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"

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pride and Prejudice January 25, 2013

                     Cerritos Finds Pride and Prejudice 
                                            By Glen Creason
     After drifting in the great ocean of utter nonsense that is popular media it was wonderful to find a dry and enchanting land of live-theater culture at the sold-out Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts over the weekend. This fine terra firma was brought to us by LA Theater Works in the form of the merely two hundred year old “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen. On this two century anniversary the esteemed LA group distilled the essence of the novel into ninety riveting minutes without many bells and whistles but plenty of acting and staging talent.  With no props or backdrops save an ever-clever changing curtain and seven microphones this production was thought provoking, energetic and deeply romantic. All this was done with a versatile cast that played multiple roles without a misstep.  The lessons of the great book shine through via the skill of the director and cast to bring Austen’s words into complete focus without a speck of dust on a single sentence.  Since pride and prejudice still plague mankind, the demonstration of how both can be defeated by love and understanding still rings as true in Cerritos in 2013 as they did in Britain in 1813.
     With so much to admire but so little space I find it hard to limit the praise to six players but as the show was excellent overall, these half dozen were superior parts that made the whole perfectly wonderful. The all important roles of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy were expertly done by Julia McIlvaine and Nick Toren who never allowed these central characters to go over the top or become caricatures of the haughty rich nobleman and the skeptical young beauty. Darren Richardson had the difficult task of three roles: the go-between Mr. Bingley, the oozing villainous cad Mr. Wickham and the feckless relation Mr. Collins which he managed to accomplish with nuanced flair.  Jane Carr as the meddlesome Mom Mrs. Bennet and grand dame Lady Catherine deBourgh made both memorable and brightened everyone on stage with her performance.  The highly important narrator in this superb adaption by Cristina Calvit was Diane Adair who made the story shine and played two roles to boot. Still, the juicy role of Miss Caroline Bingley was brilliantly done by Cerris Morgan-Moyer who absolutely lit up the stage every time she spouted her characters delicious vitriol. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Twentieth Anniversary Show January 13, 2013

       Twentieth anniversary Show at Cerritos

                                      By Glen Creason

    There was a concert at the Cerritos Center on Sunday afternoon and the rather well turned out crowd cheered mightily for old-timer Neil Sedaka and a very skilled five-person band that filled the big hall with musical memories. Appropriately, the show incorporated past greatness with material that was as fresh as last week.  Ah yes, the memories. This performance was to celebrate the twentieth year of beautiful afternoons and evenings at the Center. Maybe a few folks at this matinee remember day one of what seems like a lifetime of shows in the exquisite Performing Arts Center and certainly there were many familiar faces in the lobby before and after. I do know, however, that sweet memories were whirring through my head like an old movie projector shining delightful images one after another. Indeed the past couple of decades seem like they passed in the blink of an eye but when I started in 1993 I had dark brown hair and did not really know how to write an essay. Now my hair is far from brown and I am still learning to write essays.  It began for me on a hot August night in 1993 with Whitney Houston, who at the time was one of the biggest stars in America. La Houston set a standard that has been upheld for every season up to today and hopefully will continue for several more decades.
     I narrowly missed the first season when the great Frank Sinatra opened the hall but have since attended over five hundred (500!) shows at Cerritos and written around a quarter of a million words describing the thrills I experienced on Center drive.  It dopes out to about five novels worth, not counting a few magical moments when I was allowed to salute my parents or wrap up the best of each season with the Ellsie Awards.  There have been a few duds, as any hall must have. At one un-named show I described the audience as racing out of the orchestra seats like they were being chased by wild dogs.  Mostly however, there have been thousands of moments of exhilaration, of illumination, of hilarity and floods of hope flowing from that now well-worn stage. All from the place so wonderfully cared for by technical geniuses that cannot be thanked enough and the most helpful hall staff known to hospitality. Over twenty years I have had the genuine privilege of working with people like Victor Gotesman, Wayne Shilkrat, Michael Wolf, Dianne Cheney and of course the incomparable publicist Lori-Levine Yonan. It gave me some degree of humility at the Neil Sedaka show to be asked for my picture ID by the new kid in the box office, an operation that continues to surpass any in any theater in America. Way to go guys!
      It is impossible to single out all the great shows or great moments but some stand as tall as the beloved cool flags atop the theater: unforgettable shows like “Lackawanna Blues,” or the one man show on Clarence Darrow or “the Miracle Worker” or just sitting next to my late Mom at “Cats.”  There were fantastic musical performances by Sonny Rollins, George Jones, Cantus, Betty Buckley, the Chieftains, Tony Bennet, John Prine, Johnny Cash, the Irish Tenors, Audra McDonald, Andre Watts, George Winston, Karrin Alyson and my personal favorite Perla Batalla. There were shows that made us permanently smile a little bigger by the grand masters Garrison Keillor, Bill Cosby, Paul Rodriguez, DH Hughley, and a humble clown named Avner the eccentric. In this time I also learned to appreciate the art of dance and really find the magnificence of classical music with the help of Rob Kapilow. There isn’t enough room in the paper for all of this but it all was in the paper, well most of the time.
     So to be fair I should mention the very fit, energetic and seemingly timeless Neil Sedaka who has more hit records than you can count. The evening started with an amazing slide-show with great stars from the past singing Sedaka tunes and it astounded even the fans in the audience that this one man had written for greats from Patsy Cline to Frank Sinatra with Queen and Abba in between. Mr. Sedaka must have more money than Fort Knox at this point, (having sold more than 40 million discs before 1963) but he still loves to play and sing which he did very well for over ninety minutes with a clear as a bell tenor voice. There was fun pop from early rock and roll: “Oh Carol,” “Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen,” “Calendar Girl,” “Where the Boys Are,” and “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” that had the gray heads bopping in the audience. There were the tear-jerking ballads too like “I Should Have Never Let You Go,” “Solitaire,” and the ultimate evergreen “the Hungry Years.” Yet Sedaka took it further than a greatest hits package and mixed in two not very surprisingly good new tunes “I’m Beginning to Breath Again” and “Mi Amor” with a Beethoven piano solo that would have done any of the tux and tails guys proud. Appropriately, the twentieth anniversary show ended with encores and a standing ovation for the man and the great hall. I heartily concur.