Monday, November 18, 2019

"Shout Sister Shout!" Event Review! 11/16/19



Cheryl L. West

Directed by: Randy Johnson

Seattle Rep


My first visit to the Seattle Rep to review, “Shout Sister Shout!” turned out to be a magnificent show to start with. A bar setting kind of magnificent.

The show was all about the early gospel vocal and guitar pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe (played by Carrie Compere). Sighted as an influence on everyone from Little Richard to Elvis Presley to Bob Dylan, Sister Rosetta Tharpe came from very humble beginnings to eventual fame and fortune. Along the way there were many obstacles in her life - including family, relationships, and society as a whole. The show covered her life from the early beginnings to the very end.

The cast could not have been better. Carrie Compere as Sister Rosetta Tharpe was absolutely magnetic when she was on stage. Her voice was out of this world and her acting was a sight to behold. At one point I felt like I was watching a documentary - she was that good. What an amazing talent!

Right next to her Carol Dennis as her mother Katie Bell Nubin (and Mahalia Jackson) was equally as talented and jaw droppingly great any time she was on stage, too.  The scenes with the two of them were my favorites of the night.

The whole cast was just brilliant. Jason Kappus (who I had previously seen as Elvis Presley in Million Dollar Quartet) as Richie/Red Foley played his parts perfectly. Lawrence Clayton as Reverend Tharpe was captivating as Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s violent first husband. There were absolutely no weak links in this cast. None.  The ensemble actors had many parts to play and were stellar at all of them - singing, dancing, and acting up a storm.

The staging was extremely well done and I particularly loved the scene transitions on stage. The band showed their chops throughout the performance and kept the audience absolutely engaged in the story.

“Shout Sister Shout!” could not have been better. This is one show everyone needs to see. If this is the caliber of material the Seattle Rep produces, I hope to be invited back for every other show they have this season.


Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
EA on YT

“Shout Sister Shout!” continues through December 22, 2019. Buy tickets here:  TICKETS!

Thursday, November 14, 2019

ROBERT CRAY Event Review! Edmonds, WA 11/12/19

Robert Cray

Edmonds Center for the Arts
Edmonds, WA

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


I remember waiting outside (the now defunct) Tower Records in Bellevue, WA back in September of 1987. The day prior the Robert Cray Band had just played a blistering set at the local music festival Bumbershoot. Touring in support of their crossover album, "Strong Persuader", I stood in line at the record store to meet Robert Cray and the band (three of four in total were at the signing). I got my album, poster, and t-shirt signed - all of which I still have to this day.

Fast forward to Tuesday evening in Edmonds, WA. Robert Cray, along with longtime bassist Richard Cousins, keyboardist Dover Weinberg, and drummer Terence F. Clark, performed to a sold out house at the Edmonds Center for the Arts.

With no opening act, the band hit the stage at 7:40pm and performed an expansive set of material for just over ninety-minutes.

Tucked back toward the middle of the stage, the band was in the pocket immediately. Robert's smooth vocal lines along with his crisp and clear Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster tones were immediately evident. The man doesn't age, I swear. I expected down tuned numbers but that was not the case. Robert and the band sounded as good as they did over thirty years ago.

I particularly enjoyed, "(Won't Be) Coming Home" with its storyline lyrics and emotional guitar playing. I also liked the lighthearted instrumental, "Hip Tight Onions", complete with Robert and Richard twerk interpretations.

Of course, with the crossover period from 1986 through the early 90's, many in the audience wanted to hear tunes from that era. They were granted one, the always effective, "Right Next Door (Because Of Me)" from the, "Strong Persuader" album. Robert has been known to play a wide range of material and not always the proverbial "hits". I was more than fine with this as he has such a spectacular catalog to pull from.

It can't be stated enough just how great the entire band sounded. There's a reason Robert Cray has had such an amazing career for over forty years. Everything worked last night and it was clear we were in the hands of a blues master.

It should also be mentioned that his drawing power in the area (as many consider him "one of ours" since he spent time growing up in Tacoma and Lakewood) couldn't be overstated. He was just here in July playing an outdoor show to open up the Summer Concert Series at the Tulalip Amphitheatre. The Edmonds show on Tuesday night was sold out and the show in Kirkland, WA a mere thirty minutes away is also sold out tonight as I type this.

Robert Cray and the band put on a special performance at the Edmonds Center for the Arts. I'm so glad I was there to witness it.

Best regards,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
EA on YT

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

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

Sunday, November 10, 2019


Seattle Symphony

The Movie Music of John Williams

Benaroya Hall
Seattle, WA


They got me. The Seattle Symphony, conductor Lawrence Loh, the powers that be in charge of the program for these shows - they got me.

I looked at the program online a few days prior to the performance. I was very pleased with the selections I saw but one piece was missing, glaringly so. I should of known better but at the time I thought they just decided to omit it from the program.

The encore last night proved me wrong in glorious ways. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

“The Movie Music of John Williams” was a sold out event on Saturday evening. As soon as I walked into the lobby, I could tell. Patrons were everywhere. Young and old. Subscribers and first timers to the symphony. There was a strong sense of anticipation in the air and that’s the best scenario for any performance.

Conductor Lawrence Loh is becoming familiar to me as I’ve seen him twice prior conducting the Seattle Symphony for both Star Wars concerts (“A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back”). His affinity for the pops material assured me we were in good hands for the performance.

The program started with the “Olympic Fanfare and Theme” from the 1984 Olympics. Conductor Loh spoke engagingly between the pieces giving back story, staged comedy, and the like. It was very evident that he is a genuine fan of the material which was great to see and hear. He knew more about the Star Wars franchise than I did!

The first act covered much of the more famous collaborations between John Williams and director Steven Spielberg. The main title themes from, “Jurassic Park”, “Jaws”, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, and, “E.T.” were all performed with energy and distinct reverence. It was also nice that some lesser known pieces were included such as the tango from, “Scent Of A Woman” and a number from, “War Horse”.

After the intermission, the second act launched into three pieces from the hugely popular world of Harry Potter. The main theme sounded wonderful as did, “Fluffy and His Harp” and “Aunt Marge’s Waltz”.

At this point it was time to delve into the Star Wars films. The original trilogy was covered as expected and a surprising inclusion of, “Across The Stars” from “Attack Of The Clones” turned out to be one of the best numbers of the night.

There was some intentional comedy when three volunteers were recruited to add some special F/X to one piece. Conductor Loh had mentioned earlier there would be no video screens or special F/X but conceded a zero budget special F/X for, “Here They Come!” The three volunteers on cue ran down the aisle and back - one with a toy Millenium Falcon and the other two with toy TIE Fighters. This number also included the audience mimicking the explosion of a TIE Fighter toward the end.

This all set up the last number of the evening, the main title theme from, “Star Wars”. The symphony sounded especially strong on this piece and the crowd roared in approval once it finished.

Now, remember what I said earlier about how I had been had (good naturedly of course)?  For whatever reason I just didn’t consider an encore number. Considering the number of concerts I review each year you would think this would be a no brainer (expecting an encore) - but no - I was caught off guard. Conductor Loh came back on stage wearing a hat. A fedora to be exact.


I was a very happy camper as they launched into the main title theme from, “Raiders Of The Lost Ark”. Those that were headed up the aisles returned to their seats to hear the rousing rendition of the beloved movie theme.

This concluded the performance of, “The Movie Music of John Williams”.

What a fantastic performance by the Seattle Symphony, the soloists, and of course conductor Lawrence Loh. After hearing such a wide range of John Williams music, it really hit me that his scores are a soundtrack to much of my life. From seeing, “Star Wars” in 1977 up to the current piece they played from, “Solo”, I, along with millions of others, hold the music of John Williams dear as it represents different parts of my life, not to mention the sheer joy his music and those films brought me over the years.

From the first note to the last, there was no way to make this night any better. Bravo to the Seattle Symphony and conductor Lawrence Loh!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

LOCALLY SOURCED - Pacific Northwest Ballet 11/8/19


Pacific Northwest Ballet

McCaw Hall
Seattle, WA

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Elizabeth Murphy with corps de ballet dancer Luther DeMyer in Miles Pertl’s Wash of Gray, which PNB is premiering as part of LOCALLY SOURCED, with additional new works by Eva Stone and Donald Byrd, November 8 – 17, 2019. Photo © Angela Sterling.


In some ways it's hard to believe it's been a year of covering events of the Pacific Northwest Ballet at McCaw Hall. My first event last year was also a mixed bill of performances. I remember feeling rather out of my element (actually way out of my element) but also excited to learn about an art form I really knew nothing about except for attending, "The Nutcracker" a time or two.

Yet, twelve months later, many YouTube videos and library material checkouts later, a few precious interviews with PNB dancers later, and of course a season's worth of magnificent performances later, here we are.

