Monday, October 21, 2019

Seattle Opera CINDERELLA Opening Night Review! 10/19/19



Seattle Opera

McCaw Hall
Seattle, WA

Seattle Opera presents Rossini's Cinderella. Sunny Martini photo


It has been a busy week or two here at Eclectic Arts. I tend to simplify by saying we have an Arts side and a Music side (all are arts but again simplification). The Music side overtook the Arts side recently with a slew of concerts. However, the Arts side made a come back with a one two punch of events this weekend.

The Seattle Opera's second production of the 2019-2020 season, "Cinderella" with music by Gioachino Rossini and libretto by Jacopo Ferretti, was opening on Saturday night at McCaw Hall. I was very much looking forward to this event!

In recent weeks I've had friends ask me why am I covering so many arts events instead of concerts - and vice versa. I'm still working on my separate article about my introduction to the arts world and what brought me here but that won't be finished for a long while.

As this was my fifth opera so far, I find many facets of the opera world interesting. The history for one, the stereotypes of the average opera attendee (some true, most not), the classical music, the staging, the artists, the lighting design, the event feeling of an opening night, everything really. There is so much to explore and learn about I've only covered about 1% so far. It almost seems endless but I'm making headway, slowly but surely.

With a production like, "Cinderella", there were many in the audience that had particular expectations of what they wanted to see.

I tend to arrive early to take in the audience vibe before the doors open to the auditorium. I do this at the theatre, the musicals, the concerts when I can, etc. A Seattle Opera crowd on an opening night is one of anticipation. Of pageantry at times, of going out on a Saturday night and putting on your best outfit that you rarely, if ever, get to wear anywhere else. It is also an opportunity to escape for three hours into a world of etiquette, manners, and general pleasantry. This point I have come to really love. No pretense - just a nice reminder that there are folks out there that practice common courtesy. Compared to some of the other events I cover, mainly concerts, this is a refreshing breath of air that I never tire of.

On Saturday night all of the above was evident, and then some. The difference this time was there were more families, more young people, and of course it made sense. Most people associate, "Cinderella" with the Disney princess version from the 1950's - including me.

Rossini's, "Cinderella" was different in many ways. This could have been off putting to some but not to me. I rather enjoyed the differences between the two stories.

The perfect slippers, mean stepmother, fairy godmother - all absent from this production. Instead there was a mean step -father (played by Peter Kalman), a somewhat similar character to a fairy god - father in Alidoro (played by Adam Lau), and bracelets instead of slippers.

But, there were things that were absolutely similar. Cinderella (played by Ginger Costa-Jackson) was completely treated like trash by her stepsisters Clorinda (Miriam Costa-Jackson) and Tisbe (Maya Gour). Prince Ramiro (portrayed by Michele Angelini) was enamored with Cinderella. The prince's valet Dandini (portrayed by Joo Won Kang) was the ever loyal servant to the prince.

Act I clocked in over an hour and a half. Act II was just under an hour. During that time, the Seattle Opera transformed the auditorium stage into a massive study and an incredible two-story shop that doubled as a balcony for the end of the show. I have been really floored by the stage productions at all of the Seattle Opera events thus far. I would love to see some of the creativity and artistry they use incorporated into the concert world. For example - the 3-D aspect of the grounds of the kingdom was expertly presented. When characters were in the background, they looked like they were a mile away vs. the foreground characters that were right in plain sight.

While the cast was exceptional across the board, I really enjoyed the acting in this production, something I may have overlooked in the other shows I've reviewed. Peter Kalmant in particular really showed some acting chops as the "president of wine" and the mean step- father Don Magnifico.

Musically Michele Angelini was an absolute head turner of a tenor. I had just covered a tenor on Monday who, while good, couldn't hold a candle, a candleholder, or a birthday candle for that matter to Mr. Angelini.

I already knew how amazing Ginger Costa-Jackson was after seeing her opening night of, "Carmen" this past May. She was equally stunning in the role of Cinderella. It was also good fun to see one of her real life sisters, Miriam Costa-Jackson, playing Clorinda one of the mean stepsisters.

Joo Won Kang had the audience laughing as Dandini - the valet that switches outfits/roles with Prince Ramiro to allow the Prince to investigate a future princess undercover.

Overall, "Cinderella" was full of comedy and less tragedy than you would expect from an opera. I quite enjoyed that fact as I was in the mood for laughter Saturday night.

Being from the Disney fan base like some in attendance, I did miss seeing a grande ballroom scene during the production, but I know this was a centuries old take on the story, no the 2-D animated film.

"Cinderella" weaved a tale as old as time but in a classic and sophisticated way. My hope is that those that have not attended a Seattle Opera production give this show a chance. One day your opera may come and let me say it's here - "Cinderella".

See you at the opera!
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
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Special Thanks: Gabrielle - as always thank you very much for the opportunity! I sincerely appreciate it!

"Cinderella" continues through November 1st, 2019. Buy tickets here:  TICKETS!

Ginger Costa-Jackson (Cinderella). Philip Newton photo

Miriam Costa-Jackson (Clordina), Ginger Costa-Jackson (Cinderella), and Maya Gour (Tisbe). Philip Newton photo

Ginger Costa-Jackson (Cinderella) with Michele Angelini (Don Ramiro). Sunny Martini photo

Peter Kalman (Don Magnifico), Ginger Costa-Jackson (Cinderella), and Joo Won Kang (Dandini). Sunny Martini photo

Seattle Opera presents Rossini's Cinderella. Philip Newton photo

SPORTSBALL Event Review! Taproot Theatre Seattle, WA 10/18/19


Taproot Theatre
Seattle, WA

Cecelia Frye, Emily Shuel, Daniel Stoltenberg, Carla Sparks and Rob Martin in Sportsball at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Tony Beeman.


I always enjoy reviewing shows at the Taproot Theatre. I have reviewed two shows in the Isaac Theatre but never an improv show. Usually up for something new, I was excited to see what the world of improv had to offer via the Taproot Theatre.

"Sportsball" is a show where the scenes are connected together by a story and characters. The improv comes from the audience answers that start the show. A series of questions were asked and when an answer seemed to "work" for the actors, they wrote it down and then it was on to the next question.

For example, for our show the sport revolved around - slime (or slyme) - the ooey gooey stuff you either made or bought as a kid. The actors then took that, and many other answers, and weaved that into a comedic story for over an hour.

As created by Emily Shuel, who was a part of the improv team, the show was fast paced, ridiculous, and absolutely hilarious at times. It was great fun watching the actors act while incorporating the crazy answers from the audience into the storyline.

The build up to the ending, with the feel good 80's style training sessions (think Rocky), and then the (Chariots Of Fire inspired) slow motion finale were some of the best parts of the show.

The cast included Rob Martin, Cecelia Frye, Carla Sparks, Daniel Stoltenberg, and Emily Shuel. Tony Beeman directed "Sportsball".

I thoroughly enjoyed my first improv show and I have a sneaking suspicion it won't be my last.

See you at the theatre,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
EA on FB
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Special Thanks: Nikki - thank you so much for the opportunity!

Emily Shuel, Daniel Stoltenberg and Cecelia Frye in Sportsball at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Tony Beeman.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The HU "The Gereg Tour" Event Review! Seattle, WA 10/16/19


Paramount Theatre
Seattle, WA

(All Photos by Mark Sugiyama for Eclectic Arts (c) 2019)


It is extremely rare when I get to cover an Asian artist that I like. It is even more rare when I get to cover two Asian artists that I like! The planets aligned on Wednesday in Seattle as The HU were special guests on the BABYMETAL METAL GALAXY Tour. I was beyond stoked to see both bands at the Paramount Theatre.

The HU have been touring the US on "The Gereg Tour". The opportunity arose for them to join BABYMETAL for two shows in the Northwest. This was a perfect bill for both artists.

Hailing from Mongolia, The HU has amassed a legion of fans in a very short period of time worldwide. They have been touring pretty much nonstop and it definitely shows when you see them live.

The four-piece band is augmented with four additional touring musicians to create a stage of eight musicians.

The band started off with, "Shoog Shoog" and the battle began! The fans were chanting throughout their set as the band's unique brand of Mongolian folk rock permeated every corner of the venue.

It is said that the traditional Mongolian instruments create a spirit that transfers to the listener. I didn't put much stock in this until seeing how The HU's music mesmerized the audience. I believe it now.

