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, January 25, 2015

Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain January 24, 2015

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain: Indeed Amazing

                 By Glen Creason

     You have so much fun at a Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain concert that you sort of forget the solid musicianship and meticulous planning that goes into these sound extravaganzas that delight and educate the full houses that seem to follow them everywhere.  The Performing Arts Center was fortunate enough to have this wonderful ensemble for two dates which seems way too little for what they have to offer. You really would have to bring in a juke box to offer up the variety and inspiration the group offers with compositions from Jazz, R&B, Country, Folk, Music Hall, Pop, Disco, Punk, Blues, Funk and more that the eight person group play in such perfect harmony that it sounds like one celestial uke interpreting the joy in all music. The band has been together for thirty years and they sound about as tight as a pair of Southern California skinny jeans which no one in attendance was wearing for this show. What makes their concerts so much fun is that there is not one single, solitary shred of ennui on stage except the calculated kind and there are moments of pure harmonic ecstasy that you might expect at a rock concert or full orchestra playing a symphony.

     At Cerritos they culled from their huge song repertoire a couple of dozen winners interspersed with that trademark British drollery that in this circumstance seemed wholly appropriate.  There was what you might expect from ukuleles: the 1922 hit “Running Wild,” “Hot Tamales” once played by blues man Robert Johnson and a sizzling “Limehouse Blues” that really let the band to exercise their musical muscles. There were also tongue in cheek delights like David Bowie’s “Life on Mars,” Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” the BeeGees “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,” Dolly Parton’s “Joshua” and a high-octane “Shaft” that while fun,  got some heads a nodding in the hall. The glorious thing about the Ukulele Orchestra is that this team plays together so well the epiphanies sort of sneak up on you and you get so caught up in the music that five or ten or an hour and forty-five minutes vanish delightfully before your eyes and ears. When the group locks into something like Saint-Saens “Danse Macabre” or the silly exhilaration of “Song 2” or “Woo Hoo” as it is known you forget about ukuleles or the many very funny jokes and remember what makes music magical. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Camelot January 9, 2015

     Cerritos Become Camelot for an Evening

                                                                  By Glen Creason

    It’s impossible to see the musical Camelot and not whistle the theme for weeks if not months to come as the good-sized Cerritos crowd was doing on their ways to their cars after the healthy helping of the Lerner and Lowe classic on Friday evening.  The original Broadway run of the musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe carved an indelible mark in the popular imagination with Richard Burton, Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet lighting up the stage and performing on the cast album that topped the charts for over a year in the innocent years of the Kennedy administration.  Still, it is strange that this great musical is produced so rarely and especially around Southern California where Hollywood further solidified its place in the American consciousness by making a film that further glorifies the stage version with Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero. The show at Cerritos was surprising in a couple of ways since the memories of the songs and story goes back 45 years. First, it is very long and full of fine songs and a plot that turns from light-hearted to deeply tragic from the opening act to the last. This production was thoroughly serious with beautiful costumes, evocative sets, fascinating lighting, and a strong full orchestra on hand plus a little bit of an adjustment to the film theme that made the story modern and quite compelling.

        The cast here was very strong where it needed to be with Adam Grabau as King Arthur and Mary McNulty as Guinevere who gave the roles a touch of humanity enough to make the temptations of the flesh all that understandable. Both possessed strong voices and McNulty did a fine job on “the Simple Joys of Maidenhood” and the delicate “Before I Gaze at You Again” along with Grabau’s resolute “Camelot” that truly surpassed the film version. The very difficult task of Lancelot was well done by Tim Rogan who remained sympathetic despite his chivalry’s tiresomely rigid code of honor and finally his breaking toward intended adultery because of a powerful desire for Guinevere.  This production keeps the affair between the queen and the knight rather distant in an achingly unfulfilled way. When Rogan sings “If Ever I Would Leave You” all of his resolve to remain pure melts away and a few tears were dabbed in the audience. Mark Poppleton was excellent in the dual role of the garrulous King Pellinore and a rather grand Merlyn. Yet, the show was very much stolen by Kasidy Devlin as the evil bastard son Mordred who seemed to appear from somewhere deeply evil in the second act and absolutely lit up the stage with his understated yet unremitting devotion to destroying everything good and fine about Camelot. The show was tight and kept the audience guessing until Devlin came on board and sent it all up a very entertaining notch.