"Locally Sourced" showcased local choreographer's and their world premiere works. Through PNB's New Works Initiative, the company continues to bring to the stage new modern ballet productions.

Starting off with Eva Stone's, "F O I L", the production was divided into five distinct pieces. The lighting design immediately drew the audience into the show. Chandeliers were expertly incorporated in various designs throughout the five pieces, which was a beautiful setting for the choreography to unfold.

The movement of the dancers was timed impeccably to the music - arguably the best of the evening. The execution at times was a bit off but only for mere seconds. There was an air of beauty to all five pieces, danced predominately by female dancers. As the production concluded, many "bravos" were shouted throughout the hall and deservedly so. This was my favorite show of the night.

Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in Eva Stone’s F O I L which PNB is premiering as part of LOCALLY SOURCED, with additional new works by Donald Byrd and Miles Pertl, November 8 – 17, 2019. Photo © Angela Sterling.

"Love and Loss" by well-known choreographer Donald Byrd was presented next. The longest production of the evening, this piece was very interpretive and required the audience to notice the detail of the dancers to understand the story. Performed in four movements, "Love and Loss" was set to minimalist music that, at times, droned on during the points of loss. Minor keys were used to direct effect with major key changes used sparingly to promote the love aspect of the story.

The die hard ballet audience ate this one up, enraptured by the storyline. I felt it was actually a bit long myself. I also felt the music could have used more variance to get the same message across in the story.

The production was expertly staged but it didn’t resonate with me as much as I thought it would.

Pacific Northwest Ballet corps de ballet dancers Madison Rayn Abeo and Dammiel Cruz in Donald Byrd’s Love and Loss, which PNB is premiering as part of LOCALLY SOURCED, with additional new works by Eva Stone and Miles Pertl, November 8 – 17, 2019. Photo © Angela Sterling.

"Wash of Gray" by PNB company member Miles Pertl was in the cleanup position in the program. Presented as a nod to the greater Seattle area, complete with screen images and audio to match, the production was presented in six parts with titles paying homage to Seattle.

This show would make a great piece to present to the audience at large, the folks that will fill McCaw Hall from the end of November until a month later, and then disappear for eleven months again.

The imagery was fun and made perfect sense. At times it actually took away from the choreography on stage but not overly so. The staging and effects were breathtaking during certain parts of the production.

For those that have been following the PNB's social media, company dancer Sarah Pasch had become the focus of this piece as she is expecting in a few months time. Her appearance in the fourth act, "Swainson's Thrush", was well received if a bit short. I would of loved to have seen an outfit that was a tad more form fitting to make it abundantly clear that a baby is on the way (for those that weren't aware). Congratulations to Sarah and Ezra by the way!

Overall, this piece really screamed, "Locally Sourced" and was a perfect way to end the evening.

My first mixed bill of the 2019-2020 season was also my one-year anniversary of reviewing performances at the Pacific Northwest Ballet. It was (and has been) refreshing to see new works again and the variety in this particular bill was most welcome.

I'm very grateful for the opportunity to review the productions at the Pacific Northwest Ballet. I still have much to learn and I have a feeling I'll be saying that again next year when it's my second anniversary. It's been a journey educating myself about the high art that is ballet. But, I can honestly say it's been a very enjoyable journey thus far. Here's to another year!

See you at the ballet!
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
EA on YT

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

"Locally Sourced" continues through November 17th, 2019. Buy tickets here:  TICKETS!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

PETER HOOK AND THE LIGHT Event Review! Seattle, WA 11/5/19

Peter Hook and The Light

Seattle, WA

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


I was fortunate enough to cover Peter Hook and The Light the last time they played Seattle about a year and a half ago. Tonight's set was to be more New Order heavy than last time as Hooky (nickname) announced they would be playing, "Technique" and "Republic" in their entirety, followed by a third set of New Order and Joy Division classics.

The near capacity crowd was lined up on 45th street in the University District of Seattle waiting for the doors to open at 7pm. Once they did the first few dozen fans went straight to the rail to claim their spots for the night.

With no opening act, Hooky and his band The Light walked on stage at 8pm and proceeded right into, "Fine Time", the first song of the, "Technique" album and set. With David (guitar/vocals), Jack (bass/guitar/background vocals), Paul (drums), and Martin (keys), the band sounded great! Of course Hooky switched between the classic six-string and four-string basses depending on the songs. Swinging the basses low while playing many a melody on the higher register of the instrument, Hooky's classic sound was front and center as it should be.

