Friday, June 29, 2018

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

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! Centurylink Event Center 6/22/18 - 6/24/18

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)

LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN - Taproot Theatre - 6/20/18

Lady Windermere's Fan

Taproot Theatre
Seattle, WA

Maya Burton and Richard Nguyen Sloniker in Lady Windermere’s Fan at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Robert Wade.


I was very fortunate to catch a performance of this Oscar Wilde piece last Wednesday at the local Taproot Theatre. I have only been to the Isaac Studio portion of the theatre prior (for a music performance) so I was looking forward to seeing live local theatre as Eclectic Arts.

The Taproot Theatre is very cozy - seating over 200 patrons at any given performance. This brings the show directly to the audience, which perhaps makes it an even more engaging experience.

I was struck by the performances first. Maya Burton as Lady Windermere carried the production with nuance and skilled timing. It was hard not to be engaged any time she was on the stage (which was the majority of the show). Richard Nguyen Sloniker as Lord Windermere projected a royal bearing whenever he stepped on stage.

The interaction between Lady Windermere and Lord Darlington (played expertly by Tyler Trerise) was well done - particularly when the story takes a decided turn (no spoilers here).

As Mrs. Erlynne, Nikki Visel could not have been more perfectly cast. She for lack of a better term tied the production together with her performance. From a woman with a questionable background to the bombshell that gets dropped (again, no spoilers here), Nikki ran the gamut of emotions that captivated the audience from beginning to end. A standout performance.

Laughs abound whenever the Duchess of Berwick was in a scene (portrayed by Rebecca M. Davis), accompanied by Lady Agatha Carlisle (played by Laura Lee Caudill). Actually, many laughs when all of the cast was interacting with one another during the production.

The multi cultural casting created an interesting dynamic for the audience. During the intermission, I overheard many folks talking about the performance and ethnicity came up in some of those discussions. Without giving away the plot of the show, casting a wide range of performers of different ethnic backgrounds added an additional element to digest and consume. I, for one, loved seeing a cast of such diversity.

I'm the first to admit that I am not a veteran of local (or regional) theatre. If you're looking for a point-by-point analysis, I'm sure there are plenty of media members out there that could provide what you're looking for.

"Lady Windermere's Fan" was certainly a strong introduction for me to what the Taproot Theatre has to offer. No wonder so many people are regulars at the theatre. If every show is of the caliber of "Lady Windermere's Fan", then I may be joining those regulars, too.

See you at the theatre!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

EA on Instagram

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

Upcoming At The Taproot Theatre: "Sweet Land, A Musical" - July 11 - August 18th

Nolan Palmer, Rebecca M. Davis, Richard Nguyen Sloniker, Kim Morris, Nikki Visel, Conner Neddersen and Frank Lawler in Lady Windermere’s Fanat Taproot Theatre. Photo by Robert Wade.

Maya Burton and Tyler Trerise in Lady Windermere’s Fan at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Robert Wade.

Nolan Palmer, Frank Lawler, Richard Nguyen Sloniker, Conner Neddersen and Tyler Trerise in Lady Windermere’s Fan at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Robert Wade.

Monday, June 18, 2018

An Evening With QUEENSRYCHE! Clearwater Casino - Suquamish, WA 6/14/18


Clearwater Casino
Suquamish, WA


On a beautiful pre-Summer day in the Pacific Northwest, the Clearwater Casino hosted a sold out Queensryche show last Thursday evening. The long time local die hards came out to see the band as they play a string of shows before their next record is released.

Todd La Torre, sporting a cast and arm sling (due to a broken bone in his right hand), took to the stage like he has the past six years and just wailed away vocally all night. Starting off with, "Surgical Strike", Whip, Eddie, Parker, and Casey did what they always do - deliver a show that reminds you why Queensryche are one of the premier metal bands.

"Damaged" and "Walk In The Shadows" were next as the fans watched the stage (and/or video screens as there were four inside the venue for those further back in the audience).

Todd, as evidenced at the last show I covered (in December 2017), is vocally bridging the gap between singing the songs as they were recorded and adding a dash of his own style into the proceedings. Todd has some grit and growl to his vocals when he wants to and in the right places, it works perfectly.

Other songs aired included, "Guardian", "Breaking The Silence", "I Don't Believe In Love", and two songs from the EP, "Queen of The Ryche" and "The Lady Wore Black", where Todd's vocals really stood out in December as well as at this show, too.

Of course a few tunes from "Empire" were aired including, "Silent Lucidity", "Jet City Woman", and the title track.

Whip and Parker played all of the songs effortlessly. I've said it in every review but I'll say it again here - I would love to hear Parker play a few more leads to even out the guitar load so to speak. He is more than capable - please let the man play more leads like the old days where Chris and Whip split the guitar duties. Thank you.

Casey did a fine job playing the drum parts to near perfection. He is visually fun to watch bash away as well and he has fit into the band almost seamlessly at these shows.

The band encored with, "Best I Can", "Screaming In Digital", and "Eyes Of A Stranger". They said their goodbyes, the crowd wanted more, and the night was over - for now.

I would love to see the band add say one or two acoustic numbers in the middle of the set to change things up a bit. Perhaps songs like "The Lady Wore Black" and "Silent Lucidity" or even something like, "Bridge".

I would also respectfully suggest that whenever the show is sold out, throw in another new Todd era tune. When shows sell out that's a good indication that a lot of die hard fans are going to be there (especially locally here in WA). Change up the set list by adding in something from "Queensryche" or another song from "Condition Human". There are some great tracks on both albums that are beginning to feel like they're being dismissed which is a shame.

The band is coming back to Rochester, WA on July 14th (a Saturday for those needing to know). If you missed them last Thursday, here's your chance to see them 'Ryche and Roll again!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

EA on FB
EA on Instagram

Special Thanks: Theresa and Stephanie for the credentials - thank you for the opportunity! Jay, Bender, and the crew for making things hassle free! See you all next time!

Video Interview with Todd La Torre:

(click on any photo for a larger image)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

BETTER THAN EZRA Put On A "Good" Show - Gig Review from Redmond, WA 6/9/18

Better Than Ezra

Marymoor Park

Redmond, WA


(click on any photo for a larger image)


Better Than Ezra - the Louisiana based alternative rock band - has been around since the late 80's. Their music filled with tongue in cheek humor and a melodic sensibility has been pleasing their fans for decades now.

On Saturday night, as the Washington weather took a dip south, the band hit the stage and performed a highly energetic set of tunes at Marymoor Park.

They opened with a medley of tunes before going through songs like, "Insane" and arguably their most well known song, "Good". 


The four piece sounded as good as ever. The audience was having a great time - even as it began to shower during their set (with an eventual rain delay before the headliners set).

Eight albums into their career and they show no signs of slowing down. Better Than Ezra was mighty good on Saturday night!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts


Special Thanks: Ashley and Jari for the credentials - thank you for the opportunity!