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"

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Chieftains January 27, 2007

The Chieftains at Cerritos, Great as Always

By Glen Creason

One can always expect the unexpected when the Chieftains come for their annual visit to Cerritos. In their storied four decades the fellows have mastered the art of the concert and find new ways to make each one unique. In local shows they have brought us Galician pipes, Japanese stringed instruments, legendary guitarists, fabulous fiddle players and contemporary singers as fresh as the 21st century. There has never been a dud, never even a sour note in the history of the group’s forays into this neck of the freeways.
On Saturday night the Chieftains brought some surprises once again but went small and beautiful to expound some of the greatest music in creation. The show had a decided feminine touch that was easy on the eyes as sure as it was on the ears. The group still centers on Paddy Moloney’s uilleann pipes, Matt Molloy’s fiery flute, Kevin Conneff’s fine traditional vocals and Sean Keane’s velvety fiddle. However, there was no Keane or explanation on this night. Googling revealed he had to bow out due to illness. The flat on the fourth wheel was more than ably replaced on this night by comely Maureen Fahey who was a triple threat; singing, dancing and playing wonderfully. Without celebrities or powerhouse names the gentlemen went for youth, bringing the pulchritudinous, six-woman Liadan from the mother country, superb harpist Trina Marshall and young Ryan McNeil to tackle the full-figured keyboards. The aces in the hole of this show were the electrifying-dancing Pilatzke brothers from Ottawa and bonnie Irish step-dancing Cara Butler.
While he and brother Nathan were not flashing fancy Ottawa valley footwork Jon Pilatske played some fine fiddle himself fleshing out a stage full of musicians all on the same Celtic page. There were some exceptions including “Santiago” from Cuba, a splash of the Rolling Stones “Satisfaction,” some sweet film score sounds from both “Barry Lyndon,” (the classic Women of Ireland), the television series “The Long Journey Home” and a pulse-quickening “Cotton Eyed Joe” from the U.S.A. by way of the album “the Old Plank Road.”
Kevin Conneff sang a lovely “Flower of Magherelly,” Liadan broke out with the jocular “P Stands for Paddy” and Matt Molloy astounded the hall with his brisk “Lord McDonald” after the silky “Easter Snow.” Surprises were even in store for Mr. Moloney as a bevy of girls from the McCartan school of Irish dance appeared in gorgeous traditional dress during a set of second half reels. All eight local girls together probably did not reach Paddy’s number of years but they certainly livened up the stage. This was also the case with every appearance of the Pilatskes and Cara Butler who veered from the instruments to perform a marvelous dance number “the Step Crew” incorporating Irish traditional, Ottawa valley step-dancing and American tap. Musical highlights were most certainly a non-identified air by Trina Marshall on harp and the curtain-chasers on both ends of the show in “the Rocky Road to Dublin” and a rousing, all-involved grand-finale of “McClouds Reel” aka “Did You Ever Go a Courtin’ Uncle Joe…” Like most Irish conversations, there was more. The delighted full house was able to go forth on this night humming happily into suitably Irish weather. As the writer said about the emerald isle “we may have bad weather in Ireland but the sun shines in the hearts of people and keeps us warm.”

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Fabulous Thunderbirds Friday January 12, 2007

