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"

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain April 7, 2013

Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain: Bloody Fantastic!

                                 By Glen Creason

     There is a lot to love about the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain from the top to bottom fine musicianship, to the accompanying droll English wit, to a sold-out house so supportive they brought their own ukes to cheer the band on. While the sources of the music performed were wildly diverse and the playing of that humble little instrument had many shades of color, the end product was a full and textured sound surprisingly powerful, amazingly nuanced and often hilarious. This is an astoundingly creative group of people with lots of stage experience behind them and a repertoire as big as the world or recorded music.  I can’t think of another group who could possibly carry off songs by George Frideric Handel, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Adele, Django Reinhardt, Junior Walker,  Cher, the Talking Heads, Bill Monroe, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Roberta Flack, Cat Stevens, the Eagles, Edith Piaf, Gloria Gaynor, Sergio Leone, Whistling Pete and Tom Jones all in the same show...sometimes with an instrument the size of a chicken leg.
     Yet, the tongue in cheek slants of much of the show does not mean any of the performance is less than masterful. As a matter of fact, the command of five different types of ukuleles could carry any concert but when you layer on the eclectic choices of music and an ongoing exquisitely dry humor you have an unforgettable and invigorating musical theater experience. Every single one of the eight members contributes by singing, playing or in some cases just giving dead-pan responses to the antics of the cast. These ladies and gents can play string/scat jazz like George Benson, bluegrass like Flatt and Scruggs, blues like the Quintet of the Hot Club of France, disco like it was 1975 and a version of “Shaft” that would have made Isaac Hayes proud. Adding to the thrill is the tight harmony the octet can reach playing together in different ukulele styles while reaching a wall of wonderful sound. Yes, this is a British show where folks may not have danced in the aisles but very often smiled at one another knowingly as they recognized  the incredible choices of “Anarchy in the U.K.,” “Rolling in the Deep,” “Life on Mars,” “Psycho Killer” or even “Smoke on the Water” played by eight sizzling ukuleles. I never really imagined I would write that sentence but there you are.