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.

My Photo
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"

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Tribute to Glenn Miller & Vocal Groups January 26,2014

Marvelous Memories in Four Part Harmony with the Tex Beneke Orchestra

                        By Glen Creason

     Wow! This was a concert that was like a triple-overtime playoff game before a sold-out stadium, except everyone playing had gray hair and looked very distinguished.  Actually this show was a fine vintage as in the still very sharp performers and  evergreen  big band vocal harmony songs that swung in excess of three hours of this matinee of dreams. Behind it all was the Tex Beneke Orchestra lead by Jim Snodgrass (Beneke died in 2000) who set up a sensational platform for four of the best vocal groups from what is now called “the swinging years” of Big Band music. The very happy audience murmured in gleeful appreciation whenever their old favorites flowed from the sweet horn sections which was quite often as some three dozen gold-plated beauties were performed in full or as parts of medleys. The vocal groups: the Ink Spots, the Modernaires, the Pied Pipers and the Four Aces were all tight in their harmonies and thoroughly capable to doing the old gems justice.  The show was further brightened by the light but effective comedy of M.C.  Robert G. Lee who gently ribbed  the mature demographic about the obvious that they might recognize the tunes being played on this afternoon.

     The music was splendid and was practically an audio Wikipedia of the greats of Glenn Miller including “String of Pearls, “ “Tuxedo Junction,” “Pennsylvania 65000,” “Sun Valley Jump,” and “In the Mood” that made the memories rise up in unison above the great hall.  The Ink Spots gave them “Java Jive,” “the Best Things in Life Are Free” and the always gorgeous “If I Didn’t Care” with lead tenor James Taylor hitting the high notes with ease.  The Modernaires went for the gold on “Kalamazoo,” “Moonlight Serenade” and a very swinging “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” The first half was a concert on its own but the second half was no letdown with the Pied Pipers adding more shine to the Glenn Miller repertoire and harkening back to the Sinatra days with “I’ll Never Smile Again,” “the Sunny Side of the Street” and “East of the Sun.” Lastly the Four Aces dealt nothing but winners that caused a few swoons in the still rapt house. Highlights included a silky smooth “3 Coins in a Fountain,” “Mister Sandman”and“Love Is a Many Splendored Thing.” For the three hours that the memories flowed inside the great hall, it was just like high school in the 1940’s or college in the 1950’s without a care in the world. Not a bad feeling, even for a youngster like me.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

