Wednesday, July 18, 2018

STAR WARS - A New Hope IN CONCERT Event Review - 7/15/18 Seattle, WA

Star Wars - A New Hope
In Concert

Benaroya Hall
Seattle, WA


I saw the original Star Wars in the theater in 1977. I was either 7 or 8 years old at the time. Like millions around the world, the original trilogy holds a special place in my heart as, at the time, I had seen nothing like it.

Enter the Seattle Symphony's event! The original 1977 film shown (actually the special edition) with the score by John Williams performed live. There were four performances scheduled over the very warm summer weekend in Seattle at Benaroya Hall.

As soon as the house lights dimmed, after conductor Lawrence Loh made his entrance, the symphony started playing the 20th Century Fox fanfare. My goodness - I was sold! Hearing that fanfare was both amusing and awesome at the same time. The opening credits blend so the fanfare really has to be played to make any sort of sense with the timing of the film as it's shown.

Of course everyone knows the main Star Wars theme. The opening note of the theme garnered cheers from the audience and we were off!

The Seattle Symphony sounded wonderful! They are currently in the running for the prestigious Gramophone international award. You can go to to cast your vote for them - they are the only US symphony nominated so let's get them the win!

The movie played, certain characters and lines received applause from the audience, and as I said in my Jaws review, this is the way to see a movie. I wish every film could be shown with a live symphony the caliber of the Seattle Symphony. The crowd stood on their feet as the credits finished.

I can't recommend enough seeing one of these film events when the Seattle Symphony puts them on. I know they have two scheduled for next year (E.T. and Amadeus) but hopefully they schedule a few more before then. Suggestions would be something from Tim Burton/Danny Elfman in October or Raiders of The Lost Ark would also work well.

If you've never been to the symphony or feel its something you wouldn't like, these events are the perfect "starter" for the novice to get your feet wet. A popular culture film with a live performance of the soundtrack by the Seattle Symphony - do yourself a favor and go see what the fuss is all about - Seattle has one of the best symphonies in the world right here!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
EA on FB
EA on Instagram

Special Thanks: Shiva for the credentials - thank you so much for the opportunity!

 (phone photo)

(phone photo)

SWEET LAND, the Musical Opening Night Review - 7/13/18

Sweet Land, the Musical

Taproot Theatre
Seattle, WA

Hugh Hastings, Michael Winters, Pam Nolte, Molli Corcoran, Tyler Todd Kimmel, Daniel Stoltenberg, April Poland and Chris Shea in Sweet Land, the Musical at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.


Opening night and the house was full for the debut of this musical. "Sweet Land, the Musical" takes place in Minnesota in both 1920 (primary) and 1975 (secondary).

Olaf Torvik, a Norwegian American farmer, is to meet his bride to be for the first time, Inge Altenberg, a German woman who had worked for Olaf's family in Norway before departing for America.

Inge, played by Molli Corcoran, is both excited and cautious about meeting her new husband in a foreign country. Molli Corcoran portrays Inge as a woman of inner strength who does not bow down to the societal norms of the times. She is met with resistance by some of the town's folks due to her German background.

This point becomes an interesting aspect of the musical. Inge's background is treated much in the same way Japanese Americans were treated during and after WWII, the Muslim community after 911, etc.

Olaf, played by Tyler Todd Kimmel, doesn't want to create any problems. He only wants to marry his wife so they can live their life on his farm. Olaf's farming neighbors, Alvin and Brownie Frandsen (played with scene stealing worthiness by Chris Shea and April Poland) take in Inge until the couple can be properly married. The story continues to evolve from there with a satisfying ending.

"Sweet Land, the Musical" is based on the 2005 movie by Ali Selim and the short story "A Gravestone Made Of Wheat" by Will Weaver.  Perrin Post and Laurie Flanigan Hegge wrote the book for the musical.

The musical has several numbers in it, played with a group of high caliber musicians. I found "Sweet Land, the Musical" entertaining, humorous, and thought provoking at times. The performances were strong and chances were taken by some of the actors (many with long resumes in the theatre world). The use of screens to portray locations, time of day, etc. worked very well, too.

I wish there were showcase numbers for Inge and Olaf to sing individually. Molli and Tyler have beautiful voices but I kept yearning to hear the showstopper song from each of them that never came. Granted, the setting of the musical is small town USA but, still, I would of loved to have heard solo numbers from each actor that showcased their talents.

Overall, "Sweet Land, the Musical" was a joy to take in at the Taproot Theatre.

Until next time - see you at the theatre!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

EA on FB
EA on Instagram

Special Thanks: Isaiah for the credentials - thank you so much for the opportunity!

"Sweet Land, the Musical" runs through August 18th!

April Poland, Michael Winters, Molli Corcoran, Tyler Todd Kimmel and Chris Shea in Sweet Land, the Musical at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

Molli Corcoran and Tyler Todd Kimmel in Sweet Land, the Musical at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

Molli Corcoran and April Poland in Sweet Land, the Musical at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

NEXT UP: Baskerville - A Sherlock Holmes Mystery - 9/12-10/20

Monday, July 9, 2018

THE DAMNED Bring Evil Spirits To Seattle! Gig Review 7/7/18

The Damned


The Showbox At The Market
Seattle, WA


The Damned returned to Seattle on Saturday night, a little over a year since their last show at the Showbox at the Market. Promoting their newest studio album, "Evil Spirits", The Damned were on a short west coast tour before heading back to Europe (with a return to the U.S. later this year).

Opening the night was Guida, from Rome, Italy. Music certainly is the universal language because I had no clue this band was not American. Their brand of 70's rock mixed with the energy of early punk caught me off guard. I figured they were a band from LA or NY. Nope. Their 40-minute set was rip roaring with vocalist Tenda keeping the energy up the whole set (other than when he left as the band did an Elton John cover). Guida was a great choice of band to get the blood pumping for The Damned.

Around 10:15pm, the intro music started and the members of The Damned walked on stage. Captain Sensible, as always, grabbed the microphone and said a few things to the audience before the band launched into, "Wait For The Blackout". Dave Vanian then walked on stage to join the band - looking the part of dapper English gentleman. Clean-shaven and impeccably dressed, Vanian sounded as good as ever.

The set-list was somewhat familiar territory - with a few new songs of course. The first single, "Standing On The Edge Of Tomorrow" sounded even better live. Different periods of the band were showcased with everything from the obligatory, "New Rose" to the gothic pop of "Eloise". "Ignite" with its audience participation portion as well as main set ender, "Neat Neat Neat".

The Damned came back on stage for not one, but two sets of encores. Ending the show with, "Smash It Up", the band waved goodbye as Captain Sensible said as much on the microphone. No "mooning" this year from the Captain as he walked off stage.

The 90-minute set was well rounded and, again, there was something for every fan of The Damned. The new album is really worth a purchase. It's great to see a band not go the nostalgia route and instead put out a new album that can stand up against the back catalog.

We've been very fortunate to have The Damned play Seattle two straight years. If we are fortunate enough to have them play here a third year - I highly suggest you not miss it!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

EA on FB

EA on Instagram

Special Thanks: Jo for the credentials - thank you for the opportunity!

(click on any photo for a larger image)

Friday, June 29, 2018

THE COLOR PURPLE - The Musical Opening Night Review: 6/27/18 Seattle, WA Paramount Theatre

The Color Purple
The Musical

Paramount Theatre
Seattle, WA

(show runs through Sunday 7/1)

Adrianna Hicks (Celie) and N'Jameh Camara (Nettie) and the North American tour cast of THE COLOR
PURPLE. Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2017.


I saw "The Color Purple" in the theater back in the 80's. It was one of the first dramas I saw that showed how far into the depth of character a dramatic film could go. "The Color Purple - The Musical" premiered last night in Seattle and, boy, what a performance it was!

The musical won a Tony in 2016 for best revival. The stage design was simplistic (and didn't change) - focusing more on the story and performances.

Adrianna Hicks as main character Celie, Carla. R. Stewart as Shug Avery, and Carrie Compere as Sofia, with Gavin Gregory as Mister, J.Daughtry as Harpo, and N'Jameh Camara as Nettie.

The storyline is filled with period piece dramatics, empowerment of women (and people of color), as well as sexual innuendo and full doses of humor. The interplay of the cast was rewarding and powerful. Carrie Compere as Sofia brought the house down with her performance Wednesday night. She embodied the tough, stand-up-for-yourself character that Oprah Winfrey made so famous in the film version. Vulnerable and sad when the story takes a turn in the second act, Carrie made you laugh, cheer, and feel heartbroken as she delivered a performance for the ages.

Carrie Compere (Sofia) and the North American tour cast of THE COLOR PURPLE. Photo by Matthew
Murphy, 2017.

Not to be out done, Adrianna Hicks ran the gamut of emotions as Celie. From put upon daughter, wife, and eventually lover, watching Adrianna's performance - bringing the audience with her on this gut-wrenching journey of eventual optimism was truly a sight to behold. And her voice - goodness gracious! What an astounding performance throughout the show.

Carla R. Stewart had the daunting task of portraying Shug - the singer that supposedly has it all and gives it all away to the men that she deems worthy. The empty soul aspect of her character, the yearning for something to make her whole, simply oozed from Carla's performance. The scenes with her and Adrianna were mesmerizing.

Gavin Gregory played the son of a bitch "Mister" character to high acclaim. You hated him, you later understood him (but still hated him), and his solo song during the show was, well, show stopping. Brilliant performance!

Carla R. Stewart (Shug Avery) and the North American tour cast of THE COLOR PURPLE. Photo by
Matthew Murphy, 2017.

J. Daughtry as Harpo delivered some of the best punch lines in the script. He portrayed Harpo with empathy, being a good man at heart, but not knowing how to stand up for himself to his father (or anyone else). Yet another spot on performance by the cast!

I could go on and on about the cast, the singing, the acting, but suffice to say - the performance was simply amazing. The show only went from strength to strength as it told the story of Celie and the other characters. I was thoroughly entertained by the show. I must add seeing a musical theater performance with nothing but people of color was a delightful bonus. The music took on a different satisfying note - from the jazz, ragtime, blues, gospel, etc. numbers - having an African American cast. 

  Carla R. Stewart (Shug Avery), Adrianna Hicks (Celie) and Carrie Compere (Sofia) and the North American
tour cast of THE COLOR PURPLE. Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2017.

My only small quibble would be the lack of set changes. One additional change between the first and second acts would have added something extra to the show. Outside of that I can't think of anything to pick at. The show was just that good.

"The Color Purple - The Musical" was an exceptional experience!

See you at the theatre,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

EA on FB
EA on Instagram

Special Thanks: Julie for the credentials - thank you so much for the opportunity!

The show runs through Sunday July 1st with great seats still available. Do not miss out!

 Gavin Gregory (Mister) and J. Daughtry (Harpo) in the North American tour of THE COLOR PURPLE.
Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2017.

The North American tour cast of THE COLOR PURPLE. Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2017.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

ACE COMIC CON SEATTLE! 6/22/18 - 6/24/18 Centurylink Event Center

ACE Comic Con Seattle

Centurylink Event Center and WaMu Theater

Seattle, WA

6/22/18 - 6/24/18


Being a geek to some extent (definitely a music geek, comic geek at one time in my life, Star Wars geek, beer geek, etc), the prospect of covering a convention is always fun. ACE Comic Con burst onto the scene by delivering interactive comic conventions around the US of A. They definitely gained immediate notice from the fans as they were securing top tier actors for appearances at their conventions. Chris Evans (Captain America), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), just to name a few of the celebrities they've had appear at their conventions.

