Sunday, July 21, 2019

BRIGHT STAR Event Review! Taproot Theatre Company 7/18/19

Bright Star

Inspired By A True Story

Taproot Theatre
Seattle, WA

Brian Lange, Gloria Lee Alcalá, Nick Watson, Brian Pucheu, Brenna Wagner, Miranda Antoinette Troutt and Mike Spee in Bright Star at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.


When I go to review a show at the Taproot Theatre Company, I now expect a certain level of excellence. They have consistently delivered top quality professional plays that bring me back time and time again.

So, on Thursday, I was very much looking forward to their newest production, "Bright Star". With music, book, and story by Steve Martin and music, lyrics, and story by Edie Brickell, I was intrigued to see how the Taproot Theatre Company would tackle this challenging musical production.

I should have known better. Director Karen Lund had everything flowing like a well-oiled machine from the very beginning. It was uncanny just how good the entire cast was that brought this story to life. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Gloria Lee Alcalá, Mike Spee and the cast of Bright Star at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

The plot centers around a young couple in love in North Carolina. We get to see the early years (1923-1924) and the later years (1945-1946). Without giving away the story line, let me just say there is heartache and redemption. There is also a surprise reveal in Act II that I never saw coming. There were many gasps in the audience so I wasn't the only one - thank goodness.

It was great seeing familiar faces in the cast as well as new faces (many brand new to the Taproot Theatre Company stage). Brian Pucheu, Nick Watson, and Eric Dobson I had seen in three other excellent Taproot Theatre Company shows. Gloria Lee Alcala I had seen in "Disenchanted" last summer. And I had the pleasure of interviewing both Brenna Wagner and MJ Jurgensen before the show opened.

Being a musician myself, I am always impressed when I hear the caliber of playing and singing that I heard throughout, "Bright Star". The band was spot on all night. The musicians/actors were also seamlessly acting and playing music like they had done it a thousand times before.

Eric Polani Jensen, Brenna Wagner, Edd Key and Gloria Lee Alcalá in Bright Starat Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

Brenna Wagner as Alice Murphy showcased her talents throughout the show. Her singing and acting held my attention and made me think I was in a 3,000-seat theatre to be honest. What a talent!

Miranda Antoinette Troutt as Margo Crawford also stood out amongst an insanely talented cast. Her voice was made for the stage. I could have listened to her sing the whole show if she wanted to.

Brian Pucheu performed like only he can. His deadpan humor was hidden this production (until Act 2) but there is no denying his acting abilities. And he had many a song to sing as well.

Brian Lange as Daryl and Gloria Lee Alcala as Lucy Grant stood out as well. Such impeccable comedic timing, it was just a joy watching them perform.

Without going through the entire cast list let me just reiterate - the entire cast was absolutely stellar! There were no weak links to be found. None. Nada. Zippo. The casting folks did a fine job putting these incredible artists on the same stage together.

Brenna Wagner and Brian Pucheu in Bright Star at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

So this is turning into a love fest. Well, not entirely.

The only area for me to pick at is the source material - the story. The music was wonderful. No issues there. The story felt like it was written around the songs. Like Steve Martin and Edie Brickell had the skeleton of a story and then tried to piece it together so it made sense based on the music. A minor gripe but it bares mentioning.

Outside of that, "Bright Star" was a top-notch show that I think everyone will love. Yeah, I said everyone. Go see it for yourself and then tell me how much you loved it!

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

Special Thanks: Isaiah for the credentials - thank you so much for the opportunity and for working with my crazy schedule!

"Bright Star" runs through August 17th. Buy tickets here:  TICKETS!

MJ Jurgensen and Miranda Antoinette Trout in Bright Star at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

Brian Pucheu and Brenna Wagner in Bright Star at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Mettavolution Arrives in Woodinville - RODRIGO Y GABRIELA Event Review! Woodinville, WA 7/13/19

Rodrigo y Gabriela

Chateau Ste Michelle Winery Amphitheater
Woodinville, WA

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


I was very fortunate to cover the Rodrigo y Gabriela event Saturday night. I had to miss them last September due to illness so having a second opportunity is always a fortunate occurrence.

It was a perfect summer day by Northwest standards - partly cloudy with temperatures in the 70's. The sold out show at the Chateau Ste Michelle Winery Amphitheater was filled with fans, summer concertgoers, and everyone in-between.

The amphitheater is split between reserved seats and a general admission lawn. Being a winery, many folks bring in their picnics, buy a bottle or three of wine, and kick back on a fine Saturday evening to enjoy a concert.

