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 28, 2013

Ju Percussion September 27, 2013

Ju Percussion Group Brings the Rhythm of Taiwan to Cerritos

                    By Glen Creason

     I may have been one of the few in a large crowd at the Performing Arts Center who did not know what to expect when the Ju Percussion Group took the stage over the weekend. Thirteen polished musicians assembled on an impressively decorated stage setting where I expected something like taiko drumming. Instead, I was treated to an amazing percussion concert that included the big drums but for the most part complimenting a variety of vibes, marimbas, bongos, congas, snare drums, Western drum kits, and all manner of hand manipulated instruments including painted fans that doubled as sticks and visual images. The Ju Percussion group creates a thoroughly rehearsed and precision based sound that can reach thrilling heights and intimate nuances all in the same composition. There were no dull moments in this big show.
     The musical choices were eclectic and sometimes brilliantly juxtaposed to give texture and a refreshing variety to the program. This included music from Okinawa, the Balkans, Africa, Spain, Brazil, the United States and Taiwan where most of the troupe calls home. They ranged from the deeply mystical “Izanagi” by Koji Sajurai to the sweetly swinging “Attraction 2” to the visually dazzling  “Solar Myth” by native son Chang, Chiung Ying. The second half contained even more surprising musical moods including the decidedly lounge-smooth “3 Epilogues,” the Flamenco flavored “Calienta” and the glow in the mesmerizing dark fantasy of “Short Circuits.”  The final piece of the program, “Drumming Fest” returned to the traditional Chinese bass drums and proved a pulse quickener that hardly prepared the hall for the Chinese enhanced dreaminess of “Love Story for an encore.

      Although every single musician in the bakers dozen here were accomplished and strong there were standout marimba performances throughout from the beautiful Dr. Pei Ching Wu; a wonderful strength and smiling energy from director Shih San Wu and a remarkable solo from assistant director Hong Chi Ho in “To the God of Rhythm.”  Yet, even these remarkable talents stayed within the ensemble which found heights that only a group in harmony can find. That synergy drew a lengthy and standing ovation at evening’s end. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Mandy Patinkin September 20, 2013

Dressed for Success: Mandy Patinkin at Cerritos

                             By Glen Creason

     For most people in 2013 America, Mandy Patinkin is the character Saul Berenson on the hit television show “Homeland.”  Yet, on Friday night at the Cerritos Center, the large and adoring audience on hand could have cared less about his acting ability because they were there to hear the man sing. Oh, how he did sing with all his heart and with every molecule of energy in his very fit sixty-something frame. Still, his great acting gifts combined with his magnificent and astoundingly elastic voice are what make him a unique artist and one who has triumphed in so many shows before the footlights, on the airwaves, on the big screen and also on the plasma TVs of today. Accentuating his great talent is pianist Paul Ford who just could not possibly be better accompanying in a dizzying variety of musical styles.
     To make this review simple: Mandy Patinkin at Cerritos gave one of the truly great shows in the history of the hall. It was a concert that was full of surprises, full of humanity and many musical moments that most of the crowd will never forget. Sure he went delightfully over the top a few times and also forgot a lyric or two, then admitted it, which only brought him closer to his fans. There are few entertainers in the world that can connect a song to the listener as this man does and does all night long. Maestro Patinkin can make you hear a song like you have never heard it before. In making each composition something new it was beautifully evident that he is a very special artist, a precious gem in the world of American music. Steven Sondheim once said his voice is a gift from God and on this night it felt downright spiritual many times.

     There was an amazing variety of materials from Tin-Pan Alley stuff like “Where Did Robinson Crusoe Go with Friday on Saturday Night” to an Al Jolson send-up of “Rock a Bye Your Baby” to a velvet-toned “September Song” to the fine “Tateh’s Picture Book” from the movie Ragtime. There was not one but two tour de force: an incredible Yiddish section from “Mamaloshen” involving an entire hall doing the hokey pokey and the goose-bump eliciting Tom Waits song “the House Where Nobody Lives.” In the best, maybe greatest is a better description of these moments when Mandy Patinkin connected so deeply with the music and the audience the hall was spellbound. One was an wildly expansive version of the “Queen” radio warhorse “Bohemian Rhapsody” and a medley of American classic folk tunes like “Tenting on the Old Camp Ground,” the Battle Hymn of the Republic” “Shenandoah” and ending with a fiery “Ballad of Booth” from the under sung Sondheim show “ Assassins”...while reciting perfectly the Gettysburg Address! The encore appropriately was “Being Alive” from “Company” which would aptly describe the happy Performing Arts crowd at the conclusion of almost two hours of genius.