Such songs and video hits as, "Yuve Yuve Yu" and "Wolf Totem" were aired and sounded even better live. The seven song (special guest slot) set ended with, "This Is The Mongol" with the audience chanting, "HU HU HU" at the end. It was clear the fans wanted more music.

The concert was very ritualistic and absolutely painted pictures in my mind. Of ancient warriors ready for battle - the show was epic. I can only imagine what a headlining set must be like!

The HU made a fan out of many Wednesday night and rightfully so - they were fantastic! Here's hoping they return to Seattle with a headlining show!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
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Special Thanks: Kelly - thank you so much for the opportunity!

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(All Photos by Mark Sugiyama for Eclectic Arts (c) 2019)



Metal Galaxy US Tour

The Paramount Theatre
Seattle, WA

(All photos by Mark Sugiyama for Eclectic Arts (c) 2019)


As I sit here typing this review of BABYMETAL's show in Seattle, I'm hit with the overall timeline of the band, my involvement as a fan and media person, and the future. I, like millions of others, first heard of BABYMETAL when a friend showed me the, "Gimme Chocolate!!" video. Having been familiar with some J-Pop and J-Rock, in addition to bands like X-Japan, the video was one of confusion and wonderment. I distinctly remember going back later that night and watching other videos of the band.

I was hooked.

I was fortunate enough to cover the 2016 show here in Seattle as press. I did the BABYMETAL concert experience as much as I could. I got there early and stood in line with fans from around the world. I marched right into the venue and got as close as I could to the barricade (two people from it all night). I stayed there all night and had an absolute blast.

Every band goes through changes even if it's just the passage of time. Today's BABYMETAL feels like a band preparing for the future and the future is bright. With changes in lineup, SU-METAL and MOAMETAL are BABYMETAL. For this tour there have been three Avengers that are rotating each night.

(All photos by Mark Sugiyama for Eclectic Arts (c) 2019)

Seattle was the last stop on the METAL GALAXY US TOUR. The unsettled October weather greeted the hardcore fans that were lined up outside in the afternoon. I was downtown by mid afternoon and saw the fans first hand.

The VIP fans entered first followed by the general admission line. I was inside with the VIP's and got to watch the throng of fans scurry over to the merchandise table immediately upon entry. The line eventually went up the stairs to the first mezzanine and down the hallway. There's a reason the band has limits on items for each fan - the demand for merchandise is like nothing I've ever seen, really.

The venue was split into a general admission floor and reserved seats in the three-tier balcony. If you've ever been to a BABYMETAL show before then you know fans travel from all over the world for their shows, many seeing multiple shows if they can. They have a dedicated and intense fan base.

With the house packed, the lights went down, the intro music blared over the PA, and the crowd went absolutely nuts. The Kami Band members took their positions on the stage as BABYMETAL took their first choreographed steps from stage left to the middle of the stage.

"Megitsune" kicked off the show in fine fashion. With a state of the art light and sound system, BABYMETAL brought the spirit of the FOX GOD to Seattle. SU-METAL and MOAMETAL were singing and dancing like the professionals they are. The design of the new outfits really works for the band. It shows a growth and maturity, which matches SU-METAL and MOAMETAL as they equally, grow and mature as artists and performers.

(All photos by Mark Sugiyama for Eclectic Arts (c) 2019)

The English version of, "Elevator Girl" and "Shanti Shanti Shanti" were next. Visuals on the huge video screen behind the band really added to the stage show during these two songs as well as the entire concert.

The Kami Band had solo spots before launching into, "Kagerou". The band now sport masks that conceal their identity compared to the black and white makeup of tours past. "Starlight" came right after to finish the set before "FUTURE METAL" played over the PA.

Then, arguably their biggest hit, "Gimme Chocolate!!" came next. The floor erupted as a mosh pit broke out, a few bodies were surfed on top of the crowd, and the whole show intensity went up a notch or three. Not to be outdone, "PA PA YA!!" added to the one-two punch. This song really worked well live and I can see it staying in the set-list for years to come.

"Distortion", "KARATE", and "Headbangeeeeerrrrr!!!!!" were performed as BABYMETAL went from strength to strength. You could really feel the connection in the theatre with the fans and the band.

"THE ONE" and "Road of Resistance" closed out the show. The smart phone lights lit up the Paramount during the former while the wall of death appeared during the latter. Several bodies going over the barricade as the song ended and the words, "We Are BABYMETAL" echoed throughout the theatre. Fans were up on their feet, clapping, yelling, cheering, and crying,

A video montage of the US Tour dates was shown on the video screen. As the scroll hit Seattle, a thunderous applause broke out. Upcoming shows around the world were then shown, including BABYMETAL METAL GALAXY European Tour shows next year in 2020.

The BABYMETAL logo from the METAL GALAXY album ended the video as the houselights came up.

(All photos by Mark Sugiyama for Eclectic Arts (c) 2019)

Whew! What an event! BABYMETAL are moving to another level. You can feel it with the new album METAL GALAXY and these 2019 US Tour concerts. The band has never played this many shows on a US Tour. They are ready for the future and by all accounts so are the BABYMETAL fans.

There is nothing like a BABYMETAL show. They are uniquely BABYMETAL. SU-METAL and MOAMETAL are BABYMETAL

The METAL GALAXY invasion continues in 2020. Will BABYMETAL return to Seattle? Only the FOX GOD knows!

We are …
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
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Special Thanks: Humbert - thank you so much for the opportunity!

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JAKE SHIMABUKURO w/Nolan Vernon and Dave Preston EVENT REVIEW! Edmonds, WA 10/15/19

Jake Shimabukuro 

Edmonds Center for the Arts
Edmonds, WA

(All Photos - Mark Sugiyama for Eclectic Arts (c) 2019)


I've had the pleasure of seeing Jake Shimabukuro three times (four if you count the workshop I attended at a local high school) prior to this performance at the Edmonds Center for the Arts. He is a unique soul that commands his ukulele like no one I've ever seen. His music is wide-ranging and eclectic which I also appreciate.

With Nolan Vernon on bass and Dave Preston on guitar, Jake has formed a formidable trio of musicians worthy of their own band name, really. Perhaps "The Greatest Day featuring Jake Shimabukuro"? It's just a random thought.

In any event, the show was sold out, as was the night before in nearby Kirkland, WA. It just shows you the draw Jake has in this area.

Jake started off the show solo - performing more poignant songs that fit the solo format. With the audience being as quiet as could be (respect), Jake mesmerized as he always does. His technique on the instrument combined with his emotional outpouring, the music just filled the room with enlightenment.

Nolan and Dave joined Jake for the rest of the set as well as the encore. The set-list was a mix of old favorites, newer songs, and soon to be released tunes as well. Songs such as, "The Greatest Day", "Go For Broke", "Dragon", and "Summer Rain" all fit in nicely beside each other. Of course there were a few covers as well such as, "Eleanor Rigby", "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", and "Bohemian Rhapsody".

The trio format works supremely well for Jake. His synergy with Nolan and Dave cannot be overstated. They have an amazing chemistry that really lends itself to the music. It's not surprising to learn the trio has recorded a new album that will be released in February 2020. Aptly titled, "Trio", I can't wait to hear this album based on the two tracks they premiered during the show.

It's interesting - Jake's fan base is really all over the map. Ukulele player's young and old. Musicians (non ukulele) young and old. Instrumental music fans - young and old. You get the picture. You will always see a wide range of fans at a Jake Shimabukuro concert.

I have to mention that not only is Jake an amazing artist but he is equally an amazing person. Ditto for Dave and Nolan. There is absolutely no pretense to any of the three guys. None. They are as down to earth as they come. I've had the pleasure of meeting all three twice now - and I hope I get another chance to see all three on tour once the, "Trio" album is released next year.

If you haven't seen Jake perform live yet, please do so. You're in for such a treat from the first note to the last.

Best regards,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
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Special Thanks: Nichole, Jake, Nolan, and Dave - thank you very much for the opportunity!

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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Lux! Ensign Symphony and Chorus featuring Nathan Pacheco 10/14/19


Featuring Nathan Pacheco

Ensign Symphony and Chorus

Benaroya Hall
Seattle, WA


Every now and then social media alerts me to an event I would not have otherwise known about. I started following Nathan Pacheco after his work with world artist Yanni. I happened to see that he was coming to Seattle (to play Benaroya Hall no less). I was immediately interested. He was advertised as the featured performer with Lux! Ensign Symphony and Chorus. All sounded good to me.

