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, November 17, 2007

Les Ballets de Montreal November 16, 2007

Les Ballet de Montreal at Cerritos

By Glen Creason

In one of the most original and thought provoking shows this season, Les Ballet de Montreal thrilled an enthusiastic, mixed age audience for an intense hour plus of jazz dance at the Performing Arts Center on Friday evening. The impeccably produced program was billed as a “messenger of an alternative…a rejuvenator of the soul and bringer of hope” which it certainly lived up to on this night. While dance may be the expression of the emotions with the corporeal body as its instrument, the Ballet de Montreal really put this concept into a wonderfully textured and colorful narrative. The show was refreshingly high-class in every aspect.
The first half of the show was entitled “Mapa,” choreographed by Rodrigo Pederneiras and the Brazilian influence showed especially in the second portion with its rhythmic patterns bouncing in between a samba-like beat. The costumes here, a sort of MC Escher in motion gave an air of fantasy to the movement. While the show is all about the individual expressions of certain dancers it is done in harmony with the entire troupe. The detail of the choreography is very textured and the motions so in sync, the overall effect becomes spellbinding. The subtle changing music-scapes composed by Marco Antonio Pena Araujo move from a lyrical electronica to an ethereal aria to the percolating folk sounds, inspiring the seemingly boundless energy of the talented young ensemble. While director Louis Robataille has gone to great pains to allow each dancer to express their own personal art, the crisp harmony of the members on stage is breathtaking. When the dancers sank to the stage at the conclusion the crowd reacted with ecstatic cheers of appreciation for the piece. The second half of the program offered a continuation of the energy and creativity of the program with “Les Chambre des Jacques,” choreographed by Aszure Barton. This half was the most engaging in my opinion as the entire ensemble participated in dances of the joys and struggles of day-to-day living. It may be that the opening French pop music gave extra inspiration because the dancing was electric for the next forty-five minutes, running the gamut of human emotion. Without a single word being spoken we could feel the dreamy possibility of romance, the dizzying feeling of being in love, the anger of rejection, a playful kind of unbridled public celebration, a secret slinking jealousy, the glow of continuing love, high-anxiety loneliness and most certainly an undeniable sensuality. Bodies moved in small orbits around each other while the sound climates changed like the myriad moods of the lovers and losers on the stage. Certainly the music offered an appropriate variety including the French folk of Quebecois poet Gilles Vignealt, classical great Antonio Vivaldi, the café sounds of Les Yeux Noirs, the Cracow Klezmer band and even Roberto Iglesias. Sometimes words won’t describe a feeling accurately and maybe this was one of those times when the bodies in motion told the tale much better than ink on the page.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Gin Blossoms November 9, 2007

Gin Blossoms at Cerritos: Rockin’ the Old Way

By Glen Creason

The Gin Blossoms came to the Cerritos Performing Arts Center over the weekend and despite their recent vintage they rocked the house in the good old Rock and Roll way. Having cut my teeth on the early days of Bill Haley and such I have hung up my rock and roll shoes a ways back but it was invigorating to see the art still practiced by the “young” in the persons of this late twentieth century indie group. The band made their initial bones “way back” in the 1990’s, then pressed through some adversity, broke-up, re-formed and hit the road to keep the music alive. It appears that they have learned their lessons well because their set at the Center was very good indeed. The Blossoms did not fool around with costumes and choreography but blasted an hour and half of powered up pop, riding on the dual glories of guitarists Jesse Valenzuela and Scott Johnson, a woofing bass from Bill Leen, wailing vocals by Robin Wilson and some of the most energetic drumming you will ever hear from Scott Kusmirek. There was little patter, spare exposition on the songs and not much extraneous action, save a hustling stage assistant running out guitars to the twin leads. What separates this group from the re-hashers and road-warriors is that flexible, ever-changing instrumental journey they get from the very talented guys in the band.
It didn’t take long to get an understanding of the thrust of the show as the opening number “Learning the Hard Way” started at a gallop which did not decrease for most of the concert. “Until I Fall Away” continued the brisk pace and by the third song of “Follow You Down” the crowd was into it big time, excited especially by the tasty licks played by Scott Johnson and a totally blazing solo by Jesse Valenzuela during “Someday Soon.” Since they wisely eschewed an intermission the middle passage included “Found Out About You,” the savory “Long Time Gone,” spiced by an explosive harp solo by a man only called “the judge” “Competition Smile,” “Fool for the Taking” and a wild and wooly lead guitar duel on “Idiot Summer.”
“Supergirl” was just a monument to the guitar skills of Valenzuela and “Come on Hard” extended the vocal side of the equation to the second power but a finishing kick of the perfect pop hooked “Till I Hear It from You,” the obligatory but tremendously received “Hey Jealousy” and a rip-snorting “Follow You Down” sent the whole house standing faithful into Gin Blossom frenzy and demanded encores of course. In other words, the band has learned from hard-earned road experience how to get the crowd up and how to keep them up for an entire evening. Springing as they do from a post-grunge era where many a band litters the road to today, the Gin Blossoms are still playing a healthy and strong brand of rock and roll music that flows all the way from my salad days to this Cerritos present.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Cedric the Entertainer November 4, 2007

Cedric the Entertainer Does Just That at Cerritos

By Glen Creason

In a Sunday matinee performance at the Performing Arts Center, seemingly as out of place as a hot, hip hop artist in Branson, Missouri, Cedric the Entertainer lived up to his exalted comedy reputation with gales of laughter to spare. He took the stage looking clean in a finely tailored suit and fedora and he held the big crowd in his talented hands for almost two solid hours of merriment. Cedric’s film career seems to be moving upward rapidly since the hit movie “the Kings of Comedy” but his true genius is standup and at this show he pulled out every hilarious trick in his thick book. Cedric is no overnight sensation and earned his stars the hard way, out on the road working clubs, honing his superb physical comedy chops, creating characters, developing impressions of singers and sharpening his timing down to absolute perfection. He definitely does sweat some but he makes it look easy, and it most certainly is not easy to make an entire hall laugh uproariously for 90 minutes plus. At this show several fans in the near vicinity seemed to be having some trouble getting their wind due to gut laughs that doubled them over in glee. The man has a gift and many times just the look on his face brought the crowd to hysterics.
The show seems to be just plain stream of consciousness with no notes or set pieces but it flows without a moment’s hesitation from start to finish. Cedric uses the foolishness of celebrities for some of his fodder but much of the best stuff comes right out of his southern upbringing and the foibles of common folk. The routines draw from a broad range of experience and capture the essence of working class America but the show is most certainly sweetly flavored by the rich African-American tradition in which Cedric dwells most comfortably. To be sure the inside jokes color the material but this is a performance that tickles everyone, from every race, color, gender, creed or musical persuasion. As an old Motown-loving Boomer I don’t own a 50cent Album but I cracked up when Cedric sang his stuff even over-the-top for hip hop.
All this was done quite amazingly without one single blue joke, one curse word or any dwelling on sexual situations. The same Cedric who owned the movie “Barbershop” with his obscenity-laced tirades and the man who hyphenated plenty of old Anglo-Saxon words in “Kings of Comedy” just culled the blue out of his show with a skill you can only call brilliant. With no cussing, no sexual shenanigans and literally no locker room humor Cedric the Entertainer knocked the place out with his brilliant pantomime, song stylings, and amazingly delightful storytelling skills. Maybe the 7 pm show was different but it seemed like the comedian has so much talent he can pick and choose his method and just let it flow. On this afternoon it worked with tremendous success, demonstrated by a few thousand broadly smiling faces in the big hall.