Thursday, March 19, 2020

ONE THOUSAND PIECES Pacific Northwest Ballet 3/12/2020


Pacific Northwest Ballet

McCaw Hall
Seattle, WA

(phone screen shot - wallpaper photo by Mark Sugiyama (c) 2020)

Today is March 19th. I have been ill since February 26th. My symptoms started with a dry cough that, to this day, hasn't let up. There were other symptoms too that concerned me. Greatly. Where we are now as Washingtonians is vastly different than just a few weeks ago.

As the first week of March came and went, I was already forced to make some tough decisions about upcoming media/press events I was scheduled to cover. At that time, the coronavirus crisis was known but not to the extent it is now. Businesses were still open. Events were still being held. Life was pretty much normal other than for the alarming news coming out of Everett and then Kirkland.

Out of respect for my fellow human beings, I decided it was best to self-quarantine early based on what the science experts were telling us. I cancelled all of my event coverage week by week, hoping that I would be well enough to attend some of the events in the latter part of March.

One such event was the Pacific Northwest Ballet's, "One Thousand Pieces", scheduled to open Friday March 13th at McCaw Hall. I was ready to cover the Saturday the 14th evening performance as I had a scheduling conflict with Friday night. My tickets were confirmed several weeks prior.

I have not missed a scheduled PNB event since I was afforded the opportunity to cover them in November 2018 (except for the pre-summer event last June). So, this decision was not made lightly. But, my symptoms were worse, not better. So, it had to be done.

As we all know now, the second week of March was when the hammer started to come down and things got much more serious. School districts were closing left and right. Colleges were going online for the rest of the quarter. Big businesses such as Microsoft and Amazon were asking their employees to telecommute if possible. There was a sense of dread in the air around town.

Then, the governor issued a mandate to close down gatherings of 250 people or more. This meant every concert, theatre, and ballet event I had on my schedule was now dead in the water. I went from trying to see if I would be well enough to still cover an event in the latter part of March to seeing my entire event calendar go blank.

It was like a punch to the gut every time I saw an event cancellation. The arts are a part of who I am as a person. I cannot exist without them. So, to have them ripped away was devastating. I know for the artists themselves, the administration folks, the behind the scenes workers, the ushers, the volunteers, etc - everyone felt the same way. It was a collective sigh that happened all across the three major counties in Washington State when the news broke, only to be worsened when it became a statewide mandate.

So, instead of dressing up on Saturday the 14th, driving down to Seattle, parking my car, and walking to McCaw Hall which are all of my normal routine things before a PNB performance, I was at home alone.

But all was not lost - far from it.

I had read that the PNB were going to live stream or something equivalent a performance of, "One Thousand Pieces" for the ticket holders. I thought this was an amazing gesture to give everyone involved a chance to still perform for an audience virtually.

What I didn't count on (why I don't know) is that the press/media that weren't at the final dress rehearsal - like myself, would also have a chance to view this video performance online as well. Imagine my surprise and delight when I checked my in-box to see an email containing the link earlier this week.

It may seem insignificant but with the way things have been going with the coronavirus crisis, my own illness that I was dealing with, and everything else - having a taste of my normal Eclectic Arts event schedule was just what the doctor ordered.

If I wasn't sick, I would have dressed up for the virtual performance - only to stay home. But, I didn't. What I did do was I picked a day - Tuesday the 17th - to watch the performance on my television. There's a story there too regarding a lack of WiFi but I won't bore you with those details. Let's just say it was another hurdle to overcome.

So, I got everything set up - turned off all the lights other than a rear hallway light to replicate the scene in McCaw Hall as best I could, kept my couch seat upright just as if I was sitting at McCaw Hall (instead of kicking the footrest open to lounge), absolutely no food near me, and pressed play precisely at 7:30pm. I kid you not. Look at the screenshot from my phone at the top of this piece.

There was a short introduction then the program started.

"Empire Noir" was up first. With music by Greg Haines and choreography by David Dawson, I sat in my living room with zero distractions and took in the performance. The first thing I noticed was the three focal lengths of the video - full, mid, and close. I'm so used to seeing nothing but a full stage at McCaw Hall where I can't make out details of someone's face for example. This video performance provided what you would see in a film. Long shots of the entire scene, mid shots to focus on a certain aspect of the performance, and of course full body shot close-ups where I could see more details than ever before.

The music by Greg Haines was sweeping and cinematic which I happen to love. My own music background kicked in as I was taken away by the orchestral music that the dancers then conveyed through David Dawson's exquisite choreography.

For the entire performance, my world stopped, and I sat captivated by what I saw and heard. I absolutely loved this piece.

Then it was on to, "One Thousand Pieces" with music by Philip Glass and choreography by Alejandro Cerrudo. I first studied the music of Glass in the late 80's. At that time, I was not fond of his minimalist approach to his compositions. While he is highly regarded as one of the most influential composers of the late 20th century, I've always found him an acquired taste.

Alejandro Cerrudo was recently named as PNB's first Resident Choreographer of PNB for the next three seasons, beginning in Fall 2020.

The choreography in this piece was daring, abstract, and challenging. I was very engaged in all aspects of the dancers movements. The "water scene" was especially beautiful and perhaps the highlight of, "One Thousand Pieces".

The music of Glass - that left me wanting something else. His usual belabored musical motifs that go on endlessly were prevalent all through this piece. By the end of the performance, I was wishing for a change in the music.

Having said that, the choreography must have been one heck of an undertaking for Mr. Cerrudo considering the music at hand. I'm very much looking forward to seeing what Mr. Cerrudo comes up with for the next three years. Based on what I saw here (and in, "Silent Ghost"), there's going to be some daring new choreography coming our way.

And then it was over.

I stopped the performance, said a bravo to my empty living room, and then turned on the lights.

My heart was both happy and sad. We all know this coronavirus crisis will eventually pass. But, while we live our lives with an uncertain immediate future, one can't help but feel that dichotomy. I was extremely happy to have the PNB in my life again - even if it meant viewing it from home. But, I was also sad as I realized that I'm still sick, the state mandates are still in place (and probably will get stricter very soon), and I don't know when I'll be back at McCaw Hall enjoying the beauty of the Pacific Northwest Ballet.

In the grand scheme of things, this is low on the feel sorry for me list and I know that. There are people dying literally every day in Washington State from this virus. There are families grieving for the loss of their loved ones. There are people hospitalized hoping they're one of the lucky ones that recovers from this virus - all while the confirmed cases in Washington State keep going up.

We are living in unprecedented times and as long as we all do our part, we'll see the light shining at the end of this dark tunnel once more.

Thank you to the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Thank you to the dancers, the unions, the administrators, the tech crews, and anyone else that was involved in making this happen. You were the ghost light on my otherwise dark living room stage.

Until next time,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
Eclecticartszine AT gmail DOT com

Saturday, February 29, 2020

SHE LOVES ME Village Theatre Everett, WA 2/29/2020

She Loves Me

Village Theatre Everett

Everett Performing Arts Center
Everett, WA

The cast of She Loves Me
She Loves Me production photo.
© 2020 Tracy Martin
Property of Village Theatre.

I've had the privilege of reviewing all of the main stage shows at the Village Theatre Everett now for a year. In that time I've come to expect a certain level of excellence regardless of which show is on stage at the time. From throwbacks to more modern productions to fan favorites, all of the shows at the Village Theatre have been presented with a high level of excellence across the board.

Over opening weekend (this review has been delayed due to illness - not a good time to be sick in the Seattle area) I got the chance to see the newest production, "She Loves Me". Directed by long time Taproot Theatre alum Karen Lund, the show is based on the films - the Jimmy Stewart classic, "The Shop Around The Corner" and the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan update, "You've Got Mail".

The show was presented in such a way that it immediately harkened back to the late 30's - in this case in Europe. From the wonderful wardrobe design to the creative staging (I loved how the shop opened up much like a book would), the audience was transported back to a different world, not only from a business point of view (employees waiting to work with each customer as they came into the shop), but from a personal one as well.

Main characters Georg (played by Eric Ankrim) and Amalia (played by Allison Standley) both work at Maraczek's Parfumerie. They have an instant dislike for one another on the job. However, both have been secretly writing to a "friend" over the months, developing a pen pal/more than a pen pal relationship. What they don't know is that they've been writing to each other. The plot is set and the show unfolds from there.

The show is full of musical numbers, choreographed dance numbers, and a fair bit of humor. Director Lund kept the show light throughout; this was not a heavy dramatic production.

The cast, which also included Rafael Molina, Mark Emerson, Taryn Darr, Randy Scholz, Eric Polani Jensen, Tony Lawson, Matthew Posner, and the ensemble actors, was up to the task at hand all night long. Their acting, singing, and dancing chops were put to good use and the show never took a dip in talent during either act I or II.

