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, March 23, 2013

Savion Glover Sole Sanctuary March 22, 2013

   Savion Glover: Sole Sanctuary to the Third Degree

                                                          By Glen Creason

     I should begin by saying Savion Glover is a once in a lifetime artist who has taken a humble art form and elevated it to the levels of opera or ballet. The art of tap-dancing will never be the same and hopefully this man’s greatness and genius will lead us to many more who aspire to take this form of dance to such inspired heights. I should follow by saying his concert at the packed Performing Arts Center a few days back will go down as one of the truly great shows there, no matter what follows in the years to come. Lastly in this triumvirate of awe is that I sure hope we can get him back here again next year.
     Glover dances like most of us breathe... in and out; as natural as a basic function of life. There seems to be a path between his boundless imagination and his body, especially his legs and feet that operates like an electrical current that he can dial up and down at will.  What places him right at the top with the great tap-dancers of the past is that he does not need musical accompaniment since he makes music with his feet that is unique and improvised in a dazzling variety. While his show gave tribute to these greats of the genre (and they were greats!)  he paid them the ultimate compliment by surpassing all of them and knocking the bar a quantum leap upwards. On a purely physical level, the unreal stamina shown in the performance could be compared to a running back gaining 320 yards on a muddy football field in December or maybe pitching a sixteen inning no-hitter in Houston in August.
     Even as the focus was on the sounds of tap shoes on the small elevated platform you cannot help making musical comparisons since Savion Glover expresses his themes with a jazz feeling that is wonderful and often transcendent. Sometimes he reminded us of Keith Jarret’s great solo concerts in Koln or Bremen-Lausanne and when he teamed with the superb Marshall Davis Jr.  it was like Coltrane riffing with Miles Davis. As a matter of fact, no one in their right mind would dare share a stage with the dazzlingly brilliant Mr. Davis  except the once in a lifetime headliner on this night.  Together, they painted grand landscapes of choreography venturing off into brilliant solos but working together with such intimate skill that it made it hard to blink…and the show ran over ninety riveting minutes. When they danced alone it was like a gifted pianist with the left and right feet independent in melody but together in harmony. When they danced together it was truly unforgettable.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

American English: the Complete Beatles Tribute March 16, 2013

American English: Strange Name for Pretty Good Beatles Tribute

                    By Glen Creason

    If the concert “American English” as heard at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts was any yardstick it appears that myself and a couple of thousand more of my generation never got their fill of the Beatles. Even though we have been listening to their seemingly endless songbook for over forty years those great songs just never get old. Billed as “the complete Beatles Tribute” this meticulously produced show, featuring four neo-mop-tops, had a very precious legacy to uphold in front of many silver-headed fans in the audience who may have actually seen the originals back when gas was 27 cents a gallon. Actually, this was not such a tough crowd. Throughout, they sang and clapped and even twisted in time with a huge helping of the lads wonderful tunes drawn from three periods of Beatlemania.
     I would have to say the concert had five stages: 1. “these guys aren’t the Beatles! 2. “Gee…these guys aren’t too bad. 3. Oh, I love that song!” 4. “gee…this is fun!” 5. What amazing memories of a great time and great band. Frank Canino, Eric Michaels, James Paul Lynch and Tom Cable were the imaginary four lads from Liverpool and they never broke character even when they had slight wardrobe malfunctions or the stage was dominated by keyboard wizard Ken Zemanek who plays a non-speaking part of producer George Martin. There was lots of what most of us came for...Beatle songs! Over thirty of the old gems and some even a bit esoteric like “Til” or “Roll Over Beethoven” or “Act Naturally.” Set one may have started a little slow with a sort of jittery “All My Lovin’” but picked up steam with sure fire winners like “ Hard Days Night,” “Can’t Buy Me Love” and a totally rocked out “Twist and Shout” that had many a middle-aged (or older) sacroiliacs swiveling. After a short intermission the more psychedelic stuff came out along with solo material and some of the best sound of the evening took place with “Sgt. Pepper,” “Lovely Rita,” “Magical Mystery Tour” and a rousing finale of “Revolution No. 9.”
     John and Paul were close enough and Ringo was pretty much Ringo but James Paul Lynch holds this production together as George whose strong guitar work made the show terrific and demonstrated how important the under-sung Harrison was to the greatest band ever.  

Friday, March 08, 2013

China National Symphony Orchestra March 7, 2013

China National Symphony Orchestra Goes Big and Bold at Cerritos

                   By Glen Creason

    The opportunity to hear a full orchestra at the Performing Arts Center drew many out on a blustery winter’s eve but there was plenty of heat inside as the China National Symphony Orchestra filled the stage and stretched the acoustics of the fine hall to the limits. Many in the audience may have come to hear Richard Strauss’ truly heroic “Ein Heldenleben” in the second half but it was the two lesser known compositions by Chinese composers that really surprised and delighted. “Earth Requiem” dedicated to the victims of the tragic 2008 earthquake in China by Xia Guan began the evening and was a wakeup call in every respect. With a pensive and evocative beginning, conductor En Shao turned the orchestra towards the heavens and actually managed to sonically gaze at the stars with a huge, almost planetary response. It is not often the Center vibrates to its foundations but with near one hundred players on stage the effect was amazing. The second piece “Butterfly Lovers Concerto” was nothing of the “bubble-blowing hippies” sound of the title but a vigorous and emotional journey lead by violin soloist Chianyun Li who attacked the many demands of the much more Chinese influenced concerto like a hurdler hitting them in stride. The big orchestra was behind him and once in a while beside him taking turns being intimate then large, like Vista Vision large. No one was dozing in the genuinely astounded audience.
     The second half brought the Strauss and another muscular reading by En Shao, highlighted by some delightful musical statements made by the composer way back in 1899. The six part “Hero’s Life” was filled with sound and fury but marked by a beautiful violin solo in the third section and a remarkably dramatic and percussion rich “the Hero at Battle” that would have satisfied a gamer teen. There were other delights: offstage trumpet fanfares, a double tuba expression of disdain for the hero’s critics and a wonderful English horn solo in the final segment.  The only thing a little awkward on this night was the disjointed curtain calls that did not seem to elicit an encore.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Juan De Marcos and the Afro-Cuban All-Stars March 1, 2013

Juan De Marcos and the Afro-Cuban All-Stars: the Master Speaks
                        By Glen Creason

    Juan De Marcos is living the dream and that wonderful fantasy came to Cerritos over the weekend in the form of a marvelous couple of hours of the ensemble-driven magic of Cuban music. The concert showcased one of the truly irresistible forms of the terpsichorean art on the planet and they did it so joyfully it made indelible musical memories for the many who were on hand and on their feet for much of the show. Cuban music flows over you in waves, a multi-textured sound full of layers that are expressed by high-energy solos deftly handled by the many eager to please members of the band. In this case, a few of those talented members were from the Juan De Marcos family. Yet, they did not play because they have the band-leader’s blood but because they have the band-leaders talent running through their veins. Fourteen players shared the stage and the extremely generous Maestro De Marcos made sure everyone had their moments. Truly, what makes this show so great is that everybody is having a great time on stage and in the audience where most found it hard to stay seated.
     There were over a dozen titles performed, some segueing from the previous tune without a seam.  Many were Cuban classics like “Dos Gardenias,” “El Cuarto de Tula,” “Candela” and the one that put Senor De Marcos in touch with the “Buena Vista Social Club” phenomena “Dundumbanza.” Imagine my personal amazement when the three vocalists and the bandleader ended the first half of the show standing a foot from my seat in the orchestra while the entire hall went completely bonkers or whatever the word is in Cuban.  Part of the glory of this great show is the superb musicians who seem to leave egos behind but dazzle when their turn arrives. Such was the case for the incredibly expressive Gabriel Hernandez on Art Tatum-like piano-voyages, daughters Laura Lydia Gonzalez on clarinet, and Gliceria Gonzalez on keyboards along with the wholly groovy vocal trinity of Evilio Galan, Gilito Pinera and Emilio Suarez .  Yet, without shining a light too much on himself Juan De Marcos, was the center of this spectacle, exhibiting greatness with gusto.