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"

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ellsie Awards 2010

by Glen Creason
The sputtering economy has demanded belt-tightening at almost every level of society, especially in my household but the heartbeat of culture still beats vibrantly at the dear Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. After eighteen years of checking out shows at the great hall I find each and every season to be different and wonderful in its own way. This year was no different despite shorter seasons and a few less shows attended by this reviewer. As a matter of fact, 2010 held a few of the very best shows and performances I have enjoyed in my lengthy tenure at the Community News.
Some things stay sweetly the same as in the world’s greatest publicist/ press liaison Lori Levine-Yonan who seems to anticipate like a clairvoyant while producing spots for the ink-stained wretches such as myself. There are also old friends who seem never to age such as India Holloway, Tony Erdelji and the dapper house manager Alan Strickland. Once again I found a box office staff overseen by ever-vigilant Nate Chavez and Cristopher Laroco that is nothing short of an all-star team of helpful and personable young people like Daniel Penland and Carla Madrid. The technical crews absolutely outdid themselves in this year, transforming the Center stage into all manner of moods and sets from grand opera to a mining camp. The names remain the same but the magic just gets better with practice by Tom Hamilton, James King and Jeff Thielke along with helpers who make it look easy while it most certainly is not.
As the winds of change have blown through the center the ascendance of Diane Cheney to director is great news since that insures the integrity and future of the hall will be top drawer in every way. As an admirer of the attitude and intelligence of the box office operation I am anxious to see this same spirit energizing the highest levels at the CCPA. It IS the best theater in Southern California without a doubt. I also tip my battered Dodger cap to the Community News who managed to bat an impressive average of submission to printing of my opinions. Thank You all!
Without further ado, the 2010 Ellsies:
: January 15. Keb Mo and Susan Werner proved to be a doubly potent shot of musical talent and power. Keb Mo on his own can fill the hall up with a joyful noise but Werner put this one over the top with multi-instrumental expertise and rich vocal accompaniment.
E-Dance: February 6. Lula Washington Dance Theater. The Center has become one of the top venues for dance in the West and this amazing troupe was the best of the best in this year, especially Tamika Washington Miller, the assistant director who is so hands on she performed the most memorable dancing of the night including key segments of the expansive “Ode to the Sixties” that was brimming with color, fluid movement and great music.
E-World: February 21. The Chieftains. You just cannot go wrong going to see and hear the Chieftains who keep changing their shape but staying true to the Irish core. The fantastic dancing Pilatske brothers are worth the price of admission alone but this show featured the great Ry Cooder playing with the band on the memorable “Cancion Mixteca.”
E-Classical Combination: February 28 Sarah Chang and Andrew Von Oeyen. Exuding class and magnificent command of the violin and piano they created one of the most delightful afternoons of the year including a dazzling performance of the contemporary composer Christopher Theofanida’s “Fantasy.”
E-Youth Be Served: March 15. Vienna Boys Choir captivated an enthusiastic crowd of chorale music lovers with one winner after another including the surprising and exquisitely beautiful Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah.”
E-Roots: April 3. Beausoleil. The is no cooler sight or sound than this American national treasure of a band playing down home Cajun music. Michael Doucet is an icon that leads by having giant talent evidenced in the playing of “Alligator Purse” that transformed Cerritos into the big Easy on this spring night.
E-Swing a ding ding: May 1. John Pizzarelli. The incredibly versatile crooner-guitarist worked Sinatra-like magic at one of the best shows of the year. Drawing from the chairman’s repertoire the big band swung the night away but it was the little known “It’s Sunday” that really took this concert to the top.
E-Orchestra: October 30. Moscow State Orchestra with Jennifer Koh violin. Under the baton of the energetic Pavel Kogan the big and powerful Moscow State Orchestra really expanded the hall musically. Ms. Koh was simply magnificent playing Max Bruch’s “Violin Concerto No. 1 in g minor” especially on the “allegro energetico” that was energetic and more. Moreover, one of the real heart pounding moments in all of the Cerritos history was the final movement of Moussgorky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” when the Muscovites opened the doors of the “great gate of Kiev," bringing tears of joy to concert-goers eyes.
E-Charm: November 7. Bobby Vinton. Singing hits that first hit the airwaves when I was a little nipper the old crooner charmed the full house with an act he has polished or Polished for five decades. When he shouted “Ho Ho!” to the crowd it actually worked like a tonic.
E-Yule: December 3. Tomaseen Foley’s Celtic Christmas. The warm and wonderful Irish Christmas show featured the ancient craft of storytelling highlighted by excellent folk music. “The Christmas Parcel” shone like a beautiful ornament when juxtaposed against the work of three fine musicians and one terrific dancer.
E-Performance of the Year: John Williams. The great guitarist presented a near perfect concert showcasing several great Latin-American composers but surprisingly the biggest gem in a jewel-box full of them was the African artist Francis Bebey’s “O Bia” that in its simplicity and beauty was unforgettable.
E-Show of the Year. Kris Kristofferson. If you thought old Kris was just an actor who dabbles you should have seen this deeply affecting show filled with great songwriting and soul shaking singing. In a night that passed far too quickly his “the Circle from Here to Forever” written to his children provided an unforgettable moment in the annals of the great hall.
Lastly: 2010 proved to be the best year in my life. When most people struggled through the challenges of a hard time I was fortunate enough to accomplish my life’s ambition and publish “Los Angeles in Maps” for Rizzolli International. Since this seems to be the only time it will be mentioned in this paper I urge you to seek it out and give it a read. Check out http://www.laobserved.com/archive/2010/12/la_observed_on_kcrw_holid.php or give a listen to http://www.kcrw.com/etc/programs/lo/lo101220holiday_books or watch on vimeo http://vimeo.com/16570845

