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"

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Dave Koz and Friends Christmas Tour 2014

          Koz at Cerritos for Christmas: a Welcome Tradition

                                                      By Glen Creason

     For seventeen seasons Dave Koz has brought a group of top entertainers to the Performing Arts Center to celebrate Christmas without ever producing a bag of coal for the fans who pack the joint each yuletide. This year he invited the electrifying Jonathon Butler, the surprisingly fresh Christopher Cross and newcomer Maysa with pipes almost bigger than the hall could hold. As a glittering ornament atop the concert Christmas tree the music was sweetened by the Musuca Children’s Choir. These kids made “Carol of the Bells” a beautiful beginning to an action packed show featuring a couple of dozen songs including the evergreens of the holidays brought forward in all manner of form including ensemble pieces and rousing solos. Much of the night was filled with light-hearted familiars as in “Let It Snow,” “Sleigh Ride,” “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” and a duet in the American Idol style of “This Christmas.” Each star was allowed a moment in the spotlight to step outside the holiday: Maysa performed her “Inside My Dream,” Jonathon Butler broke off from “O’ Holy Night” and into his gospel rave “You’re My Everything” and Christopher Cross played a medley from his unreal successes of 1981 that were like pulling the old sweater vest out of the closet and finding it stylish again.

     Of course, at the center of it all was the affable and awesomely talented Koz who good-naturedly bantered with his guests at every turn but stepped in to blow some pretty warm sax at exactly the right times. He also saluted his Jewish roots with the truly terrific “8 Candles” and even dashed off Adam Sandler’s “Chanukah Song.” There were very nice moments in the overall warmth of the show including Christopher Cross’ moving “We Will Remember You” to those serving in the military around the globe and a conclusion of having vets stand and take a bow. Also an admirable “Dream of Peace” with the kid’s choir that was as sweet as grandma’s divinity followed by some rather high voltage secular stuff including “Ride Like the Wind” by Cross that actually rode the Winter wind pretty hard. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Swingin' White Christmas December 12, 2014

Swingin’ White Cerritos Christmas with Debby Boone and Michael Feinstein

                                                               By Glen Creason

   There was a sweet little Christmas tribute concert at the Performing Arts Center over the weekend inspired by and devoted to the late and great Rosemary Clooney. The performers were more than just close musical friends but moreover close personal friends as Debby Boone is actually part of the Clooney family and Michael Feinstein hung out at Ms. Clooney’s Beverly Hills home as a lad. The obvious affection the pair have for the legendary singer made the show a sweet one indeed. Debby Boone has continued singing, decades after her big hit and her voice remains strong but more comfortable than pyrotechnic. This certainly worked perfectly in her readings of the classic yuletide songs “My Favorite Things,” “Christmastime Is Here,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” along with peppy duets with Feinstein on “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” “Sleigh Ride” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” All of these were couched within sentimental tales of growing up within the golden circle of Rosie. Backing the singers was a top-drawer band, the Usual Suspects lead by the fine arranger and musical director John Oddo who learned his craft with La Clooney over many years.

     Feinstein, on the other hand has the voice and musical talent to fill up many concerts and concert halls. He too told droll stories and spent time with his excellent musicological knowledge explaining the greatness of the classic American songwriters. This might include Irving Berlin, Sammy Cahn and even the superb Tom Lehrer and his “Chanukah in Santa Monica” that was truly a gold star on the tree of this show. To mix things up Feinstein sang a rousing medley of Frank Sinatra gems (on the chairman’s 99th birthday) and a truly magnificent version of “My Favorite Year” that was probably the finest vocal performance I have heard all year. There was more, including duets with Debby Boone and the obligatory “White Christmas” but this one was every bit the traditional Christmas Concert with glittering gowns, velvet tuxedos, a muscular horn section, double towering fir trees and plenty of good cheer. 

Sunday, December 07, 2014

An Irish Christmas December 5, 2014

         Sure It Tis, An Irish Christmas Comes to Cerritos

                                      By Glen Creason

     Any concert describing itself as an Irish Christmas must allow plenty of leeway for the American imagination. Such a show might range from the Pogues singing “Fairytale of Old New York” to a swinging version of “Buala Bas” (Jingle Bells) with uilleann pipes accompaniment.  However, the Irish Christmas that visited the Performing Arts Center over the weekend was full of homespun Irish yuletide joy with a bit of Kerry for spice and filled with plenty of surprises and authentic folk material that made it indeed 100% delightful. It was not like an old “Firestone Your Favorite Christmas Album” full of the old chestnuts of the season but a heady mix of excellent Irish dance, sprightly jigs and reels played by the Kerry men and women of the band plus the sweet-as-a morning lark singing of an interesting variety of a few old favorites and more true Irish folk delicacies. To balance the wildly exuberant and thrilling dancing alongside the spirited, three part harmonies the show was held together by a wise narrator, Sheelagh Cullen whose memories of an Irish Christmas and selected prose and poety gave the whole an air of authenticity. 

     Sure,  there was plenty of music, sung in pristine harmony by  Koral Aakre, Caitlin Ary and Tamora Pellikka who were seamless throughout in versions of the familiar “Carol of the Bells,” “The Holly She Bears a Berry,” “the Wexford Carol,” “Silent Night,” and a jocular “the Twelve Days of Christmas.” These were mixed in with true Irish gems “Ding Dong Dedero,” “Children’s Song,” “Si Do Mhaimeo,” Cead Mile Failte Romhat a Losa” and the wonderful “Wren Song”  (featuring,  appropriately to Los Angeles, one of the adorable Rodriguez dancing girls) that was a delightful morsel for the finish after this big banquet of fun.  Certainly, a great part of this joyful celebration of the season was the marvelous Irish dancing by a dozen beautiful young lasses and three handsome lads.  The stamina and skill was remarkable but the obvious joy in the numbers when the dancers challenged each other to reach greater heights elevated the show above mere holiday entertainment. Certainly, part of the appeal of the evening was the fun the entire cast seemed to be having, quite like an actual family Christmas celebration.  This is a terrific show with the exhilarating dancing and music of a Riverdance without the entire slick Vegas dazzle that has attached itself to that once grand show.  For the first holiday show at the Center for the yuletide this Irish Christmas was a fine one.