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"

Friday, October 24, 2008

Boulder Acoustic Society October 22, 2008

Boulder Acoustic Society Makes a Sierra Night Unique

By Glen Creason

Some of the very best music you will hear in Cerritos occurs at the terrific
Sierra Nights series which is the alter-ego of the big, demanding shows in the hall across the theater. The Sierra setting is intimate and inducive to smaller groups and more daring attempts at music veering from the center line of genres. This week the peripatetic Colorado quartet called the “Boulder Acoustic Society” filled the space with some wild and wooly action that crossed many a musical line and bounced from folk to blues to old-timey roots music to R&B ballads to gypsy czardas and back again. Sometimes it all came together nicely in one song! The Boulder boys are charmingly disorganized on stage but decidedly serious about eclectic song choices and lively blends of standup bass, accordion, banjo, ukulele, percussion and fired up electric fiddle. What they lacked in billboard sized speaker volume or smoke machines they made up for in truly unique material. This is a thoroughly affable, casual and instrumentally talented band.
The first set established the sound that was one part Gid Tanner and the Skillet-lickers, one part Incredible String Band and several parts hard to describe. Vocals are shared mostly by bassist Aaron Keim and accordionist Scott McCormack who looked very much like dwellers in the people’s republic of Boulder. Yet those who apparently have spent more time exploring American music’s back roads than hanging out on the champagne powder slopes. Keim’s baritone gives texture to much of the music but McCormick is the man for the high notes. Young Scott Aller is the busy percussionist, not just drummer since he adds a lot of color to the soundscapes sometimes created by the band. However, the violin of the rather elegantly dressed Kailin Yong is essential here diving in and out of melodies and truly vaulting over the normal barriers between musical styles. While the band may not be serious in their patter they really do travel the path not taken and the one here gave us up-tempo folksy stuff like “Jake Leg Blues” or “Slip Baby Slip” or “the high octane “Give It Away” that had the full crowd actually nodding their heads in time. There were surprising choices tweaked to the hybrid sound including a caffeinated “Maggie’s Farm,” the strangely compelling “Cruel Monkey” and a very nice “Aint No Sunshine” that wasn’t all that sad for a farewell ballad.
There were also some well done traditionals like “the Light and the Dust,” “Gospel Plow,” and “Trying to Get Home” including the long and rewarding fiddle solo by Yong that was truly amazing. However, within the evening of merriment and old time story telling Scott McCormick’s pair of ballads “Until Then” and “Take My Hand” were beautifully done and could well have saved the bacon of a lesser show. The Boulder Acoustic Society says they drove through a Colorado blizzard to get to Cerritos and those of us in the Sierra Room were damn glad they did.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Music of Led Zeppelin October 18, 2008

This Zeppelin Soars at Cerritos

By Glen Creason

It sounded like an interesting concept, this full orchestra playing classic rock hits by the now legendary super group Led Zeppelin at the Performing Arts Center. Many of the biggest hits of the band used orchestral backing in the studio and the arena-rock sounds could be distilled in the hall to make for a very big rock sound. Such was the plan set out by the Windborne Symphony with Brent Havens at the baton and Randy Jackson wailing the trademark Robert Plant vocals. The caveat comes with the fact that the last such experiment at Cerritos fell rather flat and sent many audience members running out of the hall like they were being chased by mean dogs. Add to this the fact that I was not on board this Zeppelin when they were young and have only become a convert by of all people my daughter who digs Led and thinks of them as the godfathers of her own generation’s sound. According to her I am a folk-rocker (shudder.)
With all that said I have to say that Windborne and Havens and Jackson made a believer out of me, producing a really electrifying two hours of music that would have made fans out of classical concertgoers along with the raggedy jeaned rockers who bobbed their boomer heads out in this audience. Instead of providing an odd combination of two ends of the spectrum of music the orchestra just pumped up the huge Led Zeppelin sound to awesome proportions. It was refreshing to see the 50 member Windborne Symphony, most of whom are in that same generation Y demographic as my kid, enjoying themselves as they played their violins, cellos, French horns and bass fiddles while performing chair boogies in a scene of joyful musical celebration. If nothing else, the Windborne is most certainly the best looking orchestra I have ever seen in any venue. All over the hall you heard whoops of amazement when the strings climbed and brass blasted in tunes like “the Immigrant Song,” “Kashmir” and “Heartbreaker” that haven’t sounded so good since they boomed from stereos in crash pads across the rock and roll world way back in the day.
There was certainly other aspects that gave rise to the success of this show, primarily the elastic voiced Randy Jackson and the flying fingers of guitarist George Cintron who tried, pretty successfully, to fill the canyon-like shoes of Jimmy Page. An added attraction was the fiery fiddle solos by a young lady named Allegra, particularly on a duet with Cintron on “Moby Dick” which led into a huge drum voyage by young Paul Randolph. While I was not a true scholar of the Led sound there were plenty in the crowd who were, including a man behind me with lyrics imprinted on his brain, a voice like Lurch and eau d’ Jose Cuervo gold on his person. When the really old chestnuts like “Whole Lotta Love,” or “Song Remains the Same” or “Stairway to Heaven” boomed forth there was hall hysteria heard rarely in these parts. There is obviously much thought and love that has gone into the show, particularly from Jackson who at one time or another described each member of Led Zeppelin as the greatest of all time. The show takes some big chances to reproduce this somewhat sacred rock iconography but does Led justice with this fully realized production.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Boz Skaggs October 11, 2008