Fabulous Thunderbirds Heat the Big Hall

By Glen Creason

Outside the Performing Arts Center the weekend temperatures were in the record setting low range but inside the heat was on, provided by the red hot “Fabulous Thunderbirds.” Their dense and energetic set of R&B with the accent on the “B” turned the elegant hall into the fanciest roadhouse this side of the Texas-Louisiana line. This is music that literally passes through you on a molecular level and while the volume was high, so was the talent of the fine five-man band lead by harp player/vocalist Kim Wilson. It is very much his band but the show is a team effort. Each guy gave his all to make the proceedings fabulous including the twin lead guitarists Nick Curran and Kirk Fletcher while top bassist Ronny James Weber and drummer Jay Moeller kept the beat thunderously rock steady throughout.
While it was a “Three Dog Night” outside, the music inside was miles away from that weather condition and indeed the old soft rock band of the 70’s. An enthusiastic audience boogied in their chairs, slipping off winter mufti and warming up to the fast and furious notes that flew from the stage. “Two Time Fool” started the fire, blending into “Trust My Baby” featuring just one of many blistering and beautiful guitar solos by Kirk Fletcher and his lightening left hand. “Bad Boy” and “Postman” were drenched with bluesy soul that is so well captured by the powerhouse voice of Kim Wilson. There wasn’t much coasting in this show but a sort of “wall of roadhouse funk” roared on from one song to another, only breaking for the occasional blues-laments in which Wilson alternated from his seemingly inexhaustible blues harp to his blues pipes. The only excesses seemed to come in the same area where elongated, director’s cut harmonica solos rolled up and down from county line to county line. I haven’t seen such wind since the last political convention on TV.
When the lead man did turn the mike over to guitarist Nick Curran, the young fella demonstrated a V-8 voice himself on tunes like “I Hear You Knocking” and a fine send up of Gatemouth Brown’s classic “Midnight Hour.” In the second half of the show “Wait on Time” was between a gallop and a giddy up but the pace returned to break-neck with a hugely potent “Blame It On Love” with one more scintillating solo by Fletcher. “Tell Me” contained an amazing harp solo that lead into the sizzling “You Aint Nothing But Fine” in which the entire band battled it out with their axes, sending notes like light-sabers flashing across the concert stage. Of course, the band kept the dessert tray of the Thunderbird trademark “Tuff Enough” for the last, including a rip-snorting solo by old-timer Kid Ramos who just popped in for one round of high-octane blues guitar. It may have been like a Helsinki Winter outside in the Cerritos night but inside the big hall it was Texas in late August, much to the joy of the assembled Thunderbird fans.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New Shanghai Circus December 30, 2006

New Shanghai Circus at Cerritos: Exhausting the Adjective Bank

By Glen Creason and Nancy Reppert

Over the weekend the New Shanghai Circus once more visited the Performing Arts Center and again defied gravity, boggled minds and sent scribblers scrambling for suitable adjectives. The immediate reaction is to use the “a” word appropriately often. We shall not, since if we did it might be repeated twenty-five times while traversing the maze of favorable mentions. This is that kind of show where audience mouths hang agape in awe and folks emit the strangest oaths while watching the uh, unreal happenings on the stage. We figured it might take two to describe this kind of ancient art form and on one side is the lady and on the other the sort of gentleman.
Awe-struck, stunned and exhausted -- that describes the audience as we
emerged from the stupefying spectacular we had just witnessed as the New
Shanghai Circus performed death-defying, magical stunts at the Cerritos
Center for the Performing Arts. What a marvel. Diving through tiny hoops,
twirling plates, executing terrific tumbling runs, standing on their heads
and on each other -- what strength and creative choreography were gloriously
displayed. Suspense was created for each act of daring with mile-wide
smiles and statuesque poses after each stunt.

The music was not what you would expect. Instead of hearing the unfamiliar twang of the Er Hu or the wail of the Di-Zi we experienced the troupe cavorting to the sounds of Western techno, throbbing electonica or even rap! After all it is the “New” Circus. All the while during the plangent soundscape the Shanghais never slowed slower than a quick trot. They nonchalantly flipped bowls up upon each other while sitting atop a twenty foot high parapet, adding a cup and spoon bull’s-eye to punctuate. They vaulted like Olympians through rings as high as an NBA hoops and wrestled both Lions and Pandas, escaping with only mussed hairdos. There were ladies and gents hurtling in space held by the slightest of ribbons and a brave man being vaulted off a large teeter-totter right into an “easy” chair at the top of a dangerously tall pole. There was much to admire and indeed, a lady to our left repeatedly called upon her maker by mumbling “Oh My God!” as the tricks and risks increased toward the latter parts of the show.
When's the last time you rode your bicycle with two people balanced on your
shoulders, three hanging on your right side, two on your left and one
sitting on the front handlebars? Indeed! Nine people on a bicycle! Good
thing the bicycle police weren't around. But, not only that, these eight
people precariously perched upon the bicycle all appear to be quite content
and confident as Bang Yuan Chen effortlessly pedals them around the stage as
if he hadn't a care in the world. Phenomenal!

The set and costumes added much to the exotic feel of the proceedings including colorful lady’s costumes and some fun stretches for the men including an awesome bit of strength involving three bellboys and their sturdy suitcases.
Barely a whisper was heard as an acrobat -- standing on his hands on three
unconnected blocks -- meticulously removes each block one by one while
remaining on his hands. Impossible? It was.
But he did it!