"She Loves Me" was a great entertainment escape for two plus hours and, in light of the current situation in Seattle, much needed by many in attendance. Do yourself a favor and check out an upcoming performance. It's just what the doctor ordered!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
Eclecticartszine AT gmail DOT com

Special Thanks: Ann - thank you so much for the opportunity and the opportunities over the last year! I'm looking forward to future productions!

"She Loves Me" plays through March 22, 2020 at the Everett Performing Arts Center. Purchase tickets here:  TICKETS!  

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

HALAU O KEIKIALI'I "Hula Through Time" Event Review! 2/22/2020


Northshore Performing Arts Center
Bothell, WA
February 22, 2020

Kumu Hula (master teacher) Kawika Keikiali’i Alfiche brought his company to the Northshore Performing Arts Center on Saturday evening to a near capacity crowd. Noted as “Hula Through Time” the show was divided into two different acts - the first broken down into five distinct historical pieces depicting the dances of the ancestors of Hawaii - Hula Kahiko. The second act featured the more familiar modern dance - Hula ‘Auana.

The dancing in the first act was not only entertaining but very educational. Introductory information was spoken over the PA before each piece to give the audience a better sense of what the ancient ways were about. I found this to be incredibly useful as it helped shape what I was about to see beforehand. Education and knowledge is always a good thing in my book and the first act really delivered in this area.

The offerings during the first act were tributes to the history of Hawaii before the monarchy was overthrown. It's rather sad that this narrative is something we are still dealing with in 2020 in different parts of the world.

The dancers were both men and women as well as three children. Their movements, routines, and costumes were all professional in every aspect. There was a sense of ceremony, respect, and reverence during all of the numbers during the first act.

After a brief intermission, the second act started with a more updated look and feel. There were many songs performed by either one, two, three, or four people while the dancers kept the hula through time theme going. Kumu Hula Kawika also spoke much more openly during the second act, using his sense of humor to set up each piece wonderfully. The air in the venue definitely became lighter and more upbeat during the second act.

At one point, Kumu Hula Kawika invited audience members up on stage to dance while his dancers were literally in the aisles of the venue dancing. A good dozen audience members got up there and danced quite well. A few looked like they either were local students themselves or possibly teachers.

The loud applause at the end of the show warranted an encore. One more song was presented and then the entire group exited to the lobby to meet the patrons after the show.

The show was extremely well done. It was entertaining, educational, and fun. A great combination. It was also wonderful seeing so many people of color come out to support the show. A satisfying evening for all involved.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
EA on YT
Eclecticartszine AT gmail DOT com

Thank you: John at the NPAF and Kumu Hula Kawika - thank you for the opportunity!


Friday, February 21, 2020



Written by The Actor’s Gang Ensemble and Tim Robbins

Directed by Tim Robbins

The Moore Theatre
Seattle, WA
February 20, 2020

(Phone Photo - Mark Sugiyama for Eclectic Arts)

The Moore Theatre was the venue of choice for the Seattle debut of “The Actors’ Gang - The New Colossus” last evening. The play features twelve refugees, twelve languages, twelve eras, and one border.

Clearly this is a timely theme with the current administration but it is much bigger in scope than that. It is a theme centered around generations of immigrants, indigenous people, refugees, and similar.

As directed by Tim Robbins, the play was direct, honest, questioning, and pointed. The actors on stage were portraying family members of their own, telling each of their unique stories of their journeys to America in a group setting.

As an ensemble, the play was very much a movement piece. Portraying the chaos, danger, and uncertainty with physical movement on stage, carrying one suitcase of belongings, attempting to find a new home in a foreign land.

Images were displayed on the screen behind the stage depicting various scenarios of the stark reality of immigration, voluntary and forced.

The 90-minute play made one think of their own roots, their own stories. For nearly everyone in the audience who did not identify as indiginous, this meant digging into their own family histories to understand the foundational aspect of just how people from all over the world make up these United States.

The show included a talkback portion with director Tim Robbins and the entire cast. Many in attendance spoke about their backgrounds - first as indigenous people, then as refugees, then as forced immigrants, then as first generation, second generation, and finally third generation immigrants. The stories were moving and really showed the scope of the patrons in the audience. From Afghanistan to Finland to the Ukraine to El Salvador, there was representation from many different countries.

The talkback really hit home the point of the play. Without it, I think an opportunity would have been missed.