Rodrigo y Gabriela unassumingly walked onto the stage around 8pm to start the show. Sitting on a two tier circular riser in the middle of the stage, the audience welcomed them back with open arms.

Starting off with, "Krotona Days", the duo sat as they played the first song of the evening. Gabriela on acoustic, Rodrigo on a Fender Jaguar, they sounded great from the first note.

The set included songs such as, "Witness Tree", a Pink Floyd cover of, "Echoes", "Mettavolution", "11:11", "Diablo", "Hanuman", and set ender, "Terracentric".

Once the duo got on their feet to play and encouraged to the audience to as well, things shifted into another gear. The fans were up dancing, Rodrigo y Gabriela were moving about, with either eyes closed feeling the music or standing with smiles on their faces. 


The energy in the amphitheater was building to a crescendo - partially due to the wine consumption - but mostly due to the high energy of Rodrigo y Gabriela.

Their music fits perfectly at a venue such as the Chateau Ste Michelle Winery Amphitheater. By the time the last notes of, "Terracentric" ran out over the PA, the crowd wanted another encore. But it was not to be. Always leave them wanting more, yes?

It was somewhat of a shame that Mother Nature decided to be summer like and stay light out for so long. The video screen on stage and light show couldn't be used to much effect until the ladder part of the set. But, that's a minor quibble as Ma Nature could of done much, much worse.

Rodrigo y Gabriela have come such a long way from their busking days. They are pure hearted musicians of the highest order. The new songs from their latest album, "Mettavolution" sounded great and it was no surprise that the show sold out weeks ago.

A nearly perfect concert on a Saturday night in Woodinville, WA - Rodrigo y Gabriela were at their best and I personally can't wait for them to return to the area!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
EA on FB
EA on YT

Special Thanks: Shauna and Eoin for the credentials - thank you very much!

The Legend Returns! SMOKEY ROBINSON Event Review! Tulalip, WA 7/12/19

Smokey Robinson

Tulalip Resort Casino
Tulalip, WA

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


I was fortunate enough to cover Smokey back in November. I honestly didn't think I'd get another opportunity for at least another few years, if ever. So when I heard he was coming back to the area up at the Tulalip Resort Casino, I was stoked!

The weather was near perfect by Northwest standards - partly sunny with temperatures in the 70's, the crowd was gathering early before the show began at 7pm.

The show was opened up by Star Nayea - a local singer-songwriter from Lake Stevens. She opened up the show performing a mix of Motown songs. I saw Star a few years back at the same venue - but she played a set of originals then (we only got one on Friday night). A very talented singer, it was great to hear her sing again.

After a brief changeover, the stage was set for the legend.

The 9-piece backing band, dressed up in black, kicked off the night before major applause erupted in the amphitheater as Smokey strolled out from the middle of the stage 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.

Ever the professional, dressed to the nines in red, Smokey entertained the audience in-between songs with stories from the glory days of Motown and beyond. Humorous and enlightening at the same time, the crowd was eating it up.

The set was similar to what I heard in November but I wasn't complaining. We did get, "Tears Of A Clown" this time around, which was a nice addition. 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 Tulalip audience.

Once the extended crowd contest of singing, "Cruisin" was over, the legend thanked the audience and exited the stage.

Smokey was having fun, seemed to let his hair down a bit more than in November, and the crowd was definitely more vocal than the November show as well. All of this made for a fantastic evening at the Tulalip Resort Casino Amphitheater. Thank you Smokey!

All the best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
EA on FB
EA on YT

Special Thanks: Pat for all your communication and hard work setting this up. Thank you! Also, thank you to Lori for taking care of the concert details such as the photo pass. I appreciate it! Hope to work with both of you again, soon.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET - Village Theatre Everett - Event Review 6/29/19

Million Dollar Quartet pre-production photo.
© 2019 Mark Kitaoka
Property of Village Theatre.

Village Theatre Everett
Everett Performing Arts Center
Everett, WA

Jason Kappus (Elvis Presley) and Cayman Ilika (Dyanne).
Million Dollar Quartet production photo.
© 2019 Mark Kitaoka
Property of Village Theatre.


I was stoked to finally see this production last Saturday night. I had heard so many good things about it over the years that I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. Well, let me tell you - there is good reason for that fuss! "Million Dollar Quartet" was absolutely stellar!

The legendary night in 1956 when Sun Records artists (or former artists of the label/studio) Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley jammed at Sam Phillips' studio.

Brian Grey (Johnny Cash), Chris Jones (Brother Jay), Skye Scott (Carl Perkins) and James "Rif" Reