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"

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ellsie Awards 2010

by Glen Creason
The sputtering economy has demanded belt-tightening at almost every level of society, especially in my household but the heartbeat of culture still beats vibrantly at the dear Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. After eighteen years of checking out shows at the great hall I find each and every season to be different and wonderful in its own way. This year was no different despite shorter seasons and a few less shows attended by this reviewer. As a matter of fact, 2010 held a few of the very best shows and performances I have enjoyed in my lengthy tenure at the Community News.
Some things stay sweetly the same as in the world’s greatest publicist/ press liaison Lori Levine-Yonan who seems to anticipate like a clairvoyant while producing spots for the ink-stained wretches such as myself. There are also old friends who seem never to age such as India Holloway, Tony Erdelji and the dapper house manager Alan Strickland. Once again I found a box office staff overseen by ever-vigilant Nate Chavez and Cristopher Laroco that is nothing short of an all-star team of helpful and personable young people like Daniel Penland and Carla Madrid. The technical crews absolutely outdid themselves in this year, transforming the Center stage into all manner of moods and sets from grand opera to a mining camp. The names remain the same but the magic just gets better with practice by Tom Hamilton, James King and Jeff Thielke along with helpers who make it look easy while it most certainly is not.
As the winds of change have blown through the center the ascendance of Diane Cheney to director is great news since that insures the integrity and future of the hall will be top drawer in every way. As an admirer of the attitude and intelligence of the box office operation I am anxious to see this same spirit energizing the highest levels at the CCPA. It IS the best theater in Southern California without a doubt. I also tip my battered Dodger cap to the Community News who managed to bat an impressive average of submission to printing of my opinions. Thank You all!
Without further ado, the 2010 Ellsies:
: January 15. Keb Mo and Susan Werner proved to be a doubly potent shot of musical talent and power. Keb Mo on his own can fill the hall up with a joyful noise but Werner put this one over the top with multi-instrumental expertise and rich vocal accompaniment.
E-Dance: February 6. Lula Washington Dance Theater. The Center has become one of the top venues for dance in the West and this amazing troupe was the best of the best in this year, especially Tamika Washington Miller, the assistant director who is so hands on she performed the most memorable dancing of the night including key segments of the expansive “Ode to the Sixties” that was brimming with color, fluid movement and great music.
E-World: February 21. The Chieftains. You just cannot go wrong going to see and hear the Chieftains who keep changing their shape but staying true to the Irish core. The fantastic dancing Pilatske brothers are worth the price of admission alone but this show featured the great Ry Cooder playing with the band on the memorable “Cancion Mixteca.”
E-Classical Combination: February 28 Sarah Chang and Andrew Von Oeyen. Exuding class and magnificent command of the violin and piano they created one of the most delightful afternoons of the year including a dazzling performance of the contemporary composer Christopher Theofanida’s “Fantasy.”
E-Youth Be Served: March 15. Vienna Boys Choir captivated an enthusiastic crowd of chorale music lovers with one winner after another including the surprising and exquisitely beautiful Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah.”
E-Roots: April 3. Beausoleil. The is no cooler sight or sound than this American national treasure of a band playing down home Cajun music. Michael Doucet is an icon that leads by having giant talent evidenced in the playing of “Alligator Purse” that transformed Cerritos into the big Easy on this spring night.
E-Swing a ding ding: May 1. John Pizzarelli. The incredibly versatile crooner-guitarist worked Sinatra-like magic at one of the best shows of the year. Drawing from the chairman’s repertoire the big band swung the night away but it was the little known “It’s Sunday” that really took this concert to the top.
E-Orchestra: October 30. Moscow State Orchestra with Jennifer Koh violin. Under the baton of the energetic Pavel Kogan the big and powerful Moscow State Orchestra really expanded the hall musically. Ms. Koh was simply magnificent playing Max Bruch’s “Violin Concerto No. 1 in g minor” especially on the “allegro energetico” that was energetic and more. Moreover, one of the real heart pounding moments in all of the Cerritos history was the final movement of Moussgorky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” when the Muscovites opened the doors of the “great gate of Kiev," bringing tears of joy to concert-goers eyes.
E-Charm: November 7. Bobby Vinton. Singing hits that first hit the airwaves when I was a little nipper the old crooner charmed the full house with an act he has polished or Polished for five decades. When he shouted “Ho Ho!” to the crowd it actually worked like a tonic.
E-Yule: December 3. Tomaseen Foley’s Celtic Christmas. The warm and wonderful Irish Christmas show featured the ancient craft of storytelling highlighted by excellent folk music. “The Christmas Parcel” shone like a beautiful ornament when juxtaposed against the work of three fine musicians and one terrific dancer.
E-Performance of the Year: John Williams. The great guitarist presented a near perfect concert showcasing several great Latin-American composers but surprisingly the biggest gem in a jewel-box full of them was the African artist Francis Bebey’s “O Bia” that in its simplicity and beauty was unforgettable.
E-Show of the Year. Kris Kristofferson. If you thought old Kris was just an actor who dabbles you should have seen this deeply affecting show filled with great songwriting and soul shaking singing. In a night that passed far too quickly his “the Circle from Here to Forever” written to his children provided an unforgettable moment in the annals of the great hall.
Lastly: 2010 proved to be the best year in my life. When most people struggled through the challenges of a hard time I was fortunate enough to accomplish my life’s ambition and publish “Los Angeles in Maps” for Rizzolli International. Since this seems to be the only time it will be mentioned in this paper I urge you to seek it out and give it a read. Check out http://www.laobserved.com/archive/2010/12/la_observed_on_kcrw_holid.php or give a listen to http://www.kcrw.com/etc/programs/lo/lo101220holiday_books or watch on vimeo http://vimeo.com/16570845


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