Overall, the play was engaging, a bit abstract at times, but it made for a thoughtful dialogue about immigration, the policies of the current day, and what the future may (or may not) hold.

“The Actors’ Gang - The New Colossus” runs through Saturday 2/22/20. Tickets can be purchased here:  TICKETS!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
Eclecticartszine AT gmail DOT com

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

TIME FOR THREE with the Seattle Symphony February 18, 2020 Benaroya Hall Seattle, WA


Seattle Symphony

Benaroya Hall
Seattle WA

I always enjoy attending performances at Benaroya Hall. While the city of Seattle itself leaves much to be desired currently, the gem of the Seattle Symphony at Benaroya Hall remains a constant of excellence that I continue to enjoy.

Last night the popular trio Time For Three performed with the Seattle Symphony, as conducted by Associate Conductor Lee Mills.

The group arrived in town on Monday and performed at a local SoFar Seattle show that same evening. The group can go from a small intimate setting like that to a grand setting like Benaroya Hall without blinking an eye.

Charles Yang (violin and lead vocals), Nick Kendall (violin and vocals), and Ranaan Meyer (double bass and vocals) waited in the wings as the Seattle Symphony performed an intro piece by George Gershwin. Immediately after the three talented musicians walked out to a loud applause and their portion of the concert began. They were also accompanied by kit drummer Matthew Scarano.

Performing several pieces by Chris Brubeck entitled, “Travels in Time for Three”, the trio brought an undeniable positive energy to the stage. For some in attendance, they were waiting for the crossover music that the group is arguably best known for. But the first act of the program was incredibly well done.

After the intermission, the trio launched into their best known cover song, Ben E. King’s, “Stand By Me”, as the Seattle Symphony looked on. Loud applause accompanied the first line of the song as the audience recognized the tune. Charles Yang is not only an incredible violinist but he is clearly a fantastic vocalist as well. The harmonies from Nick Kendall and Ranaan Meyer throughout the second act were also spot on. In the next song, a beautiful original written for the group, “Vertigo” displayed the vocal chops of all three musicians. This song was a highlight of the program for me.

The next song was introduced as a song dedicated to the founder of an organization called Musicians On Call. The founder and his wife were in attendance and were recognized from the stage. The group said that they have been playing music in hospitals, both in the lobby and in patient rooms, for the organization. One of the songs they play often at these visits is Leonard Cohen’s, “Hallelujah”, which they performed for the audience at Benaroya Hall.

The main program ended with an extended medley of Time For Three songs called, “Songs Of Joy”. This was a long musical exercise that ran the emotional gamut from, well, joy to cinematic grandeur. Once the last note echoed through the hall, the audience rose to their feet and gave everyone on the stage a well-deserved standing ovation.

Time For Three returned to launch into one encore - their version of Guns N’ Roses megahit, “Sweet Child O’ Mine”. The crowd once again roared in approval and stood on their feet for several minutes.

And then it was over.

Time For Three were as advertised. A fun, energetic, and extremely talented group of musicians that worked even better with the Seattle Symphony. A beautiful night of music on a Tuesday evening.

Thank you for reading,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
Eclecticartszine AT gmail DOT com

P.S. One thing to mention - it looked like the trio would be signing autographs and meeting fans after the show in the lobby. I saw a sign and a table with three chairs ready. This should have been said from the stage by the group or over the PA. Just a small suggestion. Cheers!

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE Edmonds Driftwood Players February 16, 2020


Adapted by Jon Jory
Directed by Elizabeth Hershly

Wade James Theatre
Edmonds Driftwood Players
February 16, 2020

(Cast Photo.  Photo by Dale Sutton of Magic Photo)

The newest production from the Edmonds Driftwood Players is a longstanding favorite, “Pride and Prejudice”. The famed Jane Austen story has been adapted numerous times both for the stage and screen.

The production on Sunday afternoon left me frustrated. Let me explain why.

I’ve been covering arts related events for a few years now. I still consider myself new compared to those that have decades of experience behind their reviews. What I’ve come to find at any given theatre is that a certain standard can be expected from most companies. Even if I didn’t care for a particular show, I can still admire and respect what was presented on the stage. I also know before going in that a certain bar will be met in terms of excellence.

My frustration comes from companies where they have been inconsistent with the quality of the shows they put on. It reminds me of working with a student that has great potential (they all do) but consistently comes up short of that potential. I see it, others see it, but the inconsistency is frustrating (but understood).