On Monday night I ventured down to Seattle not quite knowing the details of the performance - which actually isn't too unusual for me. Once I arrived I picked up my tickets and then headed for the lobby.

Inside the auditorium there was a good-sized group of people talking and waiting for the performance to start. I looked through the program and noted what songs Nathan Pacheco would be performing.

At 7:30pm Steve Danielson - Ensign Symphony and Chorus Conductor - made his way to the stage and spoke briefly about the event. And then we were off!

The Ensign Symphony and Chorus is made up of local musicians that love to play music. They are volunteers from my understanding as well.

Throughout the program the Ensign Chorus stood out to me. A powerful group of vocalists that was quite nuanced and disciplined. The Ensign Symphony was good most of the program as well.

The program was split into two sets. Nathan Pacheco came out to sing on two songs during the first set, and six songs the second set (including the encore). His voice sounded great, especially in a room like Benaroya Hall. He spoke about the songs at times, giving them background for the audience.

"Nella Fantasia" and "Caruso" sounded especially strong during the second set.

The evening ended with an encore of, "Nessun Dorma" and a closing piece by the Ensign Chorus.

Overall, the Ensign Symphony and Chorus put on a good, sometimes great, performance. Nathan Pacheco sounded fantastic and I hope he returns to the area for another show.

The next Ensign Symphony and Chorus performance is December 16th at Benaroya Hall. Tickets are on sale now.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Monday, October 14, 2019

KELLY HALL - TOMPKINS Event Review! Edmonds Center for the Arts Edmonds, WA 10/12/19

Kelly Hall - Tompkins

Edmonds Center for the Arts
Edmonds, WA

(Edmonds Center for the Arts)


As we roll further into Rocktober, I had the distinct pleasure of attending the performance of Kelly Hall - Tompkins. Kelly was performing at the Edmonds Center for the Arts in downtown Edmonds, WA. Three "band mates" (Kelly mentioned she has a hard time calling her fellow musicians a band) joined her on stage for the majority of the set in one configuration or another.

Kelly is an accomplished violinist and chamber musician, among other notable skills and accolades. The show was advertised as featuring compositions from Kelly's album, "The Fiddler Expanding Tradition". Kelly performed on Broadway as the "fiddler" in, "Fiddler On The Roof" and gained much notice for her violin-playing prowess. She performed over 400 times during her run with the show a few years ago.

The concert program on Saturday evening was split into two sets - the first being songs from "The Fiddler Expanding Tradition" album and the second set were songs inspired by the show or the music therein.

Performing with guitar, stand-up bass, and accordion, Kelly weaved magic with her violin. As a musician myself, and having attended and reviewed enough concerts in my lifetime, I can honestly say that Kelly possesses a technique that is just a pure joy to watch. She is faculty at her alma mater so whatever student(s) she's working with, you're in a grande position to learn from one of the best.

The way Kelly conveyed the story of the "Fiddler" show was mind boggling to watch. Plenty of images raced through my head as the first set came to a close. I haven't even seen the musical (yet - the touring version is coming to Seattle in January 2020) but after Kelly's performance I felt like I had.

After an intermission break, it was interesting to see Kelly perform music by the great tango master Astor Piazzolla. I had just seen jazz-fusion legend Al Di Meola perform his music a few weeks ago as well so this was an extra treat.

The musicians performing with Kelly were artists she had met while working in New York on the musical production. All were stellar of course - something I would expect when playing with someone of Kelly's caliber.

Kelly and her ensemble band came back for an encore and the audience gave them a standing ovation after the last notes rang out - deservedly so. Master musicians performing timeless music on a Saturday evening in Edmonds - it couldn't get any better than that.

It should also be mentioned that Kelly spoke every so often between pieces. She was intelligent, nuanced, and very well spoken. Learning that she was a polyglot - this didn't surprise me. She speaks eight languages (and counting). Her background to the music gave some insight to what was going on in the story, her approach to the music, and other behind the scenes information.

Overall, the performance was as satisfying as it could have been. Strength to strength, tune to tune, the audience that attended the show was treated to a world-class event. Here's hoping Kelly returns to the area sooner rather than later.

Best regards,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
EA on YT

Special Thanks: Kelly - thank you very much for the opportunity!

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