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, October 31, 2011

Marvin Hamlisch October 30, 2011

             Marvin Hamlisch: Warm Here…Warms Hall

                                            By Glen Creason

     Marvin Hamlisch, the multi-award winning composer, conductor and maestro of the piano left the frigid, airport tarmac of New York City on Saturday to land in balmy Cerritos where the thermometer rested above 80 degrees for his Sunday matinee at the Performing Arts Center. This turned out to be a great move for both Hamlisch and music lovers on the left coast as his concert charmed with wit and uplifted with melodies and songs he has written or just loves to play. The show included the excellent Broadway vocalist Gary Mauer who added just the right touch to some truly great songs, eliciting a couple of standing ovations mid-concert. Hamlisch combined stories of his career that began with the 6 year old wunderkind getting accepted to the Juilliard School after playing “Good Night Irene" in his admission test in several keys. His sixteen years of study at the famed NYC school of music are evident in his skills at the huge Steinway where he could take the simplest melody, like “happy birthday” and turn it into a Beethoven symphony (this really happened.) Not only does Hamlisch have tremendous command of his instrument, he has marvelous taste in popular music, including many of his own wonderful compositions.
     At Cerritos, he played the familiar and the obscure which all sounded terrific coming from that grand piano that figured into some comedy in the second half of the show. The lilting and beautiful theme from a forgotten film called “the Swimmer” was a case in point of a melody that lingers while the images in the movie do not. His medley of “songs that only four people know” was really fine, adding a thousand more fans of “If You Remember Me” from the remake of “the Champ.” Of course, Hamlisch has been involved in some of the biggest hits ever including “Nobody Does It Better,” “the Way We Were,” “One” and “What I Did for Love” from “A Chorus Line” and the music from the classic film “The Sting” which hit the spot for nostalgia. He also chose well from the treasure chest of Broadway playing stirring versions of  "Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” and  “Send in the Clowns” that flowed from his piano like silk and satin. Gary Mauer sang gorgeous renditions of Richard Rodgers “This Can’t Be Love,” and  “Some Enchanted Evening,” along with  “Bring Him Home” from “Les Miserables” and “Music of the Night” from “Phantom of the Opera” that brought the delighted audience out of their seats.
     Marvin Hamlisch has genuine class and he needed little more than that grand piano to make a fine show. Yet, he allowed the audience to participate in a giving suggestions which ended in the stage crew lead by Alma turning the instrument completely around to give the “other” side of the hall a look at his fingers on the keyboard. The show had a generosity and warmth that maybe came from Hamlisch’s gratitude for our gorgeous Fall afternoon but everyone was happy.  His astounding treatment of the most memorable Chorus Line tunes and a sweet encore was a microcosm of the concert with music filling the big hall from back to front and from the balcony to the boxes.  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ballroom With a Twist October 22, 2011

                  Ballroom with a Twist: straight up good

                                                By Glen Creason

    It was guilty pleasure weekend at the Performing Arts Center as “Dancing With the Stars” met “American Idol” at the Performing Arts Center without anyone getting sent home or being unhappy. In truth, everyone was a winner, especially the audience who seemed to love every note and step of the gazillion notes/steps show. While I have many guilty pleasures in my DVR queue I have never watched either show so this was like sending a vegan to judge a barbecue contest. Yet, as a man who avoided cotillion like the bird flu and only sings to irritate my daughter I was completely won over by this charming and classy entertainment that danced right up to the edge of glamorous excess and laughed, showing perfect teeth. The show is book ended by DWS headliners Alec Mazo and Edyta Sliwinska for the dancing and AI finalists Gina Glocksen and David Hernandez who performed perfectly without a misstep or false note. However, there are many stars in this show, they being the dazzlingly attractive and sexy-elegant dancers who follow the direction of choreographer Louis Van Amstel. The dancers are so good- looking and fit they not only are a great ad for ballroom dancing they do cause reviewers to avoid their own reflection in the intermission mirrors. A trip to Walmart post-show was necessary to reset my self-image compass.
     “Ballroom with a Twist” is expertly paced and does not allow for a dull moment as over thirty songs were used as inspiration for the energetic yet elegant dancing. This included the compositions of Burt Bacharach, George Gershwin, Count Basie, Sara Bareilles and Mark Cohn along with show tunes and plenty of Brazilian flair in the second half of the show. Standout moments for the singers in the first half were a duet of “Without Love” from “Hairspray,” “Gravity” by Gina Glocksen and “Walking in Memphis” by David Hernandez. Without even a hint of irony I would say the “Girls Gone Wild” dancing number rated very high among the half dozen really terrific ensemble numbers.
    The second half had a decidedly Latin flavor with songs and dance from Brazil, Mexico, Cuba and Spain spicing up the proceedings. Variety is the soul of this show which covered techno, Broadway, salsa, samba, swing and tango all in a couple of hours. A soaring “the Prayer” bounced right into a wild “Bahia” and Alec and Edyta showed how tango to Spanish guitar can be art.  There was a fun and funny dance lesson that had a thousand people giddily out of their seats and grooving all at once with arms waving and huge smiles on their faces.  A romantic duet between David and Gina (Cuando Se Quieres?) while surrounded by swooning lovers warmed the hall in body and heart but it was the a high energy finale that included “Guantanemara,” “Chan Chan” and some wild jitterbugging that threw a cherry on top of this Sunday treat. While I still might not vote on AI or DWS I do give “Ballroom With a Twist” a solid two left feet up for both dance and song.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal October 15, 2011

Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal Pay the Rent at Cerritos

                   By Glen Creason

     There was only one thing wrong with the show put together by Broadway stars Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal at the Performing Arts Center on Saturday evening: there weren’t enough people in the audience. It wasn’t that the crowd needed company since they were as enthusiastic as any in hall history and exploded joyfully at any number of opening notes to the many songs sung on this night. While Rapp and Pascal are well known on the Great White Way for their roles in the original production of the multi-Tony award winning show “Rent” they may not carry the same cache out west, especially out southeast LA County.
     Yet, both young men demonstrated talent and passion to spare, singing with such conviction and confidence that the two dozen numbers they performed kept the audience ecstatically happy for over two solid hours. While their styles are completely different they both possess wonderful voices and tremendously polished stage presences. Adam Pascal opened the show with an acerbic wit and a powerhouse voice that ranged from baritone to strong tenor to falsetto with dramatic effect. He sang from Broadway and Pop but managed to pay homage to the composers without copying the songs exactly. Case in point was Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” and Peter Gabriel’s poignant “Solsbury Hill” along with show music gems “I Don’t Care Much” from Cabaret, “What I Did for Love” from A Chorus Line, Steven Sondheim’s “Not a Day Goes By,” “I Feel You Joanna” from Sweeney Todd and a jazzy arrangement of “Maria” from West Side Story. He also sang some very nice original material including “Turn the Lights On” which he accompanied with himself on stick-bass and a memorable send up of his “A Single Drop of You.” Finally there was a rather unusual tribute to Ronnie James Dio which allowed Pascal to use every molecule of his very strong pipes.
     While Anthony Rapp seems diametrically opposite in his cool, laid-back attitude the voice and stage confidence gained on Broadway were just the same as his concert-mate. Rapp elicited wild response from the RENT-heads in the mezzanine with his every move but for the most part he had the talent to match the adoration. His set was much more romantic and emotional but contained the similar components of Broadway and Pop. He did splendid versions of “Creep” by Radiohead, “Losing My Religion” by REM and a velvety “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol along with show tune “The Origin of Love” from Hedwig and the Angry Itch.  There were also his original material “Then Again” and “Now I Know.” given a nice sheen by his sweet voice.  Very powerful moments came in songs he dedicated to his late Mother “Visits to You” and “Without You” that had hankies mopping tears and mascara all over the hall. Still the many RENT-heads were hoping for and got a handful of the many great songs from that fine musical. “Living in America” just whet the appetites which were further satisfied by encores including “One Song Glory” and “There’s Only Us” and “Seasons of Love” that pretty much sent the audience into a spirited standing ovation. 

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Yamato October 8, 2011

    Yamato Takes Cerritos to Another Drum Level

                                               By Glen Creason

   Happily, Saturday night was time for Taiko again in Cerritos, the Japanese art form that is one of the most invigorating methods of creating music found on the planet. The music is played almost exclusively with substantial and expertly crafted wooden drums of various sizes from small to just awesomely huge.  The actual instruments date back almost three thousand years and have been used for everything from court music to encouragement to battle for troops in feudal times. I could go on giving the names of the various sizes of drums and the other instruments that compliment this style of music but this is one of those experiences that when you are sitting in an audience you feel it right through your body with an exhilaration that is rare in a concert hall. Yamato, a group from Japan founded in the 90’s visited the Performing Arts Center on this early fall weekend and took Taiko or  Wadaiko to just another level. This young and electrifyingly energetic drumming juggernaut had all the cylinders firing at maximum rpm for two seemingly short hours that defied human stamina and stretched the art of percussion to the limit.
      There was no messing around as the opening number “Akatsuki” featured ten drums and an equal number of busy musicians raising pulses with flying arms that became blurs below sweetly smiling faces. They used several kinds of sticks to strike the skins stretched over these drums ranging from what appear to be drumsticks to thin, flat unfinished boards to long kendo swords that are all wielded with precision and incredible harmony with the other nine or ten drummers playing along with them. Through the following four more pieces; the women and men of Yamato played to extremely demanding levels without faltering or even looking fatigued. They played in counter-point to each other but never seemed to be competing but only driving each other to higher heights. In “Muga Muchu” the huge drum created tones that shook the back walls of the theater but the following number used kotos and six smaller drums to reach nuances of Japanese classical traditions.
     Yamato played standing over drums, standing in front of drums, sitting with legs wrapped around drums and even carrying them by straps that they used to manipulate sound in ways that a stationary object could not do. The group opened the second half of the performance with “Ucho-ten” that gave notice that there was to be no let-up of energy   with one of the rare solos was undertaken by the amazing lead drummer (founder and director: Masa Ogawa) who true to the ensemble nature of the show is not singled out in the program. All eleven members truly were excellent in performance and really appealing in their obvious joy at playing this music.  Japanese harps were used in one piece along with cymbals that were rung with some whimsical effect in a game of catch with musical notes. The seriousness of the art that must require rigorous training and rehearsal was always tempered by a playfulness that showed the passion the group has for Taiko. The finale, “Gamushara” and an encore were just pure, joyful, free-form celebrations with the audience joining in giddy, rhythmic clapping and foot stomping followed by a completely organic and well deserved standing ovation.