The acting in, “Pride and Prejudice” was good. No issues there. I recognized some of the cast from previous Edmonds Driftwood Players productions as well as from the Phoenix Theatre. In particular Karin Terry was excellent in her leading role as Elizabeth Bennet. Her four sisters were also cast well (Hanna Destiny Lynn as Jane, Rachael Schlimmer as Mary, Laura McFarlane as Lydia, and Miki Murray as Kitty). Mr. Bennet played by Mark Gladding was also a solid actor as was Annie St John as Mrs. Bennet. Her real life husband Asa Sholdez was great in, “Ladies Man” at the Phoenix Theatre and wore many hats (in some cases literally) in this show. Again, no issues with the cast at all.

Since I am not a Jane Austen connoisseur, perhaps it’s the material. I have seen another production of her material that was a joy to watch, though. I actually saw it three different times. So, it’s probably not the material. I feel I do not know enough (yet) about how the directing and other production aspects affect any given theatre show. All I know is that I really, really wanted to like this play and I didn’t.

The first act fell flat for me. I was expecting a bit more wit and humor throughout but there was scarcely any. The fact that the audience was pin drop quiet for the majority of the scenes echoes my sentiment. The second act was a bit better but not as much as I had hoped for. I wanted to care about the characters, about the eventual romance between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. I wanted to grab on with both hands and really dig deep into this play. But, I found myself grasping at empty air.

As always, I don’t like writing reviews that are overly harsh and critical. They serve no purpose in my mind. Being someone that has been on a stage before, I do know what it takes to get up there and put yourself out there for all to see. So, please keep in mind that just because the show didn’t resonate with me doesn’t mean it won’t resonate with you.

As my plus one and I were exiting the theatre (she shared my observations about the show), I overheard a few people talking to themselves about how much they enjoyed the performance. So, who knows? If you’re already a Jane Austen fan then you’ve either already seen a performance or you plan on attending one soon. If you are like me and you don’t have the lengthy background experience with Jane Austen material, I’m curious to see what you’ll think of the show.

Thank you for reading,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
Eclecticartszine AT gmail DOT com

Thanks:  Amy for the opportunity.  I appreciate it!

"Pride and Prejudice" runs through Sunday March 1st.  Purchase tickets here:  TICKETS!

Friday, February 14, 2020

DEVON BALDWIN Light Me Up Tour 2/11/2020


The Funhouse
Seattle, WA

(All photos by Mark Sugiyama for Eclectic Arts (c) 2020)


Every now and then I'll check out an up and coming artist that I know next to nothing about. I will go in as a blank slate for the most part and see how they come across on stage, how they sound, their online presence, etc.

Devon Baldwin caught my eye when I noticed she was going to play at The Funhouse in Seattle. Now, anyone that's been to the venue knows that it is on the other side of El Corazon - the big stage and the small stage. The venue used to be a standalone club mainstay of punk and alternative bands before closing its doors only to join the El Corazon building a few years back. While I know The Funhouse does book pop and singer songwriter type acts, it's more known for rock, sludge, metal, etc.

Since I have been to El Corazon more times than I can count, I wanted to see if they had booked anything on their side of the building. Yup - a big bill of metal bands. This meant the bleed through to The Funhouse side was going to be inevitable. I already knew this. Whether the folks that booked Devon Baldwin there knew remains to be seen. Let's just say there are other venues in the area that would have been better suited to her style of music.

In any event, Devon Baldwin played a 45-minute set of original music, with at least one cover by Train. Her voice is what stands out most to me. She has a voice that is layered in emotion. There is a smooth tonality to her voice that also makes it easy to listen to her sing multiple songs. She is a songwriter - a big plus in the industry these days. Sure, you can have others write material for you but when you can express yourself through your own songs, that's always a good thing.

She definitely has talent and has the image to match. In some cases, the image may be overshadowing the talent - but that's an easy fix. I would love to see her do more promotional pieces such as acoustic numbers at radio stations, etc. while on tour. Stripping the image away will show listeners just how talented she is as an artist.

I would love to see her return to Seattle albeit at a different venue. Based on her social media, she was hanging out in the Ballard area after her show - exactly where she should play next time. Connor Byrne Pub and The Sunset Tavern come to mind as venues more suited to her music and demographic. Barboza up on Capitol Hill also seems logical, as does the High Dive in Fremont. If an all ages venue was sought after - then The Vera Project would be a good place.

I'm looking forward to seeing what the future brings for Devon Baldwin. She has the talent to go very far in this industry.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts