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, September 29, 2008

Ronan Tynan September 26, 2008

Amazing With Grace: Ronan Tynan at Cerritos

By Glen Creason

Ronan Tynan is such an extraordinary man it doesn’t seem all that surprising that his concert of tenor singing at the Performing Arts Center was a smash from start to finish. After all, Tynan overcame the loss of his lower legs in his twenties, and then went on to win piles of gold medals in the Paralympics. The treatments he received brought him to Medical School where he earned his M.D. to help others with his fate. Then to complete his triumph he decided to try professional singing in his 30’s and has not looked back since winning a BBC talent show in his first crack at real show business. He was a founding member of the marvelous “Three Irish Tenors,” has had a fine career in music and medicine plus being a highly sought after motivational speaker all over the world. Outside of that he hasn’t done much. The show he performed on Friday evening was long and wonderful, done by the artist who had been up all day and night after flying across an ocean and continent from Ireland to fulfill his engagement. He made it look fun and easy throughout.
At Cerritos Tynan defied the stereotype of the formal operatic tenor as he joked and cajoled and charmed the big crowd from the opening dulcet tones of “Ride On” to the final thundering “God Bless America” that had the hall filled with Republicans and Democrats standing in awe at the honest to goodness emotion he powered into the old patriotic chestnut. Truthfully, the show was so good it could have been a winner divided by four. One part would be the fine old Irish tunes he treats so lovingly like “the Wild Geese,” “When You Were Sweet Sixteen,” “Sing Me an Irish Song,” “Red as the Rose,” “Irish Molly” the exquisite “Fields of Athenry” and “Will You Go Lassie Go” sometimes known as “the Wild Mountain Thyme.” Tynan's tenor is huge and expressive, capable of going into every cockle of the human heart. He can caress a ballad and reach the upper balcony with power to spare, using his powerful frame to gain a little more rise on those high C’s.
He was also contemporary and carried off modern songs including “All I Want Is You” from U2 and the salute to the brave firemen of 9/11 called “Into the Fire” that set a few goose bumps rising in the hall. Along the way he joked and praised his own handsomeness with tongue firmly in cheek while adding texture to the songs with stories on how they came to enter into the repertoire. Lastly he was generous enough to hand the spotlight over to his accompanist Billy Lewis who was more than up to the task. Lewis is a superb pianist and a skilled singer and musicologist. He dashed off some really fun music hall stuff like “Donegan’s Daughter,” and “Frim Fram Sauce” but when he turned his attention to the little known jewel “Blackberry Winter” he gave the audience one of the most pleasant surprises of the season. Ronan Tynan was absolutely marvelous and William Lewis was right with him in talent on this night.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

ABT II September 19, 2008

Meaghan Hinkis
ABT II: The Young and Talented Visit Cerritos

By Glen Creason

ABT II is the fantastic idea dreamed up by the late and great Michael Bjerknes that takes up-and-coming young dancers from all over the world, grooms them and gives them the opportunity to gain professional experience and perform in the big time. Mr. Bjerknes and his wife were the founders of the American Dance Institute and this fine nine member group of young dancers are out on the road learning and entertaining as they go. This isn’t a minor league for dancers, it is more a select group, a crème de la crème of the art form.
Ballet and dance lovers who crowded into the Center for the Performing Arts on the weekend must be filled with hope for the future of dance after seeing this wonderfully enthusiastic and talented group give Cerritos a taste of this bright tomorrow. These young dancers, mostly in their late teens or early twenties are gaining the needed maturity but in no way did they seem to be apprentices to the trade. Some of them look very ready to jump up to the American Ballet Theater very soon.
This was a show about dance and not props or bells and whistles. In the beginning the stage was simple and spare, just faint blue lights bathed the group who needed little else when they began to move. It was a decidedly quirky performance set with two intermissions, supposedly for costume changes but the three portions were all interesting in their own right. The first a classical piece “Allegro Brilliante” by George Ballanchine with music by Tchaikovsky introduced the entire ensemble while allowing soloists Sae-Eun Park and partner to shine in this technically demanding piece. Park was elegant and flawless throughout the evening. The second set was more modern dance than ballet, a delightful piece by choreographer Aszure Barton with music by the French pop singer Monique Serf, known in France as Barbara. The Nine dancers moved in a percolating yet synchronized rhythm, perfectly suited to the soundscape. Part of the great appeal of ABT II is the egalitarian approach and in this work all of the dancers got a chance to strut their stuff so to speak.
The last third of the evening featured two classical pieces including the “Pas de deux” from “Don Quixote” and “Raymonda” that was spiced by additional choreography by artistic director Wes Chapman. The “Raymonda” with Kaia Annika and Joseph Gorak was pretty straightforward and rather grand in execution with the young dancers meeting the demands with pluck and more than enough talent. Yet, the pas de deux from “Don Quixote” was most certainly marked by the enchanting and charismatic Meaghan Hinkis who literally filled up the stage with confidence and joy in the movement of the demanding piece. Joseph Gorak danced both male roles here and was excellent, certainly a young man heading for the next step very soon. Yet, ABT II is terrific throughout and several dancers shone in their moments in the spotlight including Calvin Royal III, Mara Thompson, Courtney Lavine and Jose Sebastian.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Judy Collins and the Smothers Brothers Sept. 14, 2008