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Celtic Tenors December 8, 2010

The Celtic Tenors Holiday Shows Cerritos an Irish Good Time

By Glen Creason

Continuing a green Christmas season the Celtic Tenors visited the Performing Arts Center at midweek and brought two dozen old chestnuts, some of them holiday themed to an enthusiastic crowd who did some performing themselves. From the beginning it might have been confusing since Cerritos has hosted “the Three Irish Tenors” in the past that is a cousin to this group, the purported progenitor of the two. While these gents were most certainly not Finbar Wright, John McDermott, Anthony Kearns, Karl Scully or Ronan Tynan they have been doing quite well as themselves: Matthew Gilsenan, James Nelson, and Daryl Simpson. All are decidedly Celtic and fine tenors in their own right. The program is also very close to the annual Irish Christmas shows with some added pop song slants not before heard here. This was all gloriously couched in a festively decorated stage filled with the large and polished Cerritos Center Orchestra that filled the hall with Yule spirit.

The Celtic Tenors most certainly offered up a banquet of the Irish repertoire with half a dozen being directly related to the season. Christmas cheer was sprinkled all over “Away in a Manger, “ “Ave Maria,” a majestic “O Holy Night” “Silent Night,” and the delicate “Mille Cherubini” that fairly shimmered. They covered the truly Irish with “Spanish Lady/ Mairies Wedding, ” the peppy “Finnegan’s Wake,” likewise “Phil the Fluters Ball,” the beautiful “Fields of Athenry” and an evening highlight of a breathtaking a cappella version of “Danny Boy,” the ultimate evergreen. There were also the big hall showstopper vocals of the popular variety like “You Raise Me Up,” “Anthem” from the musical “Chess” with its Abba intonations, the great Roy Orbison ballad “A Love So Beautiful,” and the encore of a soaring “Time to Say Goodbye.” All of these were spiced in the mix with unusual inclusions such as the Latin “Gaudete,” a fine “Nella Fantasia” composed by Ennio Morricone, Bob Dylan’s “You Aint Going Nowhere” and the old aria “Nessun Dorma” which was sung by the assembled audience with not too bad of harmony. It might not test the tonsils too sing “ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ahh!” but this crowd gave it full voice.

While this show is not as melodramatic as the “Three Irish…” it does have charm and pluck with good humor and a folksy appeal. Matthew Gilsenan has all the voice you could ever need and captured some musical peaks while both Nelson and Simpson did well in their parts and shone on harmonies, especially on the exquisite “Danny Boy.” This is a less formal and nicely paced concert, one that seemed to fulfill the expectations of the Irish loving audience who stood for standing ovations after several old favorites. There were generous helpings of music and that glorious orchestra keeping the spirits high along with even a few steps of Irish dancing to remind us of the place where the Celtic tenors will set up their Christmas trees this year.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Tomaseen Foley's Celtic Christmas December 1, 2010

A Celtic Christmas at Cerritos

By Glen Creason

Billed as “a Celtic Christmas” this show could have been anything from a belted out “Buala Bas” (Jingle Bells in Gaelic) sung with a brogue to Michael Flatley influenced, arms at the sides headbanded hoofing. Thankfully it was nothing of the sort but so much more. Since many of my favorite yuletide times were experienced in an Irish household I was hoping for some of that good cheer to jump-start the holidays in the right direction. Of course there was only talk about Irish coffee to create the proper mood but it wasn’t necessary to enjoy this sweet and gentle performance of old-fashioned storytelling punctuated by excellent Celtic folk music and some spirited dance. It does take some gumption to take five people on a bare stage and create a landscape with just words and sounds but Tomaseen Foley and his talented musical accompanists filled up the entire, great hall with warmth and good cheer. The current of Christmas was achieved early and when young Marcus Donnelly put his dancing shoes to the planks on stage the energy surged joyfully. The leisurely pace and perfectly mixed offerings just glowed like a good party at a rambling house in the land of the forty shades.
Foley is a master-storyteller and his tale “the Christmas Parcel” was at the center of this show, unfolding from his charming gift of Irish gab over the entire two-hour show.
It is a quaint but evergreen tale of a widow’s sadness parted by the largesse of neighbors in the parish of Teampall, a Ghleanntain in the West of Ireland. Even if you see the glimmering generosity and selflessness of the simple farm folk coming from the first phrases of the tale the ending will give you a lump in your throat the size of a pint of Guinness. Tomaseen does not rush it but sits on a plain lacquered stool out front and spins the story as interludes. The words draw you in but the music both stimulates and keeps you wanting to get back to the plotline.
Yet, these are exceptional musicians, not just space between paragraphs. Marianne Knight is a marvel with a heavenly soprano that sounds like the great singer Kate Rusby and mastery over several instruments. Every tune she touched was sweet including “the Kerry Christmas Carol,” “The Wexford Carol” and “Ned of the Hill” that transfixed the hall. William Coulter solos sparingly but his skill with the acoustic guitar is superb. The folk songs of this show stood tall with the buttressing of his work and the rare solos he did perform were transcendent. Brian Bigley on Uilleann pipes, whistle and flute had to be very good to stand with Knight and Coulter but he was in perfect harmony and quality with the band. Bigley and Ms. Knight also stood up and danced in one of the show’s most delightful segments, rattling the hasps with young Marcus Donnelly in breathtaking synchronicity. Still, the star of the show is Tomaseen Foley’s ancient skill at storytelling that demonstrated the human voice telling a good story is better than any electronic in the world. The ensemble finished the cozy evening with “oiche chiuin” or “Silent Night” as we have heard it for decades but the wild appreciation from the Cerritos faithful was anything but silent.