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, July 30, 2011

Louis Anderson with Paul Rodriguez July 29, 2011

 Louis Anderson and Paul Rodriguez:
 a very full night of comedy at Cerritos

                                                 By Glen Creason

    A strange thing happened to the delightful comedy concert at the Performing Arts Center on Friday night that was steaming full speed ahead toward four stars. Louis Anderson’s understated droll stories had won over the mostly mature house and at the intermission there were a couple of thousand happy Cerritos visitors, smiling from ear to ear. What could go wrong with the same group, having a drink or two in the twenty minutes between sets and the headliner, local favorite Paul Rodriguez taking the stage. No problem, no problem at all…for the first hour and fifteen minutes as Rodriguez kept it clean and down the middle at a dizzying pace, bouncing from one topic to another like a man with pure caffeine pumping through his veins. One had to wonder with the rapid pace of jokes and the changes of subject just how long could the comedian keep this up. The answer was for a long, long, long time.
     The first hour was classic Paul Rodriguez, the veteran stand-up with extensive knowledge in keeping a crowd laughing at absurdist vignettes ranging from crossing the blurred border back to a Latino America to tales of religions, strange Winter sports, his Mother’s blue chip stamp collecting and his ideas on family/kids/relationships with women. All funny, all delivered briskly, spraying memories all around the hall which seemed to be with him. When the energy started to lag he returned to the story of the bicycle he longed for as a kid and his Father’s refusal to take him to Western Auto to purchase the object of his dreams. The last time Rodriguez visited the Center he told this tale and gave goose bumps since it signified the sacrifices an immigrant family would make to please a child raised without much but love under the Christmas tree in Compton. But, this time the story had a different ending that turned it from heartwarming to cynical and elicited a sigh of disappointment where there was a dabbing of eyes before.
     At some point Paul Rodriguez grew restless at the responses and sometimes the monologue wavered from hilarious stand-up to petulant, self-conscious nervous talking. As the clock approached the three hour mark for the audience Rodriguez seemed to be frustrated that they were more quizzical than jolly and he just kept talking as they shifted in their seats. As the old Henny Youngman joke went “he reminded me of a Chinese comic “On Too Long.”  Too bad because Rodriguez is in a very small group of the very best comics in America and deserves the stardom he has paid big dues for but on this night he just stayed too long at the Fair.
     Louis Anderson, on the other hand, was pure butter and totally captivated the crowd with his low-key style and droll stories about his colorful home life in Minnesota, especially his hoarder Mom and “loud Dad.” He turned ordinary experience at the airports and security measures into laugh out loud moments of joy. He does spend a lot of time on his weight and love of food but it all works since he is only making fun of himself in the end. His finishing kick on aging which involved interplay with audience members was a delightful bit of storytelling and insight into the human condition. In forty-five minutes Louis Anderson gave the Cerritos audience their money’s worth in laughter. The following two hours were gravy, so to speak.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Don McLean July 23, 2011

Don McLean at Cerritos as American as American Pie

By Glen Creason

      One of the most inspired YouTube videos in memory is the truly fantastic civic pride exhibition by Grand Rapids, Michigan. An entire town is choreographed while lip sinking the anthem “American Pie” as they showcase a city dissed by Newsweek magazine. You won’t find an example of American strength more emblematic and full of spirit than this one. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPjjZCO67WI It is no surprise that the town used this long and textured song to exhibit what is great about America because it has become one of the most beloved tunes of all time despite getting played on top-40 radio a zillion times. Now, there is hearing it on the radio with its familiar refrain and then there is the live version which was heard at the Performing Arts Center on Saturday night where the entire full house is singing along in full-voice chorus after heart-warming chorus. Certainly a visit by Don McLean, a dean of songwriting and a singer of great renown is fortunate for us in these parts since he has made enough money to retire and sit up by the radio towers that broadcast his classic each day.

Yet, McLean is an entertainer to the bone and he doesn’t like to rest on his laurels so there he was in the old hometown offering up way more than just American Pie while steaming full speed through over twenty of his repertoire. It is an impressive treasure chest of songs including the gems “Vincent,” “Winterwood,” “Castles in the Air” and “And I Love Her So” that will certainly stand the test of time. He also mixed in marvelous material from his many albums that kept the pulse thumping including a Buddy Holly medley (“Well Alright,” “Wishin’,” and “Peggy Sue Got Married”) along with Roy Orbison’s magnificent “Cryin” that stirred the gray cells of the mostly Boomer crowd. McLean also chose some fine songs that may not have charted, especially the poignant “Homeless Brother,” and “Jay Gould’s Daughter” that had a contemporary message that hit home. There was also 21st century stuff many had not heard like “Run Diana Run” about media obsession with celebrities and the light hearted “Fashion Victim” that varied the flow of serious songs.

In case one might forget that this man is a fine musician he played the heck out of the old Reverend Gary Davis’ “I’ve Got the Keys to the Kingdom” and rocked it country and western style on “Living on Tulsa Time.” While the man is not close to the singer who caressed these ballads forty years ago, I can’t run to first base too fast anymore either. The band that backs Don McLean is understated but excellent, especially Vip Vipperson on lead guitar and Tony Migliore on the 88’s. The evening was also a family affair when son Wyatt came out to sing a couple of folk tunes while demonstrating the best voice heard all evening with a beguiling shyness that just added to the concert’s charm. In the end, however, it was the anthem “American Pie” sung by the giddy audience that made the evening memorable. Just like Grand Rapids, Cerritos sounds pretty good singing in harmony.