Monday, December 23, 2019

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


Olympic Ballet Theatre

Edmonds Center for the Arts
Edmonds, Wa

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Seattle Musical Theatre
Shoreline, WA

(Cast Photo - courtesy of SMT)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
Eclecticartszine AT gmail DOT com

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

Monday, December 16, 2019

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

Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some!)

Taproot Theatre
Seattle, WA

(Photo Credit:  Krissy Grant)


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

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

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

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

(Photo Credit:  Krissy Grant)

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

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

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

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

(Photo Credit:  Krissy Grant)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

HOLIDAY POPS Seattle Symphony Event Review 12/8/19


Seattle Symphony

Benaroya Hall
Seattle, WA


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happiest of holidays and see you all next year!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
Eclecticartszine AT gmail DOT com

WINTER BEERFEST 2019 Event Review! 12/7/19

Winter Beerfest

Seattle, WA
(Session 3 Report)

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


While Eclectic Arts has been working fast and furiously throughout 2019, one of our founding areas of coverage was long overdue for some attention. Enter the Winter Beerfest 2019 at Magnuson Park.

I have fond memories of the craft beer movement both locally and abroad dating back to the 90's. Craft beer people are good people. I was looking forward to reconnecting with some of those said people and seeing what the current WA craft beer scene had to offer.

The first tip that things were a bit different this year was that (to my knowledge) none of the sessions were sold out in advance. Normally, the third session would go first on Saturday night but there were still tickets available at the door. The folks running the event were nice enough to open the doors a little early due to the inclement weather (the official time was 5:30pm but we went in maybe ten minutes early). Thank you for doing this - it shows you care about the fans!

Another thing that was different from two years ago was that more people brought camping chairs and accessories to sit down toward the entrance area. I remember seeing a few groups doing so two years ago but this year there were several - us included. Our friends joined us a few minutes later and we were off!

Beer festivals are always better with a crowd and this year was no exception. From the obvious like talking and catching up on everything under the sun to tasting each others samples, more the merrier is always the way to go at a beer festival.

In past years I would scour the program, pen in hand, and circle either what I needed to try or what I did try. And sometimes even add a rating of 1-5. This year I wanted to browse and go with the flow.

My favorite brewery of the night was Kulshan Brewing Company from Bellingham, WA. I had both of their session rotators - both of which were barleywines at 5:30pm and 7:30pm. Both were excellent but very different in style - I'd hazard one was American and the other British. The Kitten Mittens winter ale was also extremely drinkable. Excellent beers all three of them!

The nano-brewery out of Bothell - Watts Brewing Company - had a really solid Baltic Porter - a part of their Solitary Series of beers. I'd love to have that beer with a bit of age on it. I bet it would be even better than it was fresh (and it was great fresh).

Sometimes the long-standing breweries get overlooked because, well, they've been around for so long fans think they've had everything from them already. If you skipped Hales Ales Brewery and their Seattle Fog - an earl grey flavored roasty stout - you missed out. One of the most unique and flavorful beers I had at the festival. Unique doesn't always equal good but in this case it did - this beer was wonderful.

The old Nitro Industrial HO!HO!HO! from Diamond Knot Brewing was how I remembered it - extremely drinkable, especially on Nitro. I tried to hit the familiar and the non throughout the evening.

Figurehead Brewing out of Seattle showed up with their St. Charlie Imperial Doppelbock. While I started out drinking lagers of all kinds, I eventually switched to ales over the years. But this doppelbock was flavorful, full, and smooth.

Another old staple from Anacortes Brewery to give myself a break from the big winter beers was found in Herbert's Ale - in honor of industry pioneer Bert Grant from Grant's Ales from east of the mountains. Solid brew that I could have had a few pints of for sure.

A sip of many other beers yielded mixed results. The Samsparilla Stout from Counterbalance Brewing (Seattle) was awesome. The rotators from Fremont Brewing (Seattle) are always a hit and the Dark Star and B-Bomb variants were no exception. I had sips of two different tripels - neither of which fit the style in my opinion. The Darker Persuasion from Icicle Brewing Company (Leavenworth) was a more intense version of their fan favorite Dark Persuasion.

Overall, in terms of the tokens I used, all of my beers were either good or great. No stinkers in the bunch. My friends had a few misses but that's to be expected at a beer festival. That's also part of why everyone goes to a beer festival - to try other beers and sample the offerings from breweries that are new to them.

The crowd was festive and fun. No issues that I was aware of. Again, craft beer people are good people. We got crowded in our sitting area - but that's a minor quibble. Quality food trucks outside, food vendors inside, and a photo op area for those wanting to flood social media. WABL set up inside and merchandise in what I call the annex of the hangar (the other side toward the restrooms).

