Monday, November 26, 2018

Miss Bennet: Christmas At Pemberley TAPROOT THEATRE Seattle, WA 11/23/18

Miss Bennet: Christmas At Pemberley

Taproot Theatre


Calder Shilling and Shanna Allman in Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.


The holiday season is here and for many that means family, shopping, food, and hopefully a holiday show.

The Taproot Theatre is currently performing “Miss Bennet: Christmas At Pemberley” by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon (based on characters by Jane Austen).

The house was full Friday evening as the performance began. Mary Bennet (Shanna Allman) is one of four sisters. The only unwed sister, Mary is a scientific, book loving type that is quick to correct misinformation and is detail oriented to a fault. Her temper at times gets the best of her and she has accepted the fact that most likely she will live out her days alone.

Jane Bingley (Melanie Hampton) and her husband Charles Bingley (Dimitri Woods) are expecting a child. Elizabeth Darcy (Hana Lass) is married to Fitzwilliam Darcy (Brian Pucheu) Lydia Wickham (Kelly Karcher) is also married but, as we find out, is lonely as her husband is gone much of the time.

Brian Pucheu, Hana Lass, Shanna Allman, Melanie Hampton and Dimitri Woods in Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

As Christmas approaches the Darcy household is preparing for the holiday - complete with the German tradition of having a decorated tree inside the house. Guest Arthur de Bourgh (Calder Shilling) arrives and finds he has much in common with Miss Bennet. A romance blooms with neither Arthur or Mary willing (or knowing) to confess their feelings for the other without putting pen to paper. Add in Anne de Bourgh (Sarah Ware) for even more complications to the story.

A series of mishaps happen as notes are dropped and read by the wrong party which leads this holiday tale into a world of laughter, emotional longing, and eventual happiness.

Calder Shilling and Kelly Karcher in Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

I found “Miss Bennet: Christmas At Pemberley” incredibly engaging. The performances from the entire cast were just stellar. After only ten minutes, I was lost in their world in England and found myself anticipating what was going to happen next.

The comical aspect was a surprise addition as I was unfamiliar with the story. I would say the balance between tones was spot on throughout the production.

Sarah Ware and Calder Shilling in Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

The show runs through December 29th. If you’re looking for a holiday show with plenty of heart, performed by a seasoned group of professionals, “Miss Bennet: Christmas At Pemberley” will hit the mark.

Happy Holidays!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Eclectic Arts on Instagram

Special Thanks: Isaiah for the opportunity. Thank you very much!

Shanna Allman and Calder Shilling in Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

George Balanchine's "The Nutcracker" - PACIFIC NORTHWEST BALLET Seattle, WA 11/24/18


George Balanchine’s


Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers and PNB School students in the finale of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, choreographed by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. PNB’s production features sets and costumes designed by Ian Falconer and runs November 23 – December 28, 2018. Photo © Angela Sterling.


If you’re like me, the start of the Christmas holiday season starts the moment you leave your Thanksgiving destination, not a moment before. So I found myself starting my holiday season with the Pacific Northwest Ballet presenting George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker”. The Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “Nutcracker’ has become a holiday tradition for many in the Northwest. The Kent Stowell and Maurice Sendak version delighted audiences for 32 years. The George Balanchine version debuted in 2015 and is the current production at McCaw Hall.

As I arrived on Saturday afternoon, the lobby of McCaw Hall was filled with decorative displays. A giant tree greets you as you enter the north entrance followed by many a display for photographic opportunities.

Families were dressed in their Sunday best or perhaps that should be holiday best. Children that looked like they stepped out from a holiday film from yesteryear with their parents equally dashing. It is recommended to dress to your comfort level of appropriateness. There are patrons in more casual clothing (jeans for example) and the Pacific Northwest Ballet has always been clear to not let your dress prevent you from attending a performance. So, dress, or lack thereof, is no excuse. Enjoy a performance if you can.

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Elizabeth Murphy as the Sugar Plum Fairy, with PNB School students in a scene from George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, choreographed by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. PNB’s production features sets and costumes designed by children’s author and illustrator Ian Falconer (Olivia the Pig) and runs November 23 – December 28, 2017. Photo © Angela Sterling.

I have fond memories of the Stowell and Sendak version but it had been many years since I had seen it, as well as my friend who accompanied me. I was excited to see what the George Balanchine version offered up to the holiday audience.

Conductor Allan Dameron led the PNB Symphony through Tchaikovsky’s well known score as the production began Act I.

The screens unveiled a video to transport the audience into little Clara’s world of the enchanted. She arrives on stage at her home with her parents, guests, and their children. The sets were lavish and dimensionally appropriate.

Herr Drosselmeir (Ezra Thomson) arrives and the story begins to unfold.

The mice, the soldiers, the Nutcracker and the Mouse King all dance and battle to one victorious outcome. Clara’s imagination/dreams sees the Christmas tree grow so high that the golden angel on top of it can’t be seen. The Nutcracker walks with Clara into a magical forest where he turns into a Prince. They follow a mesmerizing star to a land faraway.

Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in a scene from George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, choreographed by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. PNB’s production features sets and costumes designed by Ian Falconer and runs November 23 – December 28, 2018. Photo © Angela Sterling.

Act II starts with The Sugar Plum Fairy (Elizabeth Murphy) greeting Clara and the Prince. She has many sights to show them. Dancers from Spain, Arabia, China, Russia, France, and Germany to name a few.

A typically scene stealing performance by the Dewdrop (Sarah Ricard Orza) was a highlight of the second act. The Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier (Jerome Tisserand) was the other.

Clara and the Prince leave the exotic world of the Sugar Plum Fairy behind as they lift off in a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer.

Overall, I found the performance amazing. The first act went by so quickly that when intermission came, I said to myself, “already?” The sets and the performers were a joy to watch. The young cast were always a large component during the first act. I don’t remember as many young cast members in the second act in the Stowell and Sendak version but I could be wrong.

Of course the ballet in the second act really turns up several notches which is what many come to enjoy. If you’re not well versed in the world of ballet (like myself), I think you’ll find yourself mesmerized by the performances. When done “right”, it’s like watching liquid move. It’s that seamless.

This version had eye popping visuals from Ian Falconer (scenic and costume design) as well as the magnificent lighting design by James F. Ingalls.

Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in the snow scene from George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, choreographed by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. PNB’s production features sets and costumes designed by Ian Falconer and runs November 23 – December 28, 2018. Photo © Angela Sterling.

If you’re reading this and you’ve never been to a performance of “The Nutcracker” by the Pacific Northwest Ballet, it is absolutely worth seeing at least once. Go in with an open mind and let the talented cast and crew take you away to a magical place you’ll not soon forget.

If you’re a regular “Nutcracker” aficionado who looks forward to the PNB production each holiday season, you will not be disappointed.

We are spoiled here in Seattle to have such an amazing company like the Pacific Northwest Ballet putting on such timeless productions like George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker”. Don’t take it for granted. Go see a performance this holiday season!

Happy Holidays,

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Special thanks: Gary for the opportunity. I sincerely appreciate it. I’m looking forward to the next opportunity in 2019.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

No Sleep Until Seattle - MAIAH WYNNE Event Review! 11/13/18

Maiah Wynne

Fremont Abbey Arts Center
Seattle, WA


I've been incredibly fortunate to cover a wide range of artists this year. Musicians, actors, dancers, and brew masters just to name a few categories. I am always grateful for the opportunity to get to know these artists better through interviews, reviews, and photography.

There have been a few artists over the years that have struck a deeper chord than the majority of artists that I cover. Artists such as Vienna Teng, Delain, and most recently AL1CE have kept me up at night after interacting with them in some way. I find myself inspired, which in turn sends my mind spinning in a million different directions.

I can now add Maiah Wynne to this list of wildly inspirational artists.

Maiah performed last night as a part of an ongoing series at the Fremont Abbey Arts called In The Round. Musicians, poets, and painters all work together throughout the event to bring forth a cross platform of artistic expression.

Each of the three musical artists performed a song with a spoken word poetry reading after which the format was then repeated. The musical artists played a total of 5 songs each.

This was my first time seeing Maiah perform. Backed by three musicians (percussion, cello, and guitar), Maiah's songs stood out. Switching between acoustic guitar, dulcimer, and ukulele, along with a kick drum, Maiah's ethereal vocals transported the listener to another world, her world. Writing lyrics from personal experience, songs such as, "Mama" and the latest single, "Sleep", transformed the Fremont Abbey Arts room into a very quiet and expressive space.

There is a vulnerability to the music that Maiah presents to her audience that is about as raw as you can get. I've seen and heard dozens of singer songwriters live - two of which were sharing the stage with Maiah Tuesday night. Original music is always a form of self-expression - I would never knock an artist for their music, as it is what they are expressing to the audience. But Maiah's music transcends the mundane. It goes above the "that song sounds good" level. I can hear the potential for her to become a future songstress that others will be imitating. She's that good.

Long time readers of Eclectic Arts (we started in 2011) know I rarely get behind an artist unless I truly, truly, believe in them. Tobias The Owl comes to mind. AL1CE comes to mind as well. Well folks - get on board - Maiah Wynne deserves and demands your attention.

The show Tuesday evening was a great introduction to the musical magic that is Maiah Wynne. I am looking forward to seeing her perform in a more traditional concert format very soon.

Thank you Maiah for introducing me to your inspirational world. I can't wait to see what other sights and sounds you have to show me!

All the best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

EA on FB
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Special Thanks: Maiah for making this happen - I sincerely appreciate the opportunity!

Video Interview

("Sleep" Live)

(Sienna Dawn- Painter)

The Legendary Ladies of Motown - Mary Wilson and Martha Reeves - Event Review! Seattle, WA 11/10/18

The Legendary Ladies of Motown

Mary Wilson and Martha Reeves

Moore Theatre
Seattle, WA


As we move into the eleventh month of the year, Eclectic Arts continues to review events that are strong representations of our name. Earlier in November, I had the pleasure of reviewing Mr. Smokey Robinson. This past Saturday, two more Motown legends came to town - Ms. Mary Wilson of The Supremes and Martha Reeves of Martha and The Vandellas.

The Moore Theatre filled up, as the show was about to start. Mary Wilson performed first - complete with a wardrobe change mid set. Mary sang songs from throughout her career as well as a few other songs from other artists - such as a medley of the Stones', "Satisfaction and Brown Sugar" and set ender, "Imagine".

But the best part perhaps was when Mary invited fans from the audience to live out their dream as a Supreme on stage. A group of women and a few men got up on stage as Mary sang, "Baby Love", "Stop In The Name Of Love", and "Keep Me Hanging On". The new "supremes" sang and danced through all three songs before Mary invited them to go back to their seats.

Fans were dancing on the sides of the theatre (and probably in the aisles depending on where their seats were). All had a great time as Mary said her goodbyes to the crowd.

After a brief changeover, Ms. Martha Reeves was introduced to the audience. Paying tribute to the loss of Ms. Aretha Franklin as well as Mr. Marvin Gaye, Martha, backed by two of her sisters as the Vandellas, sang a great collection of songs. Of course when songs like, "Nowhere To Run", "Jimmy Mack", and "Heatwave" aired, the audience sang and danced - especially during set-closer "Dancing In The Street".

Martha told stories about Marvin Gaye, recording her first song some 60 years ago, and the many artists that have covered, "Dancing In The Street". When you throw out names like Neil Diamond, Mick Jagger and David Bowie, Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth, and the Grateful Dead, the magnitude of who is on stage singing really starts to sink in.

Both ladies are legends. They are in there 70's (74 and 77 to be exact) and knew how to entertain a crowd.

I think for someone like myself that never saw any Motown acts back in the day, seeing these shows reminds me just how good the music from that era was and still is. It's feel good music - for those that grew up with it and for those that came to appreciate it later. I'm so glad a few of these legends are still performing and I tell you - the next time one of them comes to town, go see them!

All the best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Special Thanks: Emily for making this happen - I sincerely appreciate the opportunity!

P.S. It should be noted that both ladies came out after their sets to meet fans and sign autographs at the merchandise booth. I was pleasantly surprised by this gesture. Many a fan had their night made after meeting one or both legends.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Yellow and Black Attack Return to Seattle - STRYPER Event Review! 11/6/18


El Corazon
Seattle, WA


It's been a minute since I covered a rock/hard rock/metal show for Eclectic Arts. When I saw that Stryper were returning to Seattle I knew this was one show to put on the calendar for sure.

Having grown up listening to and learning Stryper songs in the 80's, I had missed the band each time they played El Corazon (which was either two or three other times over the last decade or so) for one reason or another. I have great memories of both the "Soliders Under Command" and the "To Hell With The Devil" shows I saw at the Paramount Theatre back in the 80's so I was definitely looking forward to this show on Tuesday evening!

The intro to "Yahweh" came on over the PA as Robert entered the stage followed by Oz, Michael, and Perry. Due to some monitor issues, they restarted the intro before launching into the song. The packed crowd at El Corazon went nuts (which these days means hands went up in the air with smart phones) as the band tore through the tune and went right into, "The Valley".

With the inbetween song banter from Michael, the classic songs from "To Hell With The Devil" came next. "Calling On You", "Free", and "More Than A Man". The band sounded tight as expected. The tunings have been dropped which is also to be expected after playing for over thirty years. Michael was under the weather but he gave it his all. I honestly didn't know he was until after the show was over via his Tweet.

There was a nice mix of newer material like, "Revelation", "Sorry", and the title track off their newest album, "God Damn Evil". The newer material sounds good - something that is somewhat of a rarity with bands that have been around as long as Stryper. Many times the new material doesn't quite resonate with me. Stryper are the exception to that along with a few other bands of the era.

I liked that they aired, "All For One" from "Against The Law". I know they've played "Lady" on parts of the tour as well but not in Seattle.

The one two punch of, "In God We Trust" and "Always There For You" sounded good. I wasn't too much of a fan of that album when it came out in the 80's but they worked for me all these years later.

For me - the tunes from "Soliders Under Command" were some of the best - "Surrender" with Oz handling a verse and "Soldiers Under Command" sounded amazing.

The obligatory hit, "Honestly" was played as well. Their biggest hit in the MTV era of the 80's, I honestly could of done without it. I like the song but I'd rather hear it in another way - perhaps acoustically or some other arrangement. But I'm only nit picking.

"The Way" and "Sing Along Song" ended the main set.

With much cheering from the El Corazon audience, the band returned to end the night with, "To Hell With The Devil". Recently they've played "Take It To The Cross" from the new album but that tune wasn't aired in Seattle.

The lights went up and the lengthy show was over. All in all they played a great mix of songs in the set last night. You'll never please everyone with the song selection. I would have liked another tune from "Soldiers Under Command" in place of the set heavy songs from "To Hell With The Devil". I definitely would of liked to have heard one song from "The Yellow and Black Attack" as well, but, again, I'm only nitpicking here. I enjoyed the set.

I liked Michael's sense of humor inbetween songs as well as his genuine positive comments to the audience. The band after some recent bumps in the road seem to be back on track and that was a great thing to see.

I love the fact that Robert is back to playing a large kit and is facing stage right again just like in the old days. His constant headbanging while playing was definitely a throwback to the classic era of the band.

Perry never missed a beat with his 5-string bass holding down the bottom end all night. Oz looked and sounded great. As all fans were concerned for his well-being, he's taking it a day at a time and not overdoing it. But, if you didn't know about his health concerns, you never would of known based on how he performed last night. One constructive suggestion would be for Perry and Oz to switch sides every now and then during a song. They're wireless so it would be easy to walk over to opposite sides of the stage and play to other parts of the room.

Michael hit the notes when he needed to and played guitar as well as always. That unique Stryper tone was evident as soon as they started, "Yahweh". He and I discussed that in our phone interview (see link below). Several people around me were saying, "whoa" many times when he hit a high note in a song. Again, he wasn't feeling well last night so that's a testament to his professionalism and performance.

I don't think anyone left El Corazon disappointed Tuesday night. I know I didn't. I'm hoping the band make it back to Seattle in the next few years, hopefully booked at a club with a bigger stage to accommodate all their gear with room to spare.

Thanks for coming back to Seattle. Portland - you're up next. Are there any "Soldiers Under Command" in PDX?

All the best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

EA on FB
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Special Thanks: Brian for the credentials and Ellena for the constant communication setting things up - thank you very much for the opportunity! I sincerely appreciate it!

(Audio Interview w/Michael Sweet - 10/31/18)

After Show:

(Photo Courtesy:  Neil Lim Sang)

(Phone Photo)

(Phone Photo)

Sunday, November 4, 2018

ALL PREMIERE Pacific Northwest Ballet Event Review! Seattle, WA McCaw Hall 11/3/18


Pacific Northwest Ballet

McCaw Hall
Seattle, WA

(Photo: (c) Angela Sterling)


I started Eclectic Arts in 2011. I knew from the get-go I wanted to cast a wide net when it came to what we covered at EA. Music was the obvious starter but soon a bit of television and film widened our coverage. The craft beer scene opened new horizons as well. This year we broke the doors down with a ton of musical theatre coverage as well as local theatre coverage. While there were many other artistic areas to pursue, the next on the list that always intrigued me was dance. It was a no brainer to begin with the Pacific Northwest Ballet Company and when a preview of "All Premiere" showed up online, I felt that what I saw in that 30-second clip would be a good start for Eclectic Arts.

So, for those reading this review, please understand I am by no means a student of dance nor do I understand the nuances of the performances (yet). I am writing this review from the vantage point of someone new to the art but not new to the arts - if that makes any sense.

"All Premiere" showcased three very different pieces on Saturday afternoon. The world premiere of "A Dark and Lonely Space" with choreography by Kyle Davis. The PNB premiere of "Silent Ghost" with choreography by Alejandro Cerrudo and the PNB premiere of "Cacti" with choreography by Alexander Ekman.

"A Dark and Lonely Space" began with an amazing score by Michael Giacchino. Cinematic in scope and emotion, the music set up the dance beautifully. Soprano Christina Siemens voice echoed throughout McCaw Hall as the story unfolded through the clean yet powerful choreography by Kyle Davis. I found "A Dark and Lonely Space" to be the most emotional of the three pieces. Tugging at the descriptive narrative of humanity and the behaviors humans' display, the movement was intriguing as the story unfolded. For my first credentialed experience, "A Dark and Lonely Space" was a great way to start.

(Photo:  (c) Angela Sterling)

After a brief intermission, "Silent Ghost" began. With spoken word and music defining the backdrop for the piece, "Silent Ghost" was visually stunning. The choreography at times made me look twice at the performers, as their movements were so fluid it was almost like an illusion. I was particularly captivated during the middle sequence where it seemed the dancers were moving through water. The tone of "Silent Ghost" was a good contrast to "A Dark and Lonely Space". Another fine performance piece. 

(Photo: (c) Angela Sterling)

After a second brief intermission, "Cacti" started up. Dance theatre would be a simple way to describe the piece (but not doing it justice). The tiles that the dancers performed on, the humor, the consistent change of choreography left the audience stunned. It reminded me in places of performance art ala Blue Man Group but only a little. "Cacti" stood on it's own and was such a joy to watch. I am always in awe of any artists when they are operating at a high level and I found inspiration while watching "Cacti". Very different than the other two pieces that made up "All Premiere", "Cacti" was probably the easiest to understand for the novice PNB audience member (like me). Kudos to the light direction as well on this piece - top notch. 

(Photo (c) Angela Sterling)

Overall the performances of all three premieres were as artistic as I had hoped for. I am looking forward to learning more about dance, the choreography, the stories being told, and hope I get another opportunity to cover a future Pacific Northwest Ballet event. If they're anything like "All Premiere" I know I'll leave a satisfied patron just like I did today.

All the best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
EA on FB
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Special Thanks: Gary for the credentials - thank you very much for the opportunity!

"All Premiere" continues through November 11, 2018. Good seats are still available!

Just To See SMOKEY ROBINSON - Event Review Snoqualmie Casino - 11/1/18

Smokey Robinson

Snoqualmie, WA


Like millions of people, I grew up hearing Motown artists in the household where I grew up. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles were one of many that I remember as well as Smokey's solo work.

Thursday evening at the Snoqualmie Casino, as a part of their 10th Anniversary celebration, the legend himself took the stage for a performance I will never forget.

The 9-piece backing band kicked off the night before major applause erupted in the event center as Smokey strolled out from stage left singing the opening lyrics to, "Being With You". For the next 90-minutes (give or take), the legend showed that after decades of entertaining audiences, he has not missed a beat.

His signature voice was as clean and sensual as ever. And the man was singing live - no backing tapes. Smokey played a mix of tunes from throughout his expansive career. Songs such as, "Second That Emotion", "Oooo Baby, Baby", "Just To See Her", "Tracks of My Tears", and set ender, "Cruisin'" all sounded truly phenomenal.

As a legendary tunesmith, Smokey has written or co-written thousands of songs, not to mention his production and Motown management work. He performed a medley of tunes he wrote for the Temptations - including one of their signature songs, "My Girl" - to a very appreciative audience.

Moving and singing like an artist from twenty years ago (or more), Smokey Robinson was an inspiration. It honestly tripped me out afterward to think I just saw/heard "the" Smokey Robinson sing a classic song like, "Tracks of My Tears" live. Unbelievable!

Thank you Smokey Robinson for all the amazing music over the years. I hope to see you on a return show to the Pacific Northwest soon.

All the best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

EA on FB
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Special Thanks: Tarah and Jennifer of Snoqualmie Casino for handling the credentials. Your consistent communication was much appreciated and everything happened without an issue. Thank you also to Mr. Barnes for the initial approval - I sincerely appreciate the opportunity!