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, April 12, 2009

3 Mo Divas April 11, 2009

3 Mo Divas at Cerritos

By Glen Creason

In the tradition of the Three Tenors, the Irish Tenors and Three Mo Tenors it was the ladies turn at the Performing Arts Center over the weekend and “3 Mo Divas” did not let the name down. These three polished and versatile women covered as many vocal arts genres as a music appreciation textbook. The divas had half a dozen dazzling costume changes, several complicated choreography numbers, sang over thirty songs and even tossed in a spot on impression or two in their action packed two hours on the big stage.
The 3 Divas were Laurice Lanier, N’Kenge and Jamet Pittman; all accomplished and highly experienced musicians trained at places like the Juilliard School and Oberlin College. These women were not destined to be pop-singers but they are certainly not above belting out a funky R&B song or tearing up a blues number with plenty of style.
True to the format they began with excellent readings of high opera from Puccini’s “La Boheme” and Saint-Saens’ “Samson and Delilah” along with some Broadway class in “Style” in tandem or solo. At first they had a cute rivalry going where each lady tried to outshine the other but when they sang as one all that melted away and they created a seamless whole. Each had qualities that set them apart and yet made them a key component of the harmonies. Jamet tore up “Your Daddy’s Son” from the hit Broadway show “Ragtime” then returned to the triumvirate for a nice “Feeling Good” culled from the old gem “the Roar of the Greasepaint.” N’Kenge was terrific all evening but her tribute to the great Cab Calloway was utterly sensational and got the crowd up out of their seats for just one of a few standing ovations on this night. Larece was a tower of dignified vocal strength all night and she made “Downhearted Blues” into a talking up poem that made the ladies in the hall sit up a little straighter. The duet of Larece and Jamet on “Strange Fruit” worked wonders for a song normally owned by Billie Holiday alone.
The entire performance was sweetened and centered by musical director Joseph Joubert who unobtrusively drove the beat a little higher in energy but played like an expert accompanist on the classical portion. He stayed in the background for the most part but his playing just held the entire performance together beautifully. The entire cast here is amazingly versatile. 3 Mo Divas met every challenge and never faltered in any genre ranging from the 40’s swing of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” to the Jazz vocalese of “Harlem Nocturne” to the funky soul of “Best of My Love” Not holding back much they did make the crowd wait for two of the most electrifying songs in the set with N’Kenge’s lead on a rump-shaking “Proud Mary” with a tiny Tina Turner turn and an utterly stirring spiritual “His Eye is On the Sparrow” that was every bit as uplifting as the song was intended. The crowd seemed to love the ladies and laid on the applause almost as strong as the divas sang.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Luna Negra Dance Theater April 4, 2009

Luna Negra Dance Truly Trips the Moonlight Fantastic

By Glen Creason

Maybe locals should pay closer attention to the astute promotional material from the Cerritos Center which described the Luna Negra Dance Theater as “sensational,” “sophisticated,” “powerful” and lots more. The teasers got my attention and I went out on Saturday evening not knowing what to expect and was blown away by the show that surpassed sensational and inspired the “should have been bigger” crowd to rarely seen cultural heights. The creation of this troupe is a wonderful idea that has been brought to deliciously colorful life by a small group of highly committed and extraordinarily talented artists in Chicago. The concept is to preserve the works of Latino master choreographers and perform these works in a beautiful balance of ballet and modern dance locally and nationally. This night’s program traveled from 1956 to the present but crossed many genre lines in music, movement and choreography. This kind of thoughtful material is timeless. You don’t have to be some kind of dance afficianado to love this show since it grabs you from the first appearance of these fresh and joyful young dancers and does not give you time to realize this is supposed to be high culture.
Luna Negra is truly an ensemble and that includes the entire company since the lighting, direction, dancing, eclectic music and brilliant costumes are just parts of the delightful whole. Of course, you can have a great game plan with not so great players but Luna Negra does not have a single weak link in the chain. Every dancer on the stage was flawless and together they are just transcendent. The opening piece “There is a Time” by the legendary Jose Limon was an appropriately thought provoking and all-involving performance that expresses the stages in life all in less than a half hour. Hamilton Nieh took it from the cradle to the grave with the movement of “a time to be born…” Elise Drew was pure joy in “a time to laugh…a time to dance” and Vanessa Valecillos and JP Tenuta were wonderful as lovers in “a time to embrace...”
The second part of the evening was jocular and playful, eliciting laughter from the audience and cheers of delight throughout. “Flabbergast” with music by Esquivel and dialogue from a Spanish comic film was bursting with color and energy. This was followed by another humorous and quirky exposition “Nube Blanco” featuring the beautifully balanced singing of Maria Dolores Pradera that was the perfect counterpoint to the off balance but lyrical dancing that was flavored by flamenco. Last on this fine menu was “Batucada Fantastica “using the sounds of the brilliant Brazilian percussionist Luciano Perrone and eight solo dances that were all sensational. Elise Drew once again was a standout, showing incredible charisma and grace that was nicely juxtaposed between the muscular athleticism of Bobby Briscoe, the measured elegance of Jessica Alejandra Wyatt and the caffeinated modern slants of Sara Roberts. Luna Negra is just one of those under sung little shows that you wish you could drag everyone to and then watch their mouths hang open in awe.