Sunday, January 12, 2020

EUGENE ONEGIN Seattle Opera January 11, 2020


Seattle Opera

McCaw Hall
Seattle, WA
January 11, 2020

Seattle Opera Chorus and Cast. Philip Newton photo.


It’s hard to believe it’s been one year now of reviewing the productions from the Seattle Opera. I entered into this venture having never seen an opera - ever. With six shows under my belt, I have learned a great deal but I have a long, long way to go. It’s been such a joy to learn about the world of opera through a local gem like the Seattle Opera.

Saturday evening was opening night of their newest production, “Eugene Onegin”. With music by Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky, libretto by Peter Llych Tchaikovsky and Konstantin S. Shilovsky, and based on Alexander Pushkin’s verse novel Eugene Onegin, the near capacity crowd waited anxiously to see the classic tale of love and loss.

The production looked spectacular. The scenic, lighting, and costume designers had everything on the stage looking as perfect as can be. The country setting to start the first act was immediately evident with the three dimensional trees, extended background, and building decorations.

Marjukka Tepponen (Tatyana) sang with such emotion as a young naive country girl to start before marrying and becoming a noble woman, she absolutely drew the audience into her character. Her character wrote a letter professing her love for Eugene Onegin but she was dismissed by him quickly and painfully.

Marjukka Tepponen (Tatyana). Philip Newton photo.

John Moore (Eugene Onegin) also brought his character to life in crisp and decisive ways. Having seen him last year in, “The (R)evolution Of Steve Jobs”, I knew he would be outstanding and he did not disappoint.

Colin Ainsworth (Lensky) was equally captivating in his roll. His love of Olga only to be betrayed by the flirtatious Eugene Onegin was carried out in dramatic but realistic ways. His solo performance was breathtaking and a high point of the show.

The orchestra, as conducted by Aleksandar Markovic, absolutely stood out throughout the production.  I was impressed beyond measure by the work and interpretation of Mr. Markovic. 

The other performers in the cast and ensemble were just as good as one would expect from a Seattle Opera production. The amount of moving parts for any of the shows I’ve reviewed is just staggering. When everything comes together, it really is the perfect meld of everything that I love about the arts.

Seattle Opera Chorus, Melody Wilson (Olga) and Colin Ainsworth (Lensky). Sunny Martini photo.

Without giving away too much of the plot, I can say that the performances were so strong by Marjukka Tepponen and John Moore that by the end of act three, I was emotionally invested in the storyline. I wanted Tatyana to tell Eugene Onegin off, slap him in his smug face, and maybe even kick him in the family jewels, considering his outrageous behavior towards Tatyana. I was actually glad it ended the way it did as Tatyana deserved better.

Overall, “Eugene Onegin” is a story that is easy to follow and clearly stands the test of time. New patrons will find a great introduction to the Seattle Opera and long time attendees will be satisfied with the quality of the performances.

Meredith Arwady (Filipevna) and Margaret Gawrysiak (Madame Larina). Sunny Martini photo.

The Seattle Opera is continually putting on world class productions here in Seattle. If you haven’t taken in a performance yet, you are really missing out. “Eugene Onegin” would be a great place to start. The show runs through January 25th, 2020 at McCaw Hall.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
Eclecticartszine AT gmail DOT com

Seattle Opera "Eugene Onegin" - purchase tickets here:  TICKETS!

Seattle Opera Chorus and Margaret Gawrysiak (Madame Larina). Philip Newton photo.

Monday, January 6, 2020

GUYS & DOLLS Opening Night Review! Village Theatre Everett, WA 1/3/2020


Village Theatre

Everett Performing Arts Center
Everett, WA

The cast of Guys & Dolls
Guys & Dolls production photo.
© 2019 Tracy Martin
Property of Village Theatre.


As soon as I saw that this show was announced on the 2019/20 schedule I was looking forward to it. A big production of a classic show with a large ensemble cast, this show had everything going for it. On opening night, the Everett Performing Arts Center was at capacity so I wasn’t the only one looking forward to the performance.

The storyline of Nathan Detroit and Miss Adelaide was brought to life by Matt Wolfe and Kate Jaeger. Expertly acted by both, they were amazing in the roles. The other storyline of Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown was equally captivating. Dane Stokinger and Mallory King embodied the characters to their fullest potential.

The cast of Guys & Dolls
Guys & Dolls production photo.
© 2019 Tracy Martin
Property of Village Theatre.

