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, May 17, 2010

Bill Cosby May 16, 2010

Bill Cosby Closes Cerritos Season with Class

By Glen Creason

It sort of came to me in the middle of Bill Cosby’s matinee of relaxed and hilarious storytelling that he is probably the first humor-philosopher since Will Rogers charmed a nation back in the mid 1930’s. I think after decades of honing his craft the title is appropriate for this gentleman, even though he would probably laugh at the description. The Emcee for the show rightfully called Doctor Cosby a national treasure and I certainly would not disagree. As a matter of fact I would put the man in a very small group of those entertainers that have genuinely made an indelible mark on the American character. “The Cos” as he calls himself can take any real-life situation and create insight along with horse-laughs of delight from the masses of fans that follow his every word. At a packed Performing Arts Center his show was unusually condensed but as delightful as any I have heard in his many visits to Cerritos. He seems to be ready to continue for at least a couple more decades. In between his monologues he bantered with audience members including one clueless soul who seemed to think this was therapy. Still Cosby did not chastise her despite many surrounding glares and sighs from less generous souls.
This show was originally slated for September of 2009 but an eye problem kept him from honoring that date but this welcomed visit made for a sweet dessert at the finish of the feast of the arts that the 2009-2010 series presented. If you took an outline of this performance it would read
• Couldn’t make September date because “I’m Old”
• The Eye Clinic and geriatric patients there.
• Medical tests in general
• The colonoscopy.
• Why “suck” should never be an insult.
• Getting a kid through college.
While these topics have potential you just have to imagine how a genius storyteller could turn such mundane stuff into epic tales of struggle between husband and wife, parent and child and nurse and patient. Cosby’s otherworldly physical comedy and ability to create mock dialogue are the stuff of legend but he seems not to be slowing down one bit in the wit department. How many people can get away with saying about one's own daughter that “I don’t like her much” and describing his own bowel activity as if it were the eruption on Mt. Vesuvius without seeming crass or insensitive or calloused? In fact the routines Cosby adapts involving children going off to college and returning home are full of famial truth but tempered by great affection. This show merely contains Doctor Cosby dressed in his Temple University sweat suit and a table containing a bottle of water and box of tissues in front of some potted plants. He sits on a chair draped with his trademark “Hello Friend” sweater but that is where the decoration ends. The rest is just Cos hanging out with his pals and regaling them with the story of his life, one that never ceases to amuse and amaze us all. What makes it all so appealing is that he never places himself above the audience but mostly puts us all together, right where we belong. As he pointedly said in mid-show “we are all the same fools.”

Monday, May 03, 2010

John Pizzarelli Frank Sinatra Songbook May 1, 2010

John Pizzarelli Does the Sinatra Songbook at Cerritos

By Glen Creason

Sometimes it seems there are as many Sinatra wannabees as there are Elvis impersonators and all of them must know that there was only one chairman and adulation is fine but beware the possible expectation explosions in Old Blue Eyes tributes. In fact there have been a few Sinatra-ites at the Center including the legend himself (1993) and his own flesh and blood a few times. While Frank was not at his peak in his latter years (and who is) he was the genuine Hoboken, New Jersey article. The rest better be damn good when it comes to holding up the great singer’s banner and waving it in concert. So we come to John Pizzarelli, the affable and music encyclopedically knowledgeable guitarist-singer who performed such a Sinatra tribute at the Center on Sunday afternoon. He did so in front of a decent crowd of some folks who probably saw the original a few times. Careful, John!

Pizzarelli navigated this minefield with intelligence, delightful wit, musical aplomb and a fine, middle range baritone that complimented the song writers and became another sweet instrument in the arrangements he chose to represent the repertoire at this terrific show. That is not to leave out the stunningly beautiful seven string guitar accompaniment Pizzarelli flavors each tune with in this Sinatra send-up. That guitar never trampled on the full sound of a sixteen piece orchestra that included the quartet that normally plays with the band leader in smaller venues. An easy-going tone was struck from the first notes of “Come Fly With Me” and continued for a swinging first half of great songs and perfect arrangements that were not of the warhorse variety. In between extremely smart patter and instructive introductions Pizzarelli completely charmed the audience while polishing gems like “Just the Way You Look Tonight,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “the Lady is a Tramp,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” and “I Can’t Get Started.” Pizzarelli makes you understand the greatness of Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter, and others in the Great American Songbook by playing the songs as written and not trying to American Idol anything. His choice and performance of “I Don’t Know Why I Love You But I Do” was unusual and unusually beautiful in emotion and execution.

The second half was more of the great stuff including some pretty solid Sinatra-only songs that Pizzarelli was able to make good on with his low key vocals and fine guitar work. The saloon songs like “One More for the Road,” “Ring a Ding Ding” and Quincy Jones swinging arrangement of “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” were purely wonderful but “Witchcraft,” Nice and Easy Does It” “I’ve Got the World on a String” swung sweetly. Again, the lesser known piece stood out, this time “It’s Sunday” that completely mesmerized the appreciative audience. Pizzarelli knows how to entertain and there were no slow moments, even in ballads. Maybe the easy wit can be attributed to his role as host on a radio jazz show but when the big band finished with “Last Dance” and an encore of “I Get a Kick Out of You” everyone got up and told the performer they would love to see him back in Cerritos real soon.