A very enjoyable night of craft beer from some of Washington's finest breweries - happy holidays!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
EA on FB
Eclecticartszine AT gmail DOT com

Special Thanks: Matt - thank you for adding me to the media list. I sincerely appreciate it and hope I can cover more events in the future!

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Mark Morris Dance Group "THE HARD NUT" Seattle, WA 12/6/19

The Hard Nut

Paramount Theatre
Seattle, WA

(Photo Credit:  Mat Hayward)


When the 2019-2020 Broadway at The Paramount season was announced, I had no clue what this show was about. After looking into it further, I found in simple terms it was a creative take on "The Nutcracker".

As I left the Paramount Theatre last night, I heard a wide range of statements from the patrons. "That was weird." "Beautiful dancing." "I don't get it." "That was better than "The Nutcracker"." As you can see from my very small sampling, the reaction was mixed last night.

The Mark Morris Dance Group presented a highly creative interpretation of, "The Nutcracker" on opening night. The show was dynamic, humorous, colorful, creative, and chock full of choreography that worked so well on many levels.

(Photo Credit:  Mat Hayward)

During the first act, there was so much going on on stage that I felt like I missed things. Repeated viewings are in order to fully catch everything that was being presented.

If you know the story of, "The Nutcracker", than you'll see how the show good-naturedly pokes fun at some aspects of it. Also, if you have a dance background, there are many things happening on stage that only dancers will understand - sort of "in" jokes.

The dancing was a wide range of styles, not just ballet. The snowflake scene in act one was marvelous. Such fun and whimsical choreography set perfectly to the music. It was beautiful and humorous at the same time. 

  (Photo Credit:  Mat Hayward)

In act two the creative madness continued to great effect. I found myself smiling through much of the pieces, in awe of the creative ways Mark Morris choreographed the numbers and told the story.

I found, "The Hard Nut" extremely entertaining. I had just reviewed, "The Nutcracker" one week previously so the traditional show was still fresh in my mind. "The Hard Nut" was the kind of show that most creative types would love, dancers or not. It was a fresh take on an old tale.

The show runs through December 15th. Tickets can be bought here:  TICKETS!   Don't miss out!

Happy Holidays,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
EA on FB
Eclecticartszine AT gmail DOT com

Thanks: Emily and Julie - I really appreciate it. Thank you!

(Photo Credit:  Mat Hayward)

Thursday, December 5, 2019

A CHRISTMAS STORY THE MUSICAL Edmonds Driftwood Players 12/5/19

A Christmas Story
The Musical

Edmonds Driftwood Players
Wade James Theatre


(Merry Senn, Ben Fitch, Calvin Stephens, Marcel Rickman - Photo by Dale Sutton of Magic Photo)


The holidays are here and that means many patrons are looking for holiday theatre shows to attend. Case in point the entire run of, “A Christmas Story The Musical” at the Edmonds Driftwood Players is sold out. Yes, the entire run - quite an achievement!

The holiday film is beloved by so many that the musical already has a built in audience. There are of course people like myself that only know of the film but haven’t seen it in its entirety (or possibly at all).

As directed by Diane Johnston, the show is really quite something to see. There are so many moving parts - songs, acting, tap dancing, ensemble work, numerous scene and character changes - I can only imagine the amount of work that went into making this musical a reality at the Wade James Theatre.

Berit Lytle, Sylvia Rickman, Marcel Rickman, Jonathan Olson, Sydney Kaser.  Photo by Dale Sutton of Magic Photo)

I really thought the ensemble pieces worked well. The singing was strong and pitch perfect. The choreography was well rehearsed and on point.

The acting was strong across the board - particularly from Marcel Rickman as Ralphie and Calvin Stephens as Randy. Both young performers did a marvelous job with their characters.

I loved Jerry Thorsen as the Narrator. His narration really brought the show back to those holiday television specials I grew up with. Perfect casting.

Jonathan Olson, Louis Nguyen, Ely Malaki, Berit Lytle, Kyle Roecks, Beaven Walters,
Sydney Kaser, Sylvia Rickman.  Photo by Dale Sutton of Magic Photo.)

The singing was a bit up and down. Some of the actors had strong singing voices and clearly were comfortable belting out the tunes. Others were less assured and I’m guessing singing is secondary to acting for them.

The classic scenes from the movie were well presented on stage and made for many laughs throughout the performance.

Overall, if you love the film, you’ll love the musical. If you have tickets, count yourself lucky. You’ll enjoy the show as it is a great version of the holiday classic!