The large cast had so much to do during the show - which was one of the longer productions I’ve reviewed in recent years. Acting on the two story stage, singing several numbers, many wardrobe changes, all the dance choreography, as well as the choreography during the spoken word parts seemed overwhelming to me, but the cast pulled it off with ease.

The Havana sequence was great fun to watch. Kudos to choreographer Nikki Long for all the dance numbers during the show. They were spectacular!

Matt Wolfe (Nathan Detroit) and Kate Jaeger (Miss Adelaide).
Guys & Dolls production photo.
© 2019 Mark Kitaoka
Property of Village Theatre.

The set designs were beautiful and numerous. The music was also incredibly well done so kudos to Julia Thornton on her work with the show.

There was nothing to pick at at this show. It was as well done as could be. No weak links in the production.  You will be entertained when you go. 

The cast of Guys & Dolls
Guys & Dolls production photo.
© 2019 Mark Kitaoka
Property of Village Theatre.

If you’ve seen other iterations of the show over the years, I’m sure you’ll be comparing and contrasting what you see on stage. This was my first time seeing any performance of GUYS & DOLLS so now I have a foundational performance to compare to in the future.

As I was leaving the show, I heard many people in the lobby talking about how great the performance was. I absolutely agree. The show runs through February 2nd so be sure to catch a performance or two.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
Eclecticartszine AT gmail DOT com

Special Thanks:  Ann for giving me the opportunity to review the show.  Thank you!

Purchase tickets here:  TICKETS!

Saturday, January 4, 2020

THUNDERPUSSY - New Year's Eve Party 2019 - Event Review! 12/31/19!


Bear Axe

Constant Lovers

Trash Fire

Showbox at The Market
Seattle, WA

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


It's kind of funny that when I sat down to write this, I looked at my reviews folder and saw New Year's Eve reviews for Thunderpussy 2016, Thunderpussy 2017, and Thunderpussy 2018. Well, here we are, it's the second day of 2020 and here I am writing the New Year's Eve review for Thunderpussy 2019.

Each show on New Year's Eve in Seattle has been special and unique. No two have been the same. The band always pulls out all the stops for these shows and I sincerely hope they continue to do so for years to come. This year was the "neon glow of electric sax" - so neon was the theme.

As the lights went down in the Showbox at The Market, the near capacity crowd screamed and hollered as a group of dancers slithered their way onto the stage. Ambient sounds from Whitney's guitar (with violin bow) created the mood as the dancers slowly made their way to the center catwalk from the stage. Here - the lead dancer was undressed of her jacket and wig to reveal lead singer Molly. The crowd cheered as the band kicked off the main set sporting neon outfits under dark lights to show off the glow.

The band played a mix of songs from their debut album they released in 2018, their newly released digital EP "Milk It", as well as a cover tune or two. Leah plucked away at her bass keeping the rhythm section in check while new drummer Lindsey performed at her first Seattle New Year's Eve gig.

Just before midnight, the band waited and grabbed the champagne as the countdown began. Streamers and confetti filled the air as everyone at the show welcomed in a new decade. I saw a nice fat blunt being passed from the side of the stage, which was awesome. The band just loves to have fun! They didn't waste much time before launching into a song three minutes into the New Year.

Molly was the center of attention with her vocals sounding as fine as ever. Her movement and dance background always, and I mean always, makes for such an interesting sight when she's on stage. I can't think of another lead vocalist that commands the stage the way she does but in such a fun and good-hearted way. As always she asked the audience to meet someone new near you. I remember she did this in 2016 (my first gig) and I met another Asian guy that night. I subsequently saw him at two other Thunderpussy shows in 2017. I haven't seen him since but he may have been at these New Year's Eve shows too for all I know. But, you get the point - and more importantly - her point.

The whole band rarely sits still, if ever. Whitney is always moving while she plays her Les Paul, SG, or Stratocaster guitar and Leah is always banging her head and feeling the music while she plays her Fender Jazz bass. Many a time the three of them come together in front of the drum riser and just rock the fuck out. It's glorious to see.

Lindsey fits the band well. Her style seems to be more rock than anything (I could be wrong). There was a time or two when the band was off tempo but that was quickly fixed. And hey - it's a live concert, not some mix of backing tracks and live. They do it old school - four musicians playing music for the masses, emphasis on playing.

I would love to see more of Lindsey's personality come through in the band. I'm sure the longer she's gigs with Thunderpussy, the more that will happen. I understand she isn't local but that doesn't matter much these days - with technology being what it is, that problem isn't really even an issue.

The last song of the night was a brilliant cover of Pat Benatar's, "We Belong" which then segued into a jam with members of all three local opening bands (as well as Eva from the Black Tones) coming up to sing, play, and bash the drums.