Celebrating the Journey with Judy Collins and the Smothers Brothers

By Glen Creason

It was a great relief to visit the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday afternoon for a concert that made peace with being a beleaguered baby boomer in a sea of the same on hand. Having to endure unending TV commercials on balky bodily functions and receiving countless numbers of e-spam promising the buttressing of the crumbling middle-aged edifice it was indeed refreshing to see three of our own standing up on their hind legs and making it all seem like great fun. First, the grand lady singing beautifully with passion and intelligence then the old bros. making the hall shake with laughter, using a shtick they honed fifty years ago. The message was simple: we may look grayer, fatter, balder, and less like the folks on movie screens but we can still cut the mustard.
There could be no greater inspiration than the wonderful Judy Collins who has done a lot of living, survived the worst kinds of tragedies, recorded countless classic albums and performed steadily since the early sixties. And yet she still makes each song fresh and full of meaning. Her set was mostly the real gems of her repertoire including “Clouds,” “Someday Soon,” “Chelsea Morning,” a silken “Suzanne” and her personal song possession “Send in the Clowns” that saw the packed hall stunned into reverential silence for the memorable few sweet measures of time. She also put a sheen on “When I’m 64,” “Blackbird” and “Norwegian Wood” from the deep Lennnon and McCartney treasure chest and sang straight from the heart “Born to the Breed” about her late son. This lady is no beginner and choosing songwriters like Harry Chapin, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Steven Sondheim et al was done with great care and superb taste. In between the music, her polished and witty exposition was as enjoyable as hearing the master demonstrate just how to sing a song. Still, the true high point of the show was the unveiling of a brand new Jimmy Webb song “Paul Gauguin in the South Seas” that reverberated with memorable lines and deep meaning for those of us traveling in that particular part of paradise.
The Smothers Brothers finished the fine show and if there was any doubt as to the amount of life left in your heroes of the sixties the “boys” showed that they can still bring the laughs with gusto. Theirs is supposed to be musical performance and both really are pretty accomplished musicians but these brothers are masters of the old vaudeville humor once mastered by Abbot and Costello or Burns and Allen. Dick is the straight man and Tommy the wise fool who makes his points despite his meanderings in word thickets. Treatises on “truth,” “dogs,” “Spanish,” and “the less-ons and morons” were all clever and fresh by any day’s standards. The double grand-finale was given by Tommy as “the Yo-Yo Man” which never fails to incite glee and the appropriate send-up of “the Impossible Dream” that could be interpreted as political or about golf.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood August 20, 2008

Whose Line Is It Comes to Cerritos Again and Again

By Glen Creason

The problem with writing about the Brad Sherwood and Colin Mochrie show is that it is the ultimate “you had to be there” kind of experience. Many know the duo from the TV show “Whose Line Is It, Anyway” but to see and hear them live is to take a quantum leap forward in the improvisational form. They say again and again that they are just making it up as they go along and they mean it. It helps that the two comedians have razor sharp minds and unlimited creativity with words, plus they are working in front of one huge cult crowd that absolutely loves this stuff. That audience at Cerritos, jamming every square inch of the big hall was ecstatic in their appreciation of the two gents and helped out quite a bit on the evening’s antics.
The basic premise is that they choose some word games that on the face are kind of silly but the way in which these two artists play the games becomes an art form and somewhat educational. Sure, they threw in some scatological references and sometimes struggled to find the right humorous answers but time and time again they swung for the fences and tagged home runs. The willing crowd serves as foils for the tomfoolery, operating as stage props, providing hilarious non-sequiters on index cards drawn from the front rows and even shouts of strange suggestions that Mochrie and Sherwood blithely incorporate into the sketches they perform. Then again the twosome takes the big risks and the crowd sits back and roars when they come through. How would you like to stand in front of several thousand folks and make Poland, anteaters, forks and moving parts the fodder for a hilarious comedy routine? No rehearsal needed or possible in these cases.
They pulled stuff from the show and really did not have a lead-bell moment the entire hour and a half plus. They played Jeopardy with honking horns and became puppets for sweating audience volunteer puppeteers. They built outhouses on a razor while “a walkin’” as other “volunteers” provided really good sound effects. Really their piece de resistance is the set of five word games played on the run including “questions only,” “one syllable words,” “if you know what I mean,” “letter substitutions,” and “Doctor Seuss rhymes” which all worked and elicited wheezy horse laughs from the delirious audience.
It should be mentioned that this is probably the most eclectic crowd imaginable with kids, grandparents, hipsters, TV nerds and even publicists on vacation howling along together. Basically, this show works wonderfully because the two actors seem to love what they are doing in every scene, despite the sometimes frightfully demanding situations. They are the very definition of aplomb.
The final bit involved an opera by the pair, sung along using a reverse alphabet, blindfolded, barefooted on a stage covered with two hundred painfully loaded mouse-traps. You kind of had to be there.