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

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

STOMP Opening Night Review! 12/3/19


Moore Theatre
Seattle, WA

Created by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas
© Steve McNicholas


Twenty five years is a long time for any show but that’s exactly what STOMP is celebrating in 2019. The much beloved performance art, dance, percussive, and humorous show returned to Seattle last night at the Moore Theatre.

I haven’t seen the show in over ten years so it was a real treat to see it in its 2019 incarnation. There is always a member of the troupe that leads the show who serves as the connection to the audience as well. Communication is always done through gestures, expressions, and the like - never actual understandable words. Audience participation plays a role as well but it’s really the eight magnificent performers on stage that are the focal point.

For those unfamiliar with STOMP - the show incorporates dance. rhythm, and percussion on any items the STOMP crew can come up with. Many are familiar items such as brooms, sticks, and trash can lids - staples of the show since its inception. However, they also use items such as grocery carts, Zippo lighters, plastic bags, oil drum cans, kitchen sinks, garbage cans, suitcases, inner tubes, water cooler jugs - you get the idea.

The show is divided into skits - at any given time there may be one member on stage performing to all eight and everything in-between. Everything is rhythm and dance based. There is also plenty of humor throughout the show. STOMP really is unique and was the predecessor for many other performance art shows.

I was extremely pleased to see that a good portion of the show was new last night. Two full pieces were new plus a few others that I had never seen before. Even some of the existing “classic” pieces were tweaked and enhanced.

It is such a creative show that it’s hard not to get caught up in it. The performers are all high caliber artists that work together so well, the show seems almost perfect.

I particularly liked the transitions both during the skits and in-between them. For example, instead of having someone come on stage to remove buckets that aren’t being used, they will rhythmically find a way to remove the items as a part of the skit. They did this the entire performance.

The proverbial wall of STOMP is always a showstopper and last night was no exception. Things get to such a frantic state when the wall is in use that it is truly a sight to behold (and hear).

The performers were completely on point last night. One oil can decided not to cooperate but that didn’t stop them. The other two performers continued on as if nothing happened.

STOMP is great fun and it works on so many different levels. If you enjoy the arts, if you are an artist yourself, do yourself a favor and check out a performance. I left the show last night creatively re-charged and you will too. Recommended!

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

STOMP continues through December 8th.  Purchase tickets here:  TICKETS!

Created by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas
© Steve McNicholas

Monday, December 2, 2019

INSPECTING CAROL The Phoenix Theatre 12/1/19

Inspecting Carol

The Phoenix Theater
Edmonds, WA

(The Cast Of Inspecting Carol - Photo Credit:  James Sipes)


The holiday season is here and with that comes many holiday shows. The Phoenix Theatre opened with, "Inspecting Carol" on Friday night. I had the opportunity to review the Sunday matinee performance.

The plot revolves around the down and out Soapbox Playhouse that is putting on their annual show of, "A Christmas Carol". There is dysfunction at every turn and the very real threat of closure looms overhead. The company's last saving grace is if a federal arts grant inspector gives them a favorable review of the show and reinstates their grant money.

ACT I had its share of funny moments but the details and circumstances really set up ACT II beyond measure.

By the time ACT II got to the actual production of, "A Christmas Carol", the audience was howling with laughter, myself included. The details from the first act were so expertly laid out that the payoffs in act two were just perfect!

I don't want to spoil the show but let me just say I haven't laughed that much at ANY show I've reviewed thus far at any area theatre.

(The Cast of Inspecting Carol - Photo Credit James Sipes)

Amy Susynski as Zorah Bloch kept the show together and as many times as the show wanted to go off the rails (in a good way), Amy's acting kept things on track. She really stood out during the production.

Jay Jenkins as Larry Vauxhall (playing Scrooge) was just spot on with his performance. The actor's actor in the show, his timing and delivery were spectacular.

Susan Connors as Dorothy Tree-Hapgood and Jim Thompson as Sidney Carlton was a dynamic pair with plenty of laughs throughout the show. Susan's English to American to English accent was particularly hilarious.

Raymond Miller as Walter E. Parsons did so much with so little. When you see the show, you'll know what I'm talking about - especially in ACT II. His facial expressions and comedic timing stole the scenes at times - remarkable considering the other scene-stealing actors on the stage.

(The Cast of Inspecting Carol - Photo Credit James Sipes)

The other cast members were equally effective and there were no weak links in this cast. They all had their moments to shine and shine they did.

I could go on and on about this show but suffice to say, "Inspecting Carol" starts off a bit mid tempo if you will but then culminates in a finale that is just gut bustingly hilarious. It's the kind of show I would see again without question.