Thunderpussy have always delivered live. Again, I first saw them in 2016 so I'm not necessarily a veteran but I'm certainly not a newbie either. To their credit, being a great live band is essential in today's music business. With physical album sales being as low as what they are, and digital downloads following suit, it's been left to streaming to fill the void - which it's doing a horrible job of for artists. Bands have to tour, utilize social media and funding platforms, and sell merchandise to make it work. But, if you can't cut it live, the road ahead is basically a dead end in 2020 for most artists.

The New Year's Eve 2019 show was a great time as expected. It's getting to the point that I'm starting to compare and contrast the shows and I know I'm not alone as I saw a lot of familiar faces on Tuesday night. I also overheard at least one attendee state that this was his first time seeing the band so there were fans of all kinds there.

What's next for the band? I'm sure more touring, hopefully an opportunity to jump on someone else's tour as a special guest - perhaps a theater or arena tour would be amazing and help grow their audience even further.

Let's hope the band continues this tradition of playing a New Year's Eve show in Seattle. Thank you Thunderpussy and here's to a prosperous 2020!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
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Eclecticartszine AT gmail DOT com

Special Thanks: Thunderpussy and their team for having me back - as always thank you very much for the opportunity! I so appreciate it!

The show was opened with three local bands: Trash Fire, Constant Lovers, and the well-known band Bear Axe. All three bands played tight, well rehearsed sets. Bear Axe definitely have a following and closed out their set with a Soundgarden cover.

One plus of these New Year's Eve gigs is that Thunderpussy have exposed me and many others to bands we wouldn't know otherwise, especially in the local scene here in Seattle. I wouldn't know who The Black Tones were if it wasn't for last year's show. Ditto Kolars from 2017 - who I have subsequently seen when they've toured Seattle on their own. So kudos to Thunderpussy for keeping the scene alive!





Monday, December 23, 2019

Olympic Ballet Theatre "THE NUTCRACKER" Event Review! 12/22/19


Olympic Ballet Theatre

Edmonds Center for the Arts
Edmonds, Wa

(Mara Vinson and Jose Iglesias.  Photo by Alante Photography)


I made a rare deliberate decision which was to see and review as many holiday based events this season as I could. I enjoyed all the events I reviewed last year so I thought I should try to review a few more this year. The number came to ten events as of last night. This is in addition to my normal concert coverage and other events as well.

I knew there were other dance companies in the area besides the “big” one on Mercer Street but I had not had the time to look into any of them further. Being an Edmonds resident, the Olympic Ballet Theatre in Edmonds made perfect sense as my first company to review that wasn’t Seattle based.

Holiday shows are big income earners for practically every arts and theatre company out there. In some ways the shows are similar to a business that depends on tourists in the summer for much of their yearly income. The Olympic Ballet Theatre chose the much beloved, “The Nutcracker” as their holiday show of choice this season.

I have seen three different versions of the show over the years, and reviewed the most current version at “Mercer Street” last year and this year. So, I was very curious to see how this show would be presented to the patrons of Edmonds and abroad.

Held at the Edmonds Center for the Arts, the parking lot was full when I arrived which was a good sign for a strong turnout. I found my seats and waited for the show to start.

The show is divided into two acts - much like every other production I’ve seen or reviewed. The music started over the PA as the house lights dimmed and the show began.

The set and scenic designs were eye catching. They reminded me a bit of the Stowell Sendak version (which is a good thing) but they were also very much their own unique designs. I loved the use of the doors, fireplace, and closets as entrances and exits for the dancers.

Clara, Fritz, the Bergermeisters, and of course Herr Drosselmeyer were front and center during the first act. One thing that immediately stood out to me was the choreography and movement of the young dancers. It was wonderful to see actual dancing by these young students as compared to other productions where they appear to be focused on just movement. The ballerina and nutcracker “dolls” were also a very nice touch.

When it came to the tree scene, I smiled as the tree grew and admired the staff again for finding a creative way to pull off the scene in such a way. Very well done!

The young mice that came through the fireplace were as cute as can be. The blue and red soldiers and of course the Mouse King staged an imaginative fight scene.

The snow scene rounded out act one with Clara, the Prince, and of course the Snowflakes. I loved the fact that both Clara and the Prince were portrayed as older characters.

After a brief intermission, act two started and we were off to the land of the sweets. Let me say that all of the different dance numbers were well done here. Some stood out more than others but that always happens. The Arabian with Elianna Langley and Jose Iglesias was beautifully danced. The Waltz of The Flowers with Anisa Sinteral also stood out to these eyes.

