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, March 22, 2010

Tex Beneke Orchestra March 21, 2010

Tex Beneke Orchestra Swings Again at Cerritos

By Glen Creason

With any big band concert hereabouts you have to judge the show by the “murmur factor.” That is when the bandleader announces the tune and the rumble of recognition rolls through the audience. On the Sunday matinee of the Tex Beneke Orchestra at the Performing Arts Center that murmur factor was heard often, sometimes even progressing into some off-key singing that came forth when the memories flooded from the stage. Of course, any of these recreations of the great music of the 1930s and 1940s travel on a tightrope between nostalgia and cruise ship mediocrity but the evergreen music can never be underestimated.
At Cerritos, the concert was pretty much divided into five parts and the whole was anchored by the really fine fifteen piece orchestra that most certainly could play everything from swing to ballad and never did they hit a sour note. The horn section, always at the core of big band was excellent and since Ted Beneke’s band was a branch off the Glenn Miller ensemble the trombones were essential and wonderful. The band got help from three proficient singers and a well-known quartet who brought the murmurs out when they opened up the old treasure chests of song, polishing up over two dozen gems in all.
Ageless and energetic Mary Lou Metzger opened the show and sang “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “I Got Rhythm,” after raising the curtain with the appropriate “When Everything That’s Old Is New Again.” The first big murmur came with “Moonlight Serenade,” a song that they will most certainly love five hundred years from now if the planet is still together then. The crowd, drawn from the early Boomers and before couldn’t get enough of the good old ones, including “I Got a Gal in Kalamazoo” and “Pennsylvania 6-500” that they joyfully participated in with creaky but enthusiastic sing-a-longs. “The Modernaires” hit the stage and kept the classics rolling with “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” “Elmer’s Tune,” “Moonlight Cocktail” “At Last,” Chattanooga Choo Choo and “Perfidia” before the orchestra finished the first half with a rousing “American Patrol.
The second half was more of yesterday, this time with the help of pert Polly Podewell who belted out “Sing Me a Swing Song,” “Our Love Is Here to Stay” and helped the band through the wonders of “Tuxedo Junction” and the all-time evergreen “In the Mood.” The rest of the afternoon fell to Mister Buddy Greco, who at 83 seems to be just getting started. His voice may not be what it once was but his fingers on the keyboard must have been dipped in Ponce De Leon’s fountain of youth. This portion was a departure from the big band feel but the audience ate it up. Greco had the benefit of a truly grand piano and his readings of “Around the World,” the gorgeous “It Might Be You” and the show closing “McArthur Park” were beyond amazing. Throughout the sound of the orchestra was full and strong but not loud enough to oppress the ears, even of those who have heard a note or two million along the decades.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Vienna Boys Choir March 14, 2010

Vienna Boys Choir better than advertised at Cerritos

By Glen Creason

You would have to go a long way to find better bloodlines than the five hundred year old “Wiener Sangerknaben” or as they are known on this side of the great pond “the Vienna Boys Choir.” Just picture that Franz Schubert and Papa Hayden were members of this august ensemble to get some perspective. Than again, they have performed on every continent except maybe Antarctica. The word boys in the title should not make anyone believe this is a green, unpolished unit since the dedication, talent and rigorous discipline needed to perform as they do is beyond what any who teach kids would believe possible. To translate it all into American, these guys are just totally awesome! I had to say they were better than advertised since there is no need beyond posting a notice that the choir is coming and the place will sell out as it was at the Performing Arts Center for this Sunday matinee. These fans go back to the 78 rpm playing mahogany consoles and many sang-along, although not anywhere as well as the lads. There is an old-fashioned feel to the show as the director Florian Schwartz wore the tuxedo with long tails and the boys were attired in their trademark sailor suits. This is one of four touring choirs, this one the Mozart choir which celebrates a genius who figures heavily in the history of the group.
At Cerritos the program was full of delights including classic arrangements of the masters including “Jubilemus” by Couperin, “Come ye sons of art and strike the viol” by Henry Purcell, J.S. Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and several wonderful songs from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” “V’Amo di core” was most interesting as it consisted of three melodies sung separately by twelve voices while the boys walked in patterns around the stage. This maneuver is the musical equivalent of patting your head while rubbing circles on your stomach. The first half ended with four more playful pieces “Der Floh,” “Gaudete,” the lovely “Widerspruch” by Shubert and a lilting waltz by Johann Strauss “Leichtes Blut.” The second half was drawn from all over the world, beginning with three perfect tunes from Austria with a snappy accordion accompaniment. The third in the set featured a yodel that actually drew audience participation. Two songs from America were demanding and unusual including a piece written by Geronimo and a work song that required precision percussion supplied with twenty-five pair of feet. Two more gems were a sweet love song from Korea “Arirang” and the song for peace from Israel “Shalom aleichem.” Yet, a last minute inclusion of the Leonard Cohen masterpiece “Hallelujah” was cause for a heartfelt standing ovation all up and down the large auditorium. The rewarding afternoon ended with, appropriately an Austrian finish with a Strauss polka and waltzes and even a tasty encore of “Chattanooga Choo Choo” that gave the boys a lot of pleasure along with the roaring crowd.