The Elsies Are Back 2013

                                  The Ellsies are back!
                                         By Glen Creason

      It may have been a slightly shorter year and there were fewer shows to see than some years I have covered the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts but after twenty years on the Los Cerritos Community News beat I just naturally get more out of less.  Maybe that has something to do with the wisdom of age, maybe it just means I go to bed earlier. There was a baker’s dozen of big winners at the big hall in 2013 and the theater itself continues to be the great and glittering jewel that is the standard by which other theaters should be judged.  A great deal of the high quality of the Cerritos experience comes directly from the always and forever positive staff that stays on and on…like me.  Without too much blubbering I bid adieu to the wonderful publicist Lori Levine-Yonan who was a friend that allowed me great privileges and opened doors to incredibly enriching evenings at my favorite theater.  She has been replaced by the excellent Kim Bui who I hope to thank repeatedly for another twenty years.  My admiration and appreciation goes out to Director Diane Cheney and Performance Manager Michael Wolf for bringing in such marvelous entertainments during rather trying times for all theaters. Even when the big hall has some empty seats the hearts and minds of the audiences are filled with a knowledge that coming to the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts is one of the great joys in life.  I know it is much harder than it looks because it always looks terrific from my side of the footlights.
     Seeing full houses this year reminds me that Cerritos is the luckiest city in the southland to have had the ability to build and maintain this great house of wonders. My own personal heroes remain those who I get to see each visit: the best box office ever, lead by Nate Chavez and Cristopher Laroco but every single other member of that staff who never seem to have a bad day, or at least never show it to me.  Old friends keeping the ship sailing smoothly are house manager non-pareil Alan Strickland and the man who solves all problems with aplomb-Tony Erdelji. There is also the quietest and most competent security staff overseen by Vince Roldan who makes sure the theater is always a place for fun and families.  I must also single out the back stage staff that has never seemed as valuable to me as the last year where they absolutely performed miracles in sight and sound without one single, solitary screw-up. I really wish I could say the same about myself. These men would be Tom Hamilton, Jeffrey Thielke, James King, Roger Girard, Jack Hayback and John Palmer who did everything from illuminating Luna to sharing play-lists to putting together a frozen pond for “Broadway on Ice.” A sincere “bravo!” from an appreciative reviewer to these pros behind the scenes.
Without further ado here are my Ellsies for 2013:
E-theater: early on “Pride and Prejudice” took a commanding lead and never relinquished it. 200 years young and still teaching lessons this great literature was brought to vivid life by an amazing production by LA Theater Works.
E-Irish Dance: this one was a horse-race with three fine shows competing. Women of Ireland with the fiery Kelly McDonnell and a fine supporting cast warmed the boards as did the twin lovelies Doireann Carney and Nicola Kennedy of Rhythm of the Dance who provided an embarrassment of Celtic riches.
E-Spanish Dance: the Paco Pena Flamenco Vivo show that was so good in so many ways that I really needed Spanish to describe it adequately. In English it was three great dancers and one guitarist at the top of his art.
E-Dance: Dance Theater of Harlem  One of several shows that left a lasting impression, especially “Contested Space” by Donald Byrd that took the million angles of human relationships and distilled them into thirty minutes of luminous dance. And that was just part of a trinity of inspired works presented on this night at Cerritos.
E-World: Juan DeMarcos Afro-Cuban All-Stars   This was a family affair, a large, extremely talented Cuban family that functioned as one beautiful conduit of the beautiful music of Cuba. Senor DeMarcos showing little ego and gigantic talent stood at the center and showed the full house how wonderful this kind of Jazz can be when in the hands of the masters.
E-Classical: Miro quartet  These four young gents did not shy away from challenges on this evening, going all Beethoven and all-in to deep and delightful music in four parts as one. The encore of the “cavatina,” a piece NASA sent into space to represent human creativity at its highest form.
E-Comedy: The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain:  While this was by far the biggest laughs I had in the Center during 2013 this orchestra could probably play a Mahler symphony and do it justice. Instead, they play amazing, harmonious, brilliant, eclectic selections from almost every genre of recorded sound in eight parts all as one. They are also masters of physical comedy. Does that make sense? Neither does the show but it was great fun.
E-R&B: Memphis Music  The city in Tennessee that is often overlooked in music discussions may be Memphis but on this night they proved their illustrious bloodline with delicious rhythm and blues music lead by  Booker T. Jones who demonstrated beautifully that sometimes we do get better with age.
E-Ice: “Broadway on Ice”   While this might seem like a novelty show it certainly was not and had an unreal number of champion athlete/artists on the stage/ice during a really fantastic show. The singing was Broadway beautiful and the skating was magnificent.
E-Christmas: Dave Koz always puts on a lively and engaging Christmas show once called Smooth Jazz but not so quietly evolved. This year once again Jonathon Butler provided one of those magical moments on Center drive in an inspired and rousing “O Holy Night” that got everyone on their feet filled with cheer.
E-Rock: Chris Isaak  I don’t think I have ever seen an artist so completely capture the crowd and own the stage like this master of rocking guitar and brilliantly inventive patter. Isaak brought a superb band and kept the tone at perfection in one of the Center’s best ever concerts.
E-Lifetime Achievement Award: Colors of Christmas  Peabo Bryson seems never to age and his show seems to be evergreen.  The cast has changed over the years but the quality never goes down and the holiday spirits are always high.
E-Best Performance: Savion Glover Sole Sanctuary  This is cheating a little since the performance was the entire show with some superb assistance by Marshall Davis Jr. in a stream of consciousness 90 minutes of mesmerizing, unforgettable dance. Glover is a very special artist and this was a show for the ages.

E-Best Show of the Year: Mandy Patinkin  This was a great coup for the Center to get this great artist out to Cerritos for such a concert with his huge commitments to television and films. It was a greater accomplishment for Maestro Patinkin to take this time to demonstrate the power and true glory of the human voice. When the concert was over it was evident that he sang because he loves music and great songs which he chose with the skill of a master.