Boz Skaggs Straight On
Good Stuff at Cerritos

By Glen Creason

Boz Skaggs was enthusiastically greeted by a full house at the Performing Arts Center on Saturday evening with well-oiled shouts for his hits from the 70’s. A rather effusive audience this one, insisted on hearing the gold records from his classic albums like “Silk Degrees,” “Lowdown” or “Middle Man.” Of course, the old pro gave them what they wanted but he also made it fun for himself and his solid eight member band by improvising a bit and handing over the solos to this fine group of musicians. The arrangements were tight, the guitars and keyboards were actually sensational and the singing was mostly good but occasionally challenged by the huge wall of sound filled with percussion and bass.
The show was a solid block of good stuff with no breaks and no breathers save a ballad or two like “Desire” or “Harbor Lights” that worked well despite Skaggs vocals that sometimes stayed on the runway a bit before takeoff. Of course, that is the Boz Skaggs style to start slow and build into a passionate full-scale R&B torch song. The rabid and vocal fans in house did not seem to care about details and hooted and hollered ecstatically for the platinum ones like “Lowdown,” “JoJo,” “Slow Dancer” and the bull goose trophy winning “Lido” that set forth an avalanche of appreciation and got the entire joint up on their middle aged feet to shake the collective booty. “Georgia” was typical for the old pro as he started it like a ballad, then tossed the arrangement into second, third and forth gear, ramping it into a real pulse-quickening jam. Amongst that sea of sons and daughters of the 70’s sound I saw plenty of loose limbed dancing.
Skaggs cleverly placed some more esoteric material in the mix and his reading of the old Fats Domino R&B gem “Sick and Tired” was made quite juicy by the brilliant keyboard work of guest David Paich. Skaggs also played just one more fine Allen Toussaint tune, this one “Hercules” that sparkled pretty well some thirty years on and demonstrated Skaggs solid New Orleans influences over the years. David Paich contributed much more in the show, staying on and pumping up the sound, especially on one more of his compositions that was turned into a show-stopper by backup singer Ms. Mone’t. Skaggs generously sat back and watched his band steal his own show for while here when the Ms. also lit up the hall with “Streetlife” and guitar wonder Steve Lukather busted off lightening bolts of lead on “Lido.” Lukather, Skaggs and superb lead guitarist Jon Herington traded licks on the ensuing encores of “Runnin’ Blues” and “Look What You’ve Done to Me” for a lengthy and most enjoyable conclusion to a very good show at the Center.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Simply Ballroom Sunday October 4, 2008

Miss Debbie and Dancing with Real Stars: “Simply Ballroom” at the Center

By Glen Creason

Sending yours truly to review a ballroom dancing show might be like asking a vegan to write about a steak joint but my taste for such cavorting was certainly increased tenfold by this afternoon of terpsichorean merriment. I may have failed at cotillion but I have watched an episode or two of “Dancing With the Stars” alongside my Mom and I can tell you that this version is vastly superior to most of what you see on television. Each of the pairs of “Simply Ballroom” are champions in their own right. The speed, dexterity and unreal stamina of these young dancers is quite incredible. I should not fail to mention the beauty of the young ladies, the dazzle of the spectacular costumes and the athleticism of the choreography that sometimes defied gravity. “Simply Ballroom” has its roots in Great Britain and they do not spare the pounds sterling in the production. There are seven pairs of dancers, two very talented singing and dancing hosts and the grand living legend lady Debbie Reynolds holding the whole thing together.
The original purpose of this show was the give exposure to these elegant dancers and the art form of the many shades of ballroom dancing. All of this falls under a rather large umbrella that includes everything from Strauss waltzes to the Latin Hustle. The stage is filled with color and movement that keeps your head spinning and your toes tapping. The afternoon was ably hosted by English crooner Sam Kane and Nicole Funicello who broke up the dance numbers with pretty good versions of dance-related standards like “Shall We Dance,” Who’s Got the Last Laugh Now,” “The Continental,” Singing In the Rain” and “The Time of My Life.” The music flowed as the young dancers performed the meringue, quickstep, cha cha cha, swing, black bottom, Charleston, quick trot, fox trot, tango, salsa, samba, rumba, jitterbug and more. With each turn on the stage the dancers and hosts showed up in new, colorful costumes and never seemed to have a hair or sequin out of place. More contemporary stuff followed, even “She Bangs,” “Time After Time,” and a ring a ding ding “One More for the Road.” Of course, many in the large crowd came to hear their old pal Miss Debbie and she did not disappoint with copious ribaldry and stories from her colorful past. Some of her material was as old as her 1952 debut in “Singing In the Rain” but it worked well enough to get huge laughs from the crowd that may have remembered her as the sweet faced girl who sang “Tammy” back when gas was twenty-five cents a gallon and bailouts were something fighter pilots did in the big war. While the ballroom artistry filled the stage it was the old pro who held the show together like her own flawless makeup.