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 26, 2011

Manuel Barrueco Friday February 25, 2011

Manuel Barrueco and Cuartero Latinoamericano

Bring Class to Cerritos

By Glen Creason

The concert “Sounds of the Americas” at the Performing Arts Center was a perfect example of the great value of this theater to all of Southern California. While not packing the house, Manuel Barrueco and the Cuartero Latinoamericano performed a wonderfully challenging and uncompromising concert of compositions done by Latin American composers rarely heard in the southland. The choices came from all parts of
Central and South America and represented contemporary classical music from the 20th and 21st century, polished with plenty of verve and spirited playing. With one exception, Barrueco put himself within the group and essentially played as part of the whole making the Cuartero a Quintero. This shows the devotion of maestro Barrueco to the music since he is one of the most accomplished classical guitarists performing. Then again, the Cuartero plays at the highest level and he is in great company. The enthusiastic crowd of aficionados present certainly appreciated the effort and lusty shouts of bravo met the conclusion of this evening of fine music.

At Cerritos the show encompassed a large part of terra Latino including Barrueco’s native Cuba, Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay, and even that North American region known as Michigan. The program began with the sweetly lyrical and decidedly romantic “Las Presencias No. 6, Jeromita Linares” by Argentine Carlos Guastavino. With the guitarist leading the way the piece almost sounded like film music, full of a wistful sentimental quality but probably the most classical sounding on the program. This may have lulled the audience into a dreamy state but that was shaken loose by the rather avant-garde “Bay of Pigs” by Michigander Michael Daugherty, that was filled with tension and drama. At times there was more plucking of the violins, viola and cello than bowing but the overall effect was arresting especially in the pulsating “anthem” that completed the three pieces. “Metro Chabanaco” from Mexican Javier Alvarez was performed just by the string quartet in a driving and energetic tempo, reflecting the busy train station that inspired the piece.

The second half of the concert opened with Barrueco’s solo playing of the exquisite “Danza Lucumi” by Cuban émigré Ernesto Lecuona. While much of the program was daring and edgy this delicate and joyful dance was just like a warm, tropical gust of melody. “Boliviana” by the Uruguayan Miguel de Aguila was once more extremely evocative, much like good film music, beginning with the dark “returning home under the rain” and finishing with the bright “and the sun came out.” Lastly, were a set of compositions by the brilliant Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla called “tango sensations” then “milonga del Angel” and Muerte del Angel which expanded the tango and the listeners musical experience. This was music to ponder, not to dance to. The audience thought very well of the Piazzolla by standing and shouting bravos which drew the five gentlemen out for an encore that unfortunately was not announced from the stage but was beautifully done.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Garrison Keillor February 6, 2011

Garrison Keillor Charms Cerritos

By Glen Creason

Locals were lucky once again to sit at the red running shoed feet of the master storyteller Garrison Keillor at the Performing Arts Center over the weekend. Anyone who has ever held a microphone in front of a group of any size must bow down to this wonderful humorist, who in my humble opinion is the foremost public speaker in the land. Even the awesome Bill Cosby doesn’t have Keillor’s versatility who sang, told stories and recited great poetry in this superb two hour banquet of the spoken word. After struggling with some health issues a couple of years ago that threatened his performance schedules Keillor is back and better than ever, this time with musical accompaniment ala the Prairie Home Companion radio show he invented and made hugely popular. Not just any accompanists but the excellent Robin and Linda Williams whose talent stood tall even next to the towering Maestro Keillor.

There are so many reasons to love this man’s show from the sincere humility that peppers his droll stories to the ad libbing that on this afternoon included two absolutely brilliant recitation send-ups of Cerritos without once mentioning the Auto Square. Hurray!! Sometimes Keillor was a bass provider in a folk trio; sometimes an actual baritone singer and several times he followed the path of Rex Harrison and sort of talk-sung which in French is called a diseur. God only knows if Garrison Keillor has some hard and fast play list but on this afternoon he rambled and crooned and charmed a delighted packed house that chose this national treasure over even the Super Bowl.

The first bit of humor was a recitation about Atheists which covered the bases and took no sides despite Keillor’s longtime relationship with the Episcopalian and Lutheran churches. Along with the crisp reading of “Hello Stranger” by Robin and Linda he won over the happy crowd with “the Cerritos Song” that I wish I had on my Ipod. He told long stories like ones about his family trip west where they forgot him in a North Dakota filling station and a shorter one about simply counting your blessings. He knocked off a bit of Guy Noir Private Eye battling Joey Robitussin and spun a long and delicious tale of growing up in Minnesota with a landscape rich with aunts. All the while the Williams’ rang out wonderful stuff, with some old gospel classics like “Jordan,” “Turn Your Radio On,” “I’ll Be Satisfied” and “When I Put Out to Sea” along with contemporary beauties like Iris Dement’s “Our Town.”

When Robin and Linda were not singing sweet harmonies they were laughing with the rest of the delighted audience at more stories including the hilarious differences between the world of raising a child forty years ago and the world of raising a child now which Keillor can surely testify to since he has a son 42 years old and a daughter who is 14. Yet, not everything in the show is completely light-hearted, since the man is a great student of great poetry which he recited with ease, grasping lines from Tennyson like we might recite a line from a Four Tops song. As host of the terrific “Writers Almanac” on Public Radio, Keillor is a man of great intellect who has put it to work entertaining and edifying the American public for four decades. In the intimacy of the Performing Arts Center he just came to real-life much to the delight of this adoring crowd.