The show runs through December 22nd. Tickets have truly been selling at a brisk pace - not hype. Buy yourself tickets HERE  before they're sold out and get ready for a really fun time!

See you at the theatre!
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
Eclecticartszine AT gmail DOT com

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


The Bishop's Wife

A Live Radio Play

Taproot Theatre
Seattle, WA

William Hall Jr.,Rebecca M. Davis, Andrew Eric Davison, Jenny Cross, Chelsea LeValley,Calder Jameson Shilling, Claire Marx, Kevin Pitman and Richard Nguyen Sloniker in The Bishop’s Wife: A Live Radio Play at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.


The holidays are here and for Eclectic Arts that means event after event after event. Event number two over the holiday weekend was, "The Bishop's Wife" at the Taproot Theatre. Performed as a live radio play, I was looking forward to the performance on Saturday night.

I had only seen one other play done as a live radio show so I was interested to see how director Karen Lund would make use of the format.

Featuring Richard Nguyen Sloniker as Dudley, Chelsea LeValley as Julia, and Calder Jameson Shilling as Henry, the show revolves around a married couple, their daughter, and an angel. I try not to give away the plot in my reviews.

This was the third time seeing Richard Nguyen Sloniker perform at the Taproot Theatre. He is a joy to watch perform. This format in particular really lent itself to his voice work and he carried the role of Henry with style and distinct confidence. He adds that extra something to any role he takes on.

Rebecca M. Davis and Richard Nguyen Sloniker in The Bishop’s Wife: A Live Radio Play at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

Chelsea LeValley as the instantly likeable Julia was also a great casting choice. She brought the character back to yesteryear and was very believable in her role.

I loved Calder Jameson Shilling last year in, "Miss Bennet - Christmas at Pemberley" and he was just as good here as the preoccupied Henry - the bishop.

The entire cast made the show flow effortlessly - and the other cast members had to play multiple roles throughout the show. This cast handled every character with passion and ease.

Chelsea LeValley in The Bishop’s Wife: A Live Radio Play at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

The story was easy to follow and would have been interesting to hear on the radio or as a podcast. The visual presentation with the microphone placements for the live theatre audience kept things interesting. The commercials using real life sponsors was a nice touch as well.

There really was nothing to pick at. Every aspect was done on a high level. The show was the quality I expect from the Taproot Theatre. But, the show didn't completely resonate with me. Again, it was done very well but when I left the theatre I didn't feel like I had seen a well-done holiday play. I felt like I had seen a well-done play, period. I suppose everyone goes into a theatre at this time of year expecting different things.

Personally I would love to see a future show with Richard Nguyen Sloniker and Calder Jameson Shilling facing off as adversaries. Think Michael Mann's, "Heat" when Pacino and DeNiro finally meet in the coffee shop. Fireworks.

"The Bishop's Wife" is well worth your time and investment. Will it give you the feeling of the holidays? After you see it, let me know. I'd be interested to hear what you have to say.

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

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

"The Bishop's Wife" runs through December 28th. Buy tickets here:  TICKETS!

George Balanchine's "THE NUTCRACKER" Opening Night Event Review! 11/29/19

George Balanchine's


Pacific Northwest Ballet

McCaw Hall
Seattle, WA

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 29 – December 28, 2019. Photo © Angela Sterling.


The holiday season has officially begun and what better way to start the season off than with, "The Nutcracker" at the PNB.

The lobby doors were adorned with the trees from the end of Act I so as soon as you walked in, you were immersed in the world of Clara and the Nutcracker. The giant Christmas tree in the lobby was a photo opportunity for many in attendance as were the other displays in the lobby. McCaw Hall was decked out in holiday colors and decorations. There were entertainers for the young ones and PNB student sugar plum fairies roamed the levels for more photo opportunities with patrons. Everything was set for opening night.

This version of the show started in 2015 so it's now on it's fifth season as the "new" Nutcracker that replaced the Stowell and Sendak version. Having reviewed this version last year, I knew what to expect and gave my family pointers on what I would have done differently last year before I saw the show.

The Nutcracker I'm coming to learn is really it's own part of the season for the PNB. Not just in revenue generated, but in the audience it draws and the approach to the event. Families with young children, non-traditional patrons of the ballet, and a few folks that looked like they'd rather be elsewhere were all in abundance. Of course there were also repeat offenders, subscribers, and holiday traditionalists that return every year. Oh - and the media. I can't forget the media.

ACT I featured Marissa Luu as Clara and Adam Abdi as Fritz. A dramatic Herr Drosselmeier as portrayed by principal dancer William Lin-Yee stood out during the home segment on Christmas Eve.

The battle featured Dylan Wald as the Mouse King along with mice, soldiers, and other characters. The cheese from the cannon was a clear difference between this version and the older version of the show.

The first act concluded with a forest in winter where the ballet dance work really started with the snowflake scenes.

  Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Leta Biasucci as the Sugar Plum Fairy 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 29 – December 28, 2019. Photo © Angela Sterling.

ACT II is all about the land of the sweets. The highlight being the sugar plum fairy portrayed by the always excellent Leta Biasucci and her cavalier Benjamin Griffiths. Coffee was danced beautifully by Noelani Pantastico and the evening's Dewdrop was gracefully performed by Elizabeth Murphy.

The always-engaging part (and audience favorite) of Mother Ginger and her Polichinelles was trusted to Dammiel Cruz.

I enjoyed Act II much more this year - mainly due to the fact that I could appreciate the dancing and the hard work more than last year. It felt actually odd to be waiting for the dancing to kick in. My how things have changed for me.

There were mistakes, which are going to happen when you have students of all levels in the production. It's all hands on deck during Nutcracker season so everyone does the best that they can.

The family oriented aspect of the presentation still rings true compared to the old version. There's freshness in the production but also more of a classical ballet feel (due to being Balanchine).

At the conclusion of the show I gathered opinions from my family that had never seen this version. Two said they would come back next year. Two said they wouldn't. So for those debating whether the PNB should keep this version or go back to the old version, we're no help.

Personally, I think the PNB can run with this version another few years - maybe five - before going with a new version - hopefully brand new. It would be a risk but I think the patrons are ready for something they haven't seen before. A newly commissioned production down the road would be an exciting prospect.

But, for now, the joys of attending a performance are still there. It still feels like the holidays and that, for me, is the most important thing.

Happy Holidays!
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
Eclecticartszine AT gmail DOT com

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

George Balanchine's "The Nutcracker" runs through December 287th, 2019. Buy tickets here:  TICKETS!

  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 29 – December 28, 2019. Photo © Angela Sterling.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

JESSE COOK - Follow The Road Tour - Event Review! Seattle, WA 11/22/19

Jesse Cook

Moore Theatre
Seattle, WA

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


I had the pleasure of reviewing Jesse Cook's show in February of last year. So, with one show under my belt, I knew what to expect for this latest show. Or so I thought.

Jesse Cook is a world-class musician. He surrounds himself with other world-class musicians. Jesse's band last year was made up of musicians that have played with him for a number of years. So, for this tour, I was surprised to see new faces backing him up.

The band spanned the globe - from Algeria to Portugal and our neighbors to the north. I wasn't sure how things were going to proceed with a new band but I should of known better.

Playing songs from throughout his career, Jesse Cook, with his trademark nylon string single cutaway acoustic electric guitar, proceeded to hold a master class on guitar playing. He's an interesting contrast on stage. Decked out in jeans, button down shirt, vest, and tie, he looks like someone you’d see in a business office more so than on stage. But the man can play a mean guitar. He was just as good as he was last year.

And his band - where does he find these musicians? Stellar. Absolutely stellar musicians!

I particularly enjoyed the guitar duo numbers as they really showcased both guitarists.

Jesse also did something he said he never in a million years dreamed he would be doing - he sang a song (actually two). Having Chris Church last year made it hard not to compare the two voices (which isn't fair as Chris is a lead vocalist in his own right).

The show was divided into two sets again with a brief intermission. Many in the crowd know Jesse from the PBS specials that have aired over the years. And let me tell you - some of his fans are diehard. They were bopping and grooving from the first song. And once Jesse announced the "rumba party" everyone got up on their feet and the place was on fire.

Jesse encored with three songs and then said goodnight. The crowd wanted more and that's how you always want to leave the stage if you're an artist.

The show was phenomenal and Jesse Cook is always a joy to review. I hope next year he comes back and plays Benaroya Hall. I would love to hear him in that room.

Any time Jesse Cook hits the road, make sure you see him. He's absolutely worth the price of admission and then some!

Happy Holidays,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
EA on YT

Thanks: Mike for getting everything together - I really appreciate it. Thank you!

Thanks: Sue and Ron - it was a pleasure meeting you both. I hope you enjoyed your first Jesse Cook experience!

(all social media links are in the upper right corner)



Monday, November 18, 2019

"SHOUT SISTER SHOUT!" Event Review! 11/16/19



Cheryl L. West

Directed by: Randy Johnson

Seattle Rep

The cast of Shout Sister Shout! at Seattle Rep. Photo by Bronwen Houck.


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!


The cast of Shout Sister Shout! at Seattle Rep. Photo by Bronwen Houck.