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"

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Oak Ridge Boys February 20, 2009

Oak Ridge Boys Make Cerritos Home

By Glen Creason

The Oak Ridge Boys made a triumphant return to the Performing Arts Center on Friday night, lighting up the partisan crowd and holding court for a very full couple of action-packed hours. It’s been five years since “the Boys” stopped in and it seems like that has been way too long, judging by the enthusiasm of the audience at this show where breathers were rare and the music was pure country. The much decorated vocal quartet is comprised of tenor “Ace” Allen, baritone Joe Bonsall, baritone William Lee Golden and that trademark oak barrel-aged bass of Richard Sterban. They stick with country standards made full by the four-part harmony and never seem to take themselves too seriously until the do their gospel stuff. Yet, on this night they did slip in some new songs and took a step or two away from the mainstream C&W.
At Cerritos the production was big and glitzy with a Vegas touch including multi-media video screens, smoke machines and costume changes that made for visual interest to go along with the wall of country sound created by an excellent back-up band lead by guitarists Donnie Carr on lead and Rex Wiseman on pedal steel. The “Boys” came out of the chute like a snorting bull, firing up “the Boys Are Back,” “Come On” and “American Made” without as much as a deep breath. As was the case most of the night the group kind of stood back and let the rather regally bearded Mister Golden take a ballad and raise it up as he did on “Heaven’s a Small Town.” On the other end of the musical scale the thunderously deep bass voice of Richard Sterban gave counterpoint as in his “Deep Down Inside” that certainly matched the lyrics. There was just plenty of old-fashioned good time music like “Y’All Come Back Saloon,” Callin’ Baton Rouge” “Ozark Mountain Jubilee’ and the video enhanced “Hard to Be Cool (in a Minivan). The fun first half closed with the community themed “Touch a Hand…Make a Friend” that gave the audience a closer look at each other. The second half had a little more sanctified material like “Where the Soul Never Dies,” and “Will Live for Jesus” that demonstrated the original intent of the Oakridge Boys who were once a gospel quartet before conquering crossovers in several genre. One reason this group is so beloved is their down home attitude which showed on some sweet corn in the form of “Mama’s Table,” and “Thank God for the Kids” that got the grandmas in the crowd whooping. The one behind me raised decibels into the rock and roll levels. There were a couple of surprises outside standard C&W as in a rocking John Lee Hooker song “Boom Boom Boom Boom,” that prospered from the deep bass lead. Plus one of the real highlights of the new material played was Golden’s soaring “Beautiful Bluebird” written by Neil Young. Of course the demand was for the hits, especially the obligatory “Elvira” and “Bobby Sue” that got the chairs a swaying all up and down the theater. The boys were indeed back and Cerritos was darn glad there were there.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Aida February 14, 2009

Aida at Cerritos

By Glen Creason

The Teatro Lirico D’Europa returned to the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts over the weekend bringing more grand opera in the form of Giuseppe Verdi’s great Aida which filled the stage with action and angst along with three glorious hours of singing. This one hundred and thirty-eight year old masterpiece is oft performed and for good reason. The story, as is the case in many plots in the form is filled with intrigue, double-dealing and love destroyed by perfidy. Only daytime television can compete with Italian opera for romantic misery but it does make for some really wonderful singing. The Sofia Symphony Orchestra and chorus (who were onstage in costume) gave excellent support to the half dozen principal singers and the big scale set was certainly good enough for the hall. This is not an eye candy production but the singing was decidedly first-rate from the key roles of Radames, the hero then villain to his object of adoration Aida. There is an awful lot to see on the stage with the different levels of sets, the large chorus singing parts like a character in the plot and dancers who perform ballet in several sequences. We are talking about pyramids and Sphinxes here.
The Readers Digest plot summary goes something like Aida is the Ethiopian slave of Amneris, the Egyptian princess and daughter of the King of Egypt. It is a time of war between Ethiopia and Egypt where Radames, the Captain of the guards has just vanquished Amonasro, the King of the Ethiopians and secretly the father of Aida. There are also priests and priestesses and the romantic subplot of Radames deep love for Aida which is waylaid by the “gift” he receives from the King in the form of his daughter’s hand, the jealous and spiteful Amneris who like Aida loves Radames. After Amonastro gets the crestfallen Aida to coax war strategy secrets from Radames he is accused of being a traitor and condemned to death by burial when alive and everybody ends up miserable including both women and especially the entombed Radames. However, there is that sort of opera silver lining as Aida hides in the sepulcher and joins Radames in death joined eternally where they could not have done so in life. Typically, the final aria, the most beautiful “La fatal pietra sovra me si chiuse." ("The fatal stone now closes over me.") and Radames: “Morir! Si pura e bella” bring this sad story to an end. Despite the broad stroke melodrama it just breaks your heart to hear it sung.
This production did have strong performances from the critical roles: Olga Chernisheva as Aida was delicate and beautiful but with soprano voice enough to sing this demanding role over the length of large opera. Tenor Gabriel Gonzalez returned from his earlier triumph at Cerritos, singing Radames extremely taxing character while gaining admiration for the music and sympathy for his acting of the complex soldier. Lastly, Tatiana Kaminskaya wrapped herself around the double-edged persona of Amneris making her evil in her jealousy and heartbreaking in her remorse. The two ladies singing on “Fu la sorte dell' armi a' tuoi funesta” when Amneris gets Aida to reveal her love for Radames was exceptionally moving and Radames profession of love “Pur ti riveggo, mio dolce Aida” was strong enough to have some in the audience reaching for handkerchiefs. Aida is a lot of opera, a large scale show with an exhausting amount of dialogue but in the end it is very much worth staying to hear the telling of this tragic story.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Moments to Remember February 8, 2009

“Three Fours is a Good Hand at Cerritos”

By Glen Creason

A newspaper editor recently posed the query “define old.” I would say that if you remember pop music before Elvis you have some miles on the odometer but that only makes you wiser and not old. Fred Diodati, lead singer of the featured “Four Aces” who headlined the “Moments to Remember” matinee at the Performing Arts Center on Sunday says that old is only an unnecessary state of mind. This, coming from a gentleman who has been married for 56 years and has been the front man for this group since 1956. Fred and the Four Aces hauled out the chestnuts from way back at this show much to the joy of the packed house who were old enough to remember them and young enough to get down to Center drive. Sweet songs like “Three Coins in a Fountain,” “Mister Sandman,” “Amor” and the classic “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing” warmed the huge assemblage and took everyone back to simpler times and melodies that filled our homes in the days of vinyl and easy money. This might be as my friend calls it “Cruise Ship” music but the Aces do it up right and add that air of authenticity of half a century of performing these great old tunes. There were more dandies including “Perfidia,” “Should I,” “Shangri-La” and a perfectly lovely “Dream” that were exactly suited to the tight four part harmony of the group. This kind of music formed the bridge between Big Band swing and Rock and Roll for a good reason, it just sounds cool to hear in person.
The show was opened by the “Four Lads” who are a few miles away from lad-dom but can still sing their memorable songs with a seamless harmony and style not seen in contemporary music. Lead by bass singer Connie Codarini the quartet put nice touches to “Istanbul,” “Cry,” “Standing on the Corner” “No Not Much” and the wonderfully evocative “These Moments to Remember” that really made you think about when you might have heard the songs first. They also did a lengthy salute/melody to Irving Berlin that was amazing in the sheer numbers of classic tunes the composer contributed to the great American songbook.
In between the Lads and Aces were the Diamonds who offered a much more flamboyant and energetic set punctuated by lots of clowning and theatrics. Theirs was a performance that reached right into the Rock and Roll era with some genuine Oldies but Goodies especially “Those Oldies But Goodies,” “Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay,” “Only You,” “At the Hop,” and “Splish Splash” aided by sax and choreography. They also proved adept at the doo wop or plain pop like “Blue Moon,” a perfect “Church Bells,” “the Stroll” and even a fine version of the Beach Boys song “In My Room.”
The full dozen singers came out for a grand finale of “United We Stand” that got the audience to stand and applaud long and loud for these heroes of yesteryear back here again.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Solid Gold Rock and Roll January 31, 2009

Little Anthony Stands Tall at Cerritos

By Glen Creason

It might help to get the full, Technicolor picture but you don’t have to be of a certain vintage to enjoy the act of Little Anthony and the Imperials as seen on Saturday evening at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. If you ever cruised Harvey’s Broiler or wore peggars or remember when gas was twenty-seven cents a gallon down at the Terrible Herbst service station you most probably can sing most of his hits, even if you can’t remember where you left your reading glasses. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group has inscribed their names and music on the collective memory of American Pop reaching as far back as 1957 when I was at St. Helen School being whipped into shape by Sister Leocritia. The memories are golden but we all move on away from those youthful frolics, except these guys called the Imperials and their lead man Anthony.
At Cerritos they put on a show full of energy, humor and style that got the packed house upright in their seats and gave full measure to the meaning of all those gold records they recorded over the past half century. Yep, half century. They opened with the dramatic but jocular “All by Myself” that began with the sad looking Anthony belting out the melancholic lyrics but later being joined by the smooth and sensational Imperials who swelled the chorus into a full blown melodrama. They busted out a wicked “Grapevine” slowed to a sweet “Tears on My Pillow” before taking on the obligatory “Shimmy Shimmy Ko Ko Bop” that sounded pretty darn good for a throw away tune recorded when Hector as a pup. Despite lots of loose banter, when the group grabs a hold of a song they do it right including the heart breaking “I’m on the Outside Looking In,” “Hurt So Bad” and “I Think I’m Going Out of My Head” that stood with the original recordings when Anthony’s years were little.
This was officially a Solid Gold Rock and Roll show and the proceedings were opened by Johnny Tillotson who has left his mark on pop and county with songs heard on this night like “Heartaches by the Number,” “Send Me the Pillow That You Dream On,” and “Poetry in Motion” that may not have been what they once were but then neither are we. Tillotson was affable and charming but could have used some more amplification on the mike. He was followed by the 60’s hit makers “Jay and the Americans” who needed no extra amping and were certainly well received on this night. They stirred the old pop music gray cells with “She Cried,” the emotional “Cara Mia,” “Come a Little Bit Closer” and “This Magic Moment” that actually garnered standing ovations across the hall full of boomers.
Still, the night pretty much belonged to the truly ageless Little Anthony and those original Imperials. Many rock and roll revival shows can only put one member on stage but the Imperials are the real deal with Clarence Collins, Ernest Wright and Harold Jenkins working alongside Anthony Gordine dancing, singing and wowing the Cerritos faithful at this show. The entire ensemble gathered for a grand finale of the chestnut “Goodnight Sweetheart” that hasn’t sounded so good since it came out of the vibrasonic in the Chevy Bel Air back in the day.