Of course when Mother Ginger comes on stage, everyone takes notice. This version of the character was very well done (I’m sensing a pattern here) as the tiny dancers came out and danced through their number. Kudos to the wardrobe team for the excellent outfits here and throughout the production.

The Grand Pas de Deux with Mara Vinson and Alberto Gaspar was (arguably) the highlight of the evening. As co-AD of the company, Mara Vinson showed why this company is as strong as it is. She danced effortlessly, with beautiful arms and soft hands. Alberto Gaspar displayed his ballet prowess as well and it was just a joy to watch both dancers perform.

I can’t forget Frank Borg as Herr Drosselmeyer. Frank was extremely expressive throughout the production. His portrayal really kept the show on course and tied the story together in seamless ways.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Olympic Ballet Theatre. After seeing their version of “The Nutcracker” I see that I’ve been missing out all this time. I was thoroughly impressed with every aspect of the show. There was definitely a sense of - joy - throughout the show. The dancers seemed happy to be performing. I think for some companies, the holiday show run between Thanksgiving and Christmas becomes a labor of …labor. A necessary evil if you will that they know they must do in order to keep their doors open and their books in the black. It was so refreshing to see a company that, again, seemed to actually enjoy dancing and performing.

The show ends its run today but do yourself a favor. Check out their website for their next productions in Everett and Edmonds in 2020 and check out a performance. I know I will!

Happy holidays,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
Eclecticartszine AT gmail DOT com

Seattle Musical Theatre "MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET" Event Review! 12/20/19


Seattle Musical Theatre
Shoreline, WA

(Cast Photo - courtesy of SMT)


On a record setting day of rain in Seattle, I ventured out to nearby Shoreline, WA to check out my first production put on by the Seattle Musical Theatre. The theatre has been in transition as they were forced to find a new location for the company this fall. Fortunately, the Shoreline Auditorium worked out as their new space.

I can only imagine the extra stress for the company to find a new home, get their old set up broken down and transferred to the new location, and put on a show during the holidays. Well, I’m happy to report they put on a fine show on Friday evening.

I may be one of only a few people that have never seen, “Miracle On 34th Street” - the original or the updated version. I have seen snippets but I really didn’t know the story. So I went into the show rather fresh, not knowing what to expect.

First let me start by saying the Shoreline Auditorium is a former high school auditorium - so it’s large. In some ways too large as the intimacy of the show was somewhat lost in the size of the venue. It’s also not an easy place to find as the back of it faces the main street of First Avenue. If you’re seeing shows there look for the brick building due south of the tennis courts off of First Avenue in Shoreline - you’ll see a parking lot area and you’ve found the venue.

I’ve covered enough local theatre to know what to expect before seeing any show (usually). Talent varies from show to show and in this case - the talent was on the plus side.

Kate Ray as Doris Walker absolutely stood out among the cast. Her acting, singing, and demeanor was that of a seasoned veteran. I was mesmerized by her performance.  Ditto Craig Rock as Kris Kringle. He was just perfect as the beloved character.

Gary J. Chambers as Fred put in a fine acting performance as one of the other leads in the production. I particularly noticed Rachel Mills for a few seconds. She started singing a tune by herself in Act II for just a few bars before the rest of the cast came in and let me tell you - I wanted to hear more of her singing voice! This happened with a few of the other cast members that played multiple roles as well. Acting, singing, or both stood out at times. Great stuff from all involved!

The music was performed live which is always a plus and the sets worked for the most part as well. The mic system needs tweaking but I’m sure that has something to do with the transition from the old space to the new space. Voices were loud at times, quiet others, and at least one time the hanging mics were run into with set pieces (as they were moved from scene to scene) to a “pop” on the PA system. This is all easily fixed for future productions. No big deal.

Overall, I really enjoyed my first experience with the Seattle Musical Theatre company. I hope to cover their next show in the new year. Happy holidays!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
Eclecticartszine AT gmail DOT com

"Miracle On 34th Street" continues through 12/29.  Tickets available here:  TICKETS!

Monday, December 16, 2019

EVERY CHRISTMAS STORY EVER TOLD (and then some!) Opening Night Review! 12/13/19

Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some!)

Taproot Theatre
Seattle, WA

(Photo Credit:  Krissy Grant)


Friday night was opening night for a holiday show in the Isaac Studio at Taproot Theatre. "Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some!) was a wacky mix of theatre and improvisation by three outstanding actors familiar to the Taproot Theatre audience.

