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, November 12, 2012

The New York Tenors November 11, 2012

The New York Tenors Sing to Cerritos: How Ya Doin?

                            By Glen Creason

     Just because a show has three and the word tenors in the title does not ensure that it will be good. When I took my place in the rather mature looking audience the other night at the Performing Arts Center I was not sure what I would get from these New York Tenors. I suspected the show might have traditional leanings with the choice of “America the Beautiful” for openers and the strong response from the crowd signified more of the standard stuff ahead. Now, many of the songs sung on this night could most certainly be heard at the Elks Lodge talent show or at Parish halls across America. Many on the evening’s set-list I would guess I have heard at least a hundred times. The three tenors from the Big Apple made no apologies for singing the familiar tunes while waving the red, white and blue on Veterans Day and let no opportunity pass in lauding the spirit of NYC and its stout-hearted citizens. To really put an exclamation on the NY in this show one of the tenors was even the famed “singing cop” Daniel Rodriguez who gave millions of Americans lumps in their throats when he sang “God Bless America” at the World Series just days after the devastation of 9/11. They also had a superb full band with all the trimmings and musical director Aaron Gandy at the piano.
     With the weariness of the contentious elections just a couple of days behind us you might have thought the house not quite ready for this patriotic extravaganza but if the standing ovations, the hankies daubed at eyes and the wild applause meant what I think it did this show worked pretty well. The essential part of this winning evening was that these guys can really sing and I mean every one of them and every song. The songs are proven gems and the voices did them justice without a single sour note on the night.  Even an old student protester from the 1960’s like myself found the goose bumps rising and the red blood pumping at the spectacular conclusions to these old beauties. Each man had a different approach to the tenor voice; Andy Cooney was the classic crooner with the gift of gab, Daniel Rodriquez had the operatic voice with deep and rich tones and Michael Amante had a Broadway musical cannon of a voice that could reach every note and parts of south Orange County to boot.
     They each had terrific moments in their solos and together with a tenor times three that made you lean back in your seat. Cooney was fine on “The Fields of Athenry,” “My Grandfather’s Immigrant Eyes” and the ultimate evergreen “Danny Boy” that was flawless. Rodriguez opened eyes and ears with “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables, a spicy “Granada” and he HAD to sing “God Bless America” just about as well as it can be sung. Amante, full of Italian charm and huge pipes gave stirring readings of “Music of the Night,” “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” and “God and God Alone” that made some folks to my right utter “My God!” The trio also joined powerfully for Leonard Cohen’s gorgeous “Hallelujah,” a tribute to first responders called “I Won’t Turn My Back on You” and the grandly operatic “Nessun Dorma” sung with English lyrics translated to “Dance With Time.” Like much of the show you kind of knew what was coming for an encore and “New York, New York” sounded much better than when I have been forced to hear it at the conclusion of Yankee wins.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

ETHEL and Todd Rundgren November 1, 2012

ETHEL and Todd Rundgren Turn 70’s to Today and Tomorrow

                       By Glen Creason

     It was hard to imagine how pop wunderkind Todd Rundgren would fit together with a string quartet at the Performing Arts Center. Then again, this is a venue that has seen strings and rock and everything in between. Still, even a quartet as contemporary as the classically trained but wildly innovative ETHEL might not meld with the man of many musical faces. However, this was to be a show that had strings and rock and pop and lots of things in between.  Rundgren is an artist equally famous for his unique slant on rock and roll and his talents in the studio making classic albums for himself and others. If anyone in pop music could incorporate the form that began in the Baroque period I guess it would be Rundgren.
     ETHEL played first and did not pull any punches, sounding distinctly classical and contemporary in choosing compositions from the 1970’s with Lou Harrison’s Baroque tinged 1st movement of his “String Quartet Set” and a juicy “Watermelon Man” by jazz great Herbie Hancock. ETHEL is Kip Jones and Tema Watstein on violin, Ralph Farris on viola and the charismatic Dorothy Lawson on rocking cello. Together they seem capable of expressing every sound in music, evidenced by the amazing juxtaposition of Arvo Paart’s stately “Spiegel Im Spiegal” followed by the rip-snorting “Octet 1979” by Judd Greenstein and the old Led Zeppelin chestnut “Kashmir” that had folks chair boogieing to a string quartet.
    Todd Rundgren took the stage after some re-arranging and showed that he has not lost a thing passing through four decades in popular music. His playing was crisp and his singing was strong while demonstrating some of the old wise-guy commentary in between really good old songs like “Lysistrata, “ “I Don’t Want to Tie You Down,” “La La Means I Love You,” “Bang the Drum All Day” and the anthem-like “One World” His amazing vocal on the Beatles “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” ranged from back of the auditorium crooning to a gruff blues shout. He jumped from strat to piano to uekelele while showing his instrumental powers without ever striking a false note. Even his strange coiffure seemed kind of cool in a Philip K. Dick novel sort of way.
     The second half added the two powers of Rundgren and ETHEL together making it a good concert squared. You really won’t experience many concerts where you will hear pop classics like “I Saw the Light,” Pretending to Care,” “Mercenary” and a rocked out “Soul Brother” along with Terry Riley’s “Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector,” the Muppet song “Mahna Mahna” and the “Theme from the Game of Thrones.”  These are master musicians who moved from the long and thickly textured contemporary compositions into percolating R&B rumbles to the soaring heart-throbber “Pretending to Care” without a seam showing. Rundgren may be an iconoclast who did not sell-out despite his early pop stardom but he knows how to pace a concert and entertain a crowd, even one as open-minded as the rather musically literate and lucky one on hand at Cerritos on this night.