After the first set, the band took a brief 15 minute break before returning for set two of the night. "Regret" kicked things off from the, "Republic" album and set. Eleven songs in this set kept the fans very happy.

Once the second set ended, the band took a very short break (5-10 minutes), before returning for the "encore" set if you will. Ripping into, "Warsaw", the crowd ate it up and continued to do so for every song in the third set. "Colony", "Heart and Soul", "She's Lost Control", "Ceremony", "World In Motion" (complete with guest singer), surprisingly "Blue Monday" was in the set as it has been left out of most of the shows on this U.S. tour, "Temptation", and of course set ender, "Love Will Tear Us Apart". The band walked off stage and it was around 10:45pm. They played for over two hours - just like last time they were in town. They definitely give the fans their money's worth when you see a show.

It cannot be stated enough how good the band sounded. It was especially cool seeing Hooky and Jack on tour once again. What a thrill it must be to play with your son/dad. Also, big kudos to Paul on drums as well. I remember being impressed with his playing last year and this year was no different.

The audience was made up of forty and fifty something's that wanted to hear the soundtrack to their early musical lives. But, there were also younger fans in the audience - some that came with their parents while others were there enjoying the songs from two of the most influential bands of the punk/goth/alternative/dance scene in the late 70's, 80's and 90's - Joy Division and New Order.

Hooky has been playing a wide range of vintage material ever since he and The Light started touring in 2010. It has been such a joy to hear these songs (many for the first time) live. Many thanks to Peter Hook and The Light for giving us fans the opportunity to appreciate and revel in the magnificence of these timeless songs.

Any time you come back to Seattle, I, along with all the other fans, will be there to support you!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Special Thanks: Jason - thank you for another opportunity!

(social media links on home page)

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

Monday, November 4, 2019



Village Theatre

Everett Performing Arts Center
Everett, WA

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee pre-production photo.
© 2019 Mark Kitaoka
Property of Village Theatre.


I was a participant in one spelling bee in elementary school. I didn’t win. I don’t even remember what word I misspelled. I do remember being nervous and excited at the same time. The season kick off show for the Village Theatre this season (their 40th) was all about a group of spelling bee contestants. The show also incorporated a few audience members that volunteered to be a part of the show.

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” was brightly staged in the Everett Performing Arts Center. The stage resembled a high school auditorium complete with painted brick walls, bleachers, a desk for the judges, and other assorted school decor (including banners on the walls of the venue).

As directed by Brandon Ivie, the show was well paced and intermission free. The widely diverse cast of characters were individually unique which made for some very funny moments.

I was familiar with a few cast members from other shows. Brian Lange was decisively amazing as vice principal Douglas Panch. Arika Matoba was another familiar face as the high achieving and misunderstood character of Marcy Park.

The cast across the board sang, acted, and entertained like a professional ensemble with no weak links whatsoever. Jessica Skerritt as Rona Lisa Perretti started the show and was covering all sorts of bases with her character. When she wasn’t delivering witty lines, she was singing lead, ensemble, and background to other characters numbers.

The cast of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee production photo.
© 2019 Tracy Martin
Property of Village Theatre.

The use of audience members made for an interesting addition to the show. Three of the four were eliminated from the spelling bee rather early. One member however was on stage for a good chunk of the production. She rolled with the punches and eventually lost her place in the bee as well.

One thing I’ve noticed with the shows at the Village Theatre is that they are of a certain quality. Regardless of the material, the acting, staging, lighting, and direction among other things is always top notch. This show was no exception. It was a strong production throughout.

I do think that an intermission may need to be considered for future shows that are 90-minutes or longer. This is the second show I’ve attended where there was no intermission. For me it’s not really an issue. For some of the older audience members, or those with small bladders, it becomes a test of how long can you “hold it” which is never good. Plus, it allows for more concession sales.  Just a very minor suggestion.

Overall, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” was entertaining and incredibly well done. You will be entertained for sure when you see a performance!

See you at the theatre,
Eclectic Arts
EA on YT

Thank you to Ann for the opportunity. I appreciate it!

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” continues through November 17th in Everett. Purchase tickets here:  TICKETS!

The cast of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee production photo.
© 2019 Mark Kitaoka
Property of Village Theatre.

THREE SINGING SISTERS Event Review! Seattle, WA 11/2/19


The Costa-Jackson Sisters

McCaw Hall
Seattle, WA


Saturday evening McCaw Hall was the stage for the Three Singing Sisters Concert. Featuring two cast members from the very recent, “Cinderella” production by the Seattle Opera - mezzo-soprano Ginger Costa-Jackson and coloratura soprano Miriam Costa-Jackson, along with third sister spinto lyric soprano Marina Costa-Jackson, the audience was delighted with an abundance of songs divided into three programs.

Accompanied by pianist John Keene with stage direction by Dan Wallace Miller, the first program consisted of opera songs from a wide range of productions, aside from the opening number of, “Sisters, Sisters” from White Christmas.

Ginger, Marina, and Miriam came out in beautiful evening gowns and proceeded to sing their hearts out. Each song featured a different configuration of singers. Most were solo pieces, a few were done as a duo, and of course there were songs where all three sisters were on stage.

With sixteen years of professional experience between the sisters, each number was performed with the level of skill one would expect from such talented performers. The program featured songs from Bizet, Verdi, Puccini, and Gounod among others.

After a short intermission, the second program began. Complete with a wardrobe change (sparkly evening gowns) this was the portion of the evening I was the most curious about - musical theater. Three of the five songs were done as a trio, with one as a duo, and one as a solo number. I found youngest sister Miriam’s voice the most suitable for the musical theater material. Don’t get me wrong, all three sounded great, but Miriam’s voice really worked well with the numbers chosen.

The third program was Neapolitan and Favorite Italian Songs. The sisters made mention and thanks to their mother who was in attendance at the performance. With a spotlight acknowledgment of mom, the sisters launched into, “Mamma son tanto felice”. Four of the songs were performed as a trio, and the other three were done as solo pieces for each sister.

By the end of the third program, the sisters took their bows, the audience rose to their feet, the sisters exited the stage, and the applause lasted until the Costa-Jackson Sisters returned to the stage for an encore.

“Nessun Dorma” brought the house down as the sisters once again thanked the audience and exited the stage for the night.

The concert was a revelation in sheer talent. It was fun seeing the performers sing songs that were out of opera character. I would of enjoyed more insight into the sisters as people (there was more staged banter than I would have liked) in-between songs but that’s a very minor quibble.

The lasting notes of the encore still ring in my ears today - two days later. What an impressive performance by three incredibly talented artists. Thank you for sharing your talents with Seattle!

Eclectic Arts

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

MISS SAIGON Opening Night Review! Seattle, WA 10/29/19


Paramount Theatre
Seattle, WA

(The helicopter lands in "The Nightmare" in MISS SAIGON.  Photo: Matthew Murphy and Johan Persson)


The 2019-2020 season of Broadway At The Paramount opened up last night with the long time favorite, “Miss Saigon”. Starring Red Concepcion, Emily Bautista, and Anthony Festa, the Paramount Theatre was filled with anxious attendees on a very cool October evening.

The musical has received brilliant notices for its current incarnation as well as some criticism due to the narrative (specifically the portrayal of the Asian characters as well as most of the female characters, among other things).  I have never seen the musical so I went in as fresh as possible. My review is from that vantage point.

The opening sequence in Act I was off putting to some. While it was no more offensive than any movie scene I’ve watched, it surely didn’t depict (Asian) women in a positive light to say the least. On one hand it’s part of a story set in a time when things are not what they are now. On the other hand sex workers are workers, too. But, the scene came off as rather tasteless for a musical in 2019.

The story improved as the show went along in Act I. It must be mentioned that Red Concepcion as The Engineer was simply a marvel to behold. He showed his veteran leadership in the role and was captivating any time he was on stage.

Emily Bautista as Kim was also magnificent in the role. She captured the essence of the longing between her and Chris (the soldier that falls in love with her) as well as the surprise later in the show (no spoilers here). Her voice was strong yet vulnerable as she belted out some of the best known songs from the musical.

When Act II started, the timeline had shifted to the U.S. in the 70’s - post war. Again, no spoilers here but Kim and Chris are in separate countries and there are obstacles in their way to seeing each other again.

Overall, the show was incredibly well done. The staging really was magnificent. The helicopter flashback was one of the most impressive things I’ve seen at a show thus far. The multi-tiered stage was also put to effective use throughout the show.  The large ensemble cast was also strong across the board. There really was nothing to fault with this show from my viewpoint.

But when the show was over I was a bit torn about what I thought. As many of you know, one of my basic litmus tests is I ask myself would I see this (show, concert, event, etc.) again? In the case of, “Miss Saigon”, I would but with some reservations.

Being an Asian American, the show was enjoyable but definitely dated in terms of the material. I kept asking myself could they update this show to make it work for 2019. The answer is probably not. It wouldn’t be the same show, really. I also asked myself with so many other musicals out there and new ones being created, do we really need a show that depicts some characters in such demeaning ways. Again, probably not.

Let me close by saying again that the cast and everyone involved put on a spectacular musical last night. My criticism is with the show as it stands today. While it’s been seen (and loved) by millions since its debut over twenty-eight years ago, it may be time to consider retiring the show for good.

Having said that, when I left the theatre last night, a group of twenty-somethings behind me were absolutely gushing over the show, the music, the love story, etc. When I separated from them, I looked over and saw that they were a group of Asian females. So, clearly the narrative didn’t bother them at all.

The show runs through this Sunday evening.  Check out a performance and let me know if you agree or disagree with my assessment.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
EA on YT

Special Thanks: Julie for always having everything working like clockwork. Thank you for the opportunity. I really appreciate it!

“Miss Saigon” plays through November 2nd. Tickets can be purchased here:  TICKETS!

(Red ConcepciĆ³n as‘The Engineer,’Jace Chen as‘Tam’and Emily Bautista as‘Kim’in the North American Tour of MISS SAIGON  Photo by Matthew Murphy.)

(Emily Bautista as "Kim" and Anthony Festa as "Chris" in the North American Tour of MISS SAIGON singing, "Last Night Of The World".  Photo by Matthew Murphy)

Monday, October 28, 2019

DEATH TAX Event Review! TIPPs Edmonds Driftwood Players Edmonds, WA 10/24/19

Death Tax


Lucas Hnath

Directed by Curtis Rawls

TIPs (Theater of Intriguing Possibilities)
Edmonds Driftwood Players
The Wade James Theatre
Edmonds, WA

(Kris Hambrick-Carol Richmond-Cara Thomas-James Hamilton - Photo by Dale Sutton of Magic Photo)


"Death Tax" opened at the Edmonds Driftwood Players for a short two-week run of performances.

Presented in five scenes (three in Act I and two in Act II), "Death Tax" featured four very capable actors. The story revolves around Maxine (played by Carol Richmond) who is on her deathbed. One of her nurses Tina (played by Cara Thomas) is a single parent trying to make a life for herself and her son (who doesn't live with her when the show starts). Maxine believes her own daughter (played by Kris "Pepper" Hambrick) is trying to hurry along the process of her passing so she can avoid the taxes owed before the end of the calendar year. Todd (played by James Hamilton) is Cara's co-worker who wants a relationship with Cara even though Cara isn't interested (they had a previous fling). Maxine offers to pay Cara a weekly stipend as well as a sizeable bonus if she keeps her alive into the New Year.

Right from scene one, Cara Thomas commanded the stage and her role as Tina. This was a strong indicator of what was to come as Cara was in every scene (as Tina and also the social worker Candice) in the play.

Carol Richmond took hold of her character by the end of the show. Scene one set things up nicely but it was in the last scene that she let loose and showed some brilliant acting chops.

I loved Kris "Pepper" Hambrick's role as the daughter. I wish there were more scenes with her involved. The back and forth with her as the daughter and Tina the nurse were some of the strongest of the production.

James Hamilton as Todd was also another strong pillar in this cast. The Todd and Tina scenes were captivating and extremely well done. James also played the grandson Charley toward the end of the play.

(Kris Hambrick - Photo by Dale Sutton of Magic Photo)

There is a twist in the plot but I won't reveal that here. Let's just say it worked. Well.

The play explored many familiar themes with family. The broken relationship between mother and daughter, the confusing relationship between two co-workers, the powerful and guilt driven relationship between a mother and her son, and the inevitable relationship between the elderly and eventual death.

There was foul language peppered throughout certain scenes. Some of it was necessary and added to the texture of the material, some of it wasn't.

"Death Tax" reached out to the audience and made us think about our own relationships with family and how it's never too late to make amends when needed.

I'm glad I got a chance to see this play. It was incredibly well done and everyone involved should feel proud of the production. I left the theatre lost in thought and that is one of the best signs that a show worked for me.

See you at the theatre,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
EA on YT

Special Thanks: Katie - thank you for the opportunity!

My apologies to the team for the post-run review. I caught one of the last performances this past week thus the late review.

Coming Up Next: "A Christmas Story"  November 29 - December 22.  Purchase Tickets Here:  TICKETS!

(Cara Thomas-James Hamilton.  Photo by Dale Sutton of Magic Photo)

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 comeback 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, not 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
EA on FB
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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
EA on FB
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EA on YT

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

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