Two thirds were entertaining audiences last year in, "Miss Bennet - Christmas at Pemberley" - a show that I loved - and I just saw the other third in the fun improvisational show, "Sportsball". I wasn't really sure what to expect from this show going in but I was definitely curious.

The story revolves around a company attempting to put on "A Christmas Carol" and then proceeds to take the audience through a mashup of other holiday classics like, "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas", "Elf", "It's A Wonderful Life", "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town", "Frosty The Snowman", 'Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer", and a few others.

With only three cast members, the humor comes from the dialogue, the comedic timing, and the massive amounts of scene changes, dialect changes, and some audience participation.

(Photo Credit:  Krissy Grant)

Shanna Allman as Noel, Kelly Karcher as Holly, and Emily Shuel as Carol were really having fun with this show. I enjoyed seeing Shanna showing her strong improvisational background - such a drastic change compared to the character of Miss Bennet. Her "A Charlie Brown Christmas" scene dancing was hilariously good, among many other scenes.

Kelly Karcher showed her range as Buddy from, "Elf", among a dozen (or more) other characters throughout the night. She also had a lovely singing voice during the music numbers.

Emily Shuel really shined as Carol. I particularly loved her switch between Jimmy Stewart in, "It's A Wonderful Life" and Scrooge in, "A Christmas Carol".

All three actors worked so well together. If there had been a weak link, the show would of fallen flat on its face. But there wasn't. All three shined throughout the ninety-minute performance.

(Photo Credit:  Krissy Grant)

Before the show the audience was asked to put a few holiday memories in a basket, which was then used by the cast. My plus one's card got pulled out (baking cookies) and a few others which the cast then turned into mini scenes on the spot.

The game show portion featured a cute young audience member that made the scene work. If they had pulled me down, I don't think it would have had the same effect. Child VS adult - child wins in this case.

Overall, the show was light, funny, and very well performed. This is only my second improvisational theatre show and I'm slowly learning to understand how the casts approach the material VS a completely scripted theatre show.

The holidays are in full swing and, "Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some!) fit in nicely with the time of year (especially as an inside reminder that the human spirit is alive and well).

Happy holidays,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
Eclecticartszine AT gmail DOT com

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

"Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some!)" runs through December 22nd. Buy tickets here:  TICKETS!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

HOLIDAY POPS Seattle Symphony Event Review 12/8/19


Seattle Symphony

Benaroya Hall
Seattle, WA


I had the pleasure of attending the Holiday Pops event last year for the first time. I enjoyed the show so much I wanted to come back this year. Due to a hectic media schedule, the only show I could attend was the last show - the matinee on Sunday afternoon at Benaroya Hall.

Featuring Jacomo Bairos (conductor), Scarlett Strallen (vocals), Northwest Tap Connection (dance), and the University of Washington chorale, alongside the award-winning Seattle Symphony, the near capacity crowd was ready for some holiday cheer.

The program was divided into two acts - the first act covered classics like the opener, "Sleigh Ride" and three pieces from, "The Nutcracker Suite". Guest vocalist Scarlett Strallen debuted on the third piece, the perennial favorite, "My Favorite Things". Ms. Strallen continued with a beautiful rendition of, "Feed the Birds" from Mary Poppins. The trifecta was complete when she also sang a humorous song, "The 12 Days After Christmas".

"Greensleeves", "Hallelujah Chorus", and "A Christmas Eve Finale" rounded out the first act in class and style.

The second act featured a few lesser-known pieces. "Chanukka 5776" started the second act which went right into, "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" complete with Santa on stage.

The showstopper came in the form of the Northwest Tap Connection. "A Charleston Christmas" was the tune and the dancers danced up a storm to a loud roar of approval from the crowd. Conductor Bairos mentioned they had stolen the show every performance earlier in the weekend and Sunday afternoon was no exception. Brilliant!

"Carol of the Bells" and an amazing version of, "O Holy Night!" featuring Scarlett Strallen brought the house down.

To end the evening, a giant sing-a-long started with, "Deck the Halls" and ended with, "We Wish You a Merry Christmas". By the time the show was over, the audience was standing on their feet and the performers on stage took their much-deserved bows.

While I enjoyed the show this year I think I have to give the edge to last year's performance. The previous year's show was more festive and light in tone. This year's felt more traditional and a little stuffy at times. Both shows were still worth attending and I recommend the Holiday Pops to anyone that wants a quality holiday show during a season when there are tons to choose from.

Happiest of holidays and see you all next year!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
Eclecticartszine AT gmail DOT com