lot of clowning and talk that seemed inspired by Firesign Theater or screwball comedy but it did not always prove to be hilarious on its own. It lacked the edge of Firesign and the physical dexterity of the Marx boys which occasionally drove the show to the precipice of silliness where it tottered before scrambling back on the whirling clubs tossed back and forth. When they juggled the act worked well and the laughs flowed despite some drops and nice recoveries. They compared juggling to music and proved themselves right by demonstrating the rhythm involved in some extremely complicated four-part juggling with clubs. They shot ping pong balls from their mouths and into the ewwwing audience, they tossed raw eggs about before including them as terror objects and woke up a stoned “UCLA student” who jumped into a routine to flawlessly participate in the quartet of dexterity.
The Karamazov’s broke it up by turning out the lights and juggled luminescent clubs, formed an odd musical quartet while juggling, bounced rubber balls up, down and all around a table at center stage and gave the best moments of the night in a set called “Jazz,” featuring speedy club juggling with nimble stream of consciousness comedy that was terrific. Surprisingly for an act that uses some Cheech and Chong humor and a few political swipes the crowd was filled with lots of kids who seemed to love the show and the silliness that abounded.
Best of “4-Play” outside of the electric “Jazz” was the audience participation number where Dmitri (clearly the best juggler in the group) accepted random objects from the crowd and juggled a shoe, a rubbery thing and a can of diet coke without a miss. The grand finale used all the items chosen as terror objects over the evening including a meat cleaver, a hunk of dry ice, a frying pan, a flaming torch, and more which never hit the floor once. The big, enthusiastic crowd seemed to love every minute. These brothers are certainly less troubled than their namesakes in Dostoyevsky’s novel but those tortured souls just did not know how to juggle.