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, September 29, 2012

Steve Lippia: Simply Sinatra September 28, 2012

    Steve Lippia Does It His Way at Cerritos

                                          By Glen Creason

     Steve Lippia is billed as a kind of Frank Sinatra tribute show but this guy is way better than that sounds. Granted, he has obviously studied the Chairman from his phrasing to his stage gestures and most certainly Lippia does the prime-years Sinatra justice. However, this is a thoughtful, thoroughly rehearsed, ultra-professional and actually edifying show that gives an audience a listen to great music played by an excellent ten man orchestra that the generous Mister Lippia elevates with his wonderful voice. It was wholly appropriate that this show at Cerritos saluted Sinatra who opened the Performing Arts Center close to twenty years ago. This was a performance that created that close your eyes and you would feel like Old Blue Eyes was back in Cerritos. Along the way, the singer taught some lessons, not only about the composers of these great American songbook gems but the all-important arrangers like Billy May, or Don Costa or Nelson Riddle or Jimmy Van Heusen. The seven man horn section, standup bass, drums and piano behind the vocalist seemed to be energized by the opportunity the play such great stuff and blasted out high-voltage big band sounds the way they should be heard. At the center of the seamless sound was bandleader Steve Sigmund who played hot trombone and kept the band tight in all numbers.
     This is a show polished by hundreds of performances and the gent in charge knows how to entertain so there was balance and enough texture to ensure a steady stream of Sinatra hits, spiced by just a few good ones from elsewhere. Just to give examples we heard “Don’t Go Changin’” from Billy Joel, the evocative “Let Me Try Again” by Paul Anka, a show-stopping “Mac the Knife” a la Bobby Darrin and a strong “the Good Life” in homage to Tony Bennett. Outside of those songs it was all Frank, all the time and all of it ring-a-ding-ding good. There were ballads like “For Once in My Life,” “Where or When,” “All the Way,” and “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” that caused the hearts to throb a little all over the big hall. Swinging Sinatra was also represented with “That’s Life,” “Saturday Night,”  “Witchcraft.” And “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” that just made you want to order a martini and light up a cigarette. Lippia was considerate enough to sing a knock-out version of my favorite “Summer Wind” along with a hear-a-pin-drop version of “Send In the Clowns” that actually was better than the original Sinatra version. He even followed up a spot-on “My Way” with a rousing encore of “New York, New York” that had a bunch of left-coasters singing along merrily.
      I confess I am not a Vegas person as I have a high sensitivity to cheesiness but Mister Lippia who seems to love Glitter Gulch makes it seem romantic and appealing once again.  At least if I am ever stuck on the strip again (I don’t gamble) I know the show I want to see.   

Sunday, September 09, 2012

The Frontmen of Country September 7, 2012

                  The Frontmen of Country at Cerritos

                                                                  By Glen Creason

     It shows the power of a brand name that the powerhouse trio of lead men from three of the most popular modern country acts in the last couple of decades appeared at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts and did not sell out the hall. If the names “Diamond Rio”, “Little Texas” and “Restless Heart” were on the marquee I am sure there would not be space to squeeze in another pair of jeans at the big hall. Since the ticket price was right and CCPA publicity is always written with the ultimate of skill I can only assume there was a lack of local media exposure (there is a first-rate local paper called Los Cerritos Community News with very reasonable ad rates). At any rate, the songs and guitars were there in the form of Tim Rushlow (“Little Texas,”) Larry Stewart (“Restless Heart,”) and Marty Roe (“Diamond Rio”) and there was enough sweet and sentimental music to fill two halls. This is not the C&W of cheatin’, drinking, wayward women, trains in the night and down and out barrooms. It’s much lighter and brighter with most of the lyrics dealing with love and family and love of country and family. This show aint George Jones singing “From a Window Up Above” but slick songs much closer to pop than honky-tonk. Each man showed considerable influence of Nashville in their approach to this modern country music. 
    The three accomplished gents appeared on stage with just their guitars and microphones where they told stories about each selection and then played them the way the fans like them, with plenty of juicy emotion. Each man has a good, strong voice intact which they have used to pile up many hit records since the nineties. Most of the songs are recognizable from top-forty country stations like KLAC and several of the two dozen played are certainly at anthem status. They alternated, not really trying to outdo one another but helping with harmonies in an unobtrusive way. Congress should take a lesson from this trio. There were plenty of number ones to choose from and the opening salvo of “Rock That Won’t Roll,” “Back in Austen,” “Mirror, Mirror,” and “Why Does It Have to Be” gave notice that there were to be no song weaklings in this session. There was some light-hearted regrets like when Tim Rushlow sang the song he waited too long to record “the First Cut is the Deepest” and the one he picked up from 90’s pop “Missing You” that sounded pretty good countrified.
     Outstanding in the many good songs were Rushlow’s “She Misses Him,” Larry Stewart’s “When She Cries” and the mega-romantic-hit “One More Day” by Marty Roe. Overall, the theme of love and family was done nicely as in “”I’ll Stop Loving You,” “Mama Don’t Forget to Pray for Me,” and “Love a Little Stronger” which literally elicited purring from fans. Other themes popped up including Texas, luck in love and in a nod to old-timey C&W, a train. Finally, as is almost obligatory in any modern Country concert, there was the waving of the flag in “God Bless the USA” as the crowd of election season Americans sang along without the help of a teleprompter.