Obviously, Emerald City Comic Con has created a market here in Seattle that is second only to San Diego Comic Con. It's really a no brainer for ACE to put on a convention in a city that has proven year after year that it can draw fans from around the globe. So, when ACE decided to make Seattle their next convention stop, many a fan scooped up tickets to attend the con!

Friday was a partial day with Saturday being a full day and Sunday being close to a full day of programming and open hours at the con.

After picking up my press wristband (thanks Jaki - no issues whatsoever when I checked in), I wandered throughout the convention halls. Social media opts (aka - places to take photos and upload and tag to your socials) was the first area - marked by the main stage area (WaMu theater space) for the panels over the weekend.

A second stage was inside the vendor area/artist alley as well as a kid's stage tucked in the back. Autograph area and photo-op areas were near each other, which made it nice for those that, purchased both. No floor jumping to get in line for either.

Concessions were open with their usual overly inflated prices but if you've ever been to a game at the Clink or a show at the WaMu, then this is status quo.

Fans of all ages were everywhere - some in costume, many not (it definitely picked up on Saturday and Sunday). Friday was the most low key of the three days.

The main stage panels were well done and for the most part on time. WWE Superstars Lilian Garcia, Becky Lynch, and Shinsuke Nakamura was the first main stage panel. Lilian moderated as she asked both Becky and Shinsuke questions before turning it over to the fans in the audience. A young fan asked Shinsuke what it was like to punch AJ Styles in the "wee wee" which prompted major laughter (see photos of said fan and of Lilian with head tossed back laughing hysterically).

A Dungeons and Dragons panel was up next with actor Matthew Lillard where they created a game of D&D in the time allotted using fans input.

Closing out the night was an evening with Kevin Smith. I've always enjoyed Kevin's work and his panel was just as funny, witty, and inspiring as I expected.

I took time to wander the vendor booths as well as the artist alleys. Humberto Ramos was doing a panel on the second stage of how to draw comic characters such as Spider-Man. Over the weekend the second stage hosted panels covering topics such as Funko, Star Wars, various pod casts, etc.

The main stage hosted the "big guns" of the weekend - panels with Paul Bettany (Vision) and Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch), Grant Gustin (The Flash - CW series), Civil War panel with Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes/The Winter Solider), Anthony Mackie (The Falcon), and for part of it Tom Holland (Spider-Man) - who was running behind due to his hectic photo-op and autograph schedule.

Sunday brought Hayley Atwell (Captain America and Agent Carter) as well as Loki himself - Tom Hiddleston. Tom Holland joined the last panel for a bit as well - much to the delight of the fans.

Some of the fans were rather rude at Saturday's Civil War panel. Either by shouting out things that weren't necessary or getting up to the audience mics and asking ridiculous things that was solely for them (like saying hi to their friend, etc) - not questions the audience as a whole could appreciate. A pre screening of audience mic questions may need to happen in the future to avoid such time wasters.

Saturday was sold out - which is no surprise as Saturday is always the most popular day at any convention, anywhere. Sunday wasn't as crowded but still there were plenty of people in attendance.

Overall, I had an enjoyable time at the convention. As press it was different taking in a convention versus as a fan where I would be waiting in lines for photo-ops or possibly autographs. This convention was geared toward those fans that want to meet celebrities with everything else as a follow up (artists, vendors, cosplay, etc). There were next to no fan panels, which was a turn off for some fans.

Every fan goes to these conventions for different reasons. If you like to cos play, meet up with new friends/fans, and just geek out the entire weekend, this convention didn't have that vibe compared to an ECCC. Having said that, ACE Comic Con wasn't nearly the size of ECCC, either.

I know the organization on Saturday left much to be desired. Photo op and autograph sessions were running late, panel seating was a mess at times, and just getting through the vendor area was like being at an after Christmas sale. Some of this is to be expected but again - anyone that's been to ECCC is going to compare the good and bad with how that convention is run.

I would respectfully suggest the ACE team work on the organizational aspect for future conventions, here in Seattle or elsewhere. For example seating the general admission ticket holders versus the VIP ticket holders for the main stage panels. This was a cluster on Saturday night.

I would also suggest that if certain celebrities are known to want to take a bit of time engaging with their fans, then the amount of photo-ops and autographs sold needs to be adjusted. Every fan would agree it's awesome when a celebrity wants to take a few seconds to engage with you instead of just being bum rushed through the line. But, that means it's going to eat into the scheduled time and thus a need for less op tickets sold needs to happen. I realize this is hard to accommodate but it should at least be considered.

Live streaming the panels on Facebook was awesome for those fans that couldn't attend the con or for those that wanted to rewatch them (like me) after the day was over. A definite plus for this concept.

Again, overall, I had an enjoyable time at ACE Comic Con Seattle and would go back again. A few tweaks to the system and the convention will be even better next year - should they return to Seattle. Here's hoping they do!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

EA on FB
EA on Instagram

Special Thanks: Jaki for the credentials - thank you so much for the opportunity! I greatly appreciate it!

(click on any photo for a larger image)

FEMMES OF ROCK Invade Clearwater Casino Resort! 6/21/18

Femmes Of Rock

(featuring Bella Electric Strings)

Clearwater Casino Resort
Suquamish, WA


After taking the ferry over to Clearwater Casino Resort the week before, I found myself doing the exact same thing only this time to cover Femmes Of Rock - an electric string quartet that plays classic rock songs.

Having been a fan of Vanessa Mae and Bond (who I got to see live back in 2004) - two artists that bridged the classical world with the pop/dance world - I was looking forward to the show.

Femmes Of Rock is based out of Las Vegas, NV. The quartet is led by Nina DiGregorio (violin and arranger). Violin, five-string viola, and cello round out the quartet who is backed by a live band of guitar, bass, and drums.

The spacious club was full with an open floor up front for those that wanted to get close. After doing a pre-show VIP session, the band took the stage as the show started with a rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner".

Then it was off to the races with "Kashmir" from Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" and a tune from ELO. The ladies sounded great! Collectively they have résumé's that are a mile long, having played both in the classical and mainstream music world.

The use of video was spot on - showing band logos, band photos, and appropriate clips such as the headbanging-in-the-car scene from Wayne's World during, "Bohemian Rhapsody".

A few medleys were in the set including a southern rock medley and a guitar/80's medley. I particularly enjoyed the playing during the 80's medley. Nina played Randy's solo during, "Crazy Train" note for note which was, well, crazy. The same could be said of Slash's solo during, "Sweet Child O Mine" except on viola.

A full version of Metallica's, "Enter Sandman" worked surprisingly well - again with a spot on violin solo replicating Kirk's lead work on the tune.

A bit of audience participation was also to be had before BOC's "Don't Fear The Reaper". A few fans were brought up to pound out the cowbell part - the winner receiving a free Femmes Of Rock CD.

The show concluded with the often shouted out during any live show classic, "Freebird".

The audience was engaged and entertained. I wish some of the audience would of stood in front of the stage as it was a little weird having everyone sitting at tables and no one up front during the show. It would of helped raise the energy in the room for sure. This has nothing to do with the band and everything to do with the folks attending the show.

My only suggestion would be for the group to consider adding either: a full tune that is recorded and/or written by a female rock artist or a medley of tunes that are from female rock artists. Being the Femmes Of Rock it only makes sense. As song suggestions - perhaps Heart's, "Barracuda" or "Crazy On You". Joan Jett's, "I Love Rock N Roll" or something from Pat Benatar could also work like, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot". Just a respectful suggestion to an already strong set list.

Femmes Of Rock was a well-put together, well-executed show. Anyone that made the jaunt out to Clearwater Casino Resort Thursday night left very satisfied. Check them out when they play your town!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

EA on FB
EA on Instagram

Special Thanks: Michael for the credentials - thank you for the opportunity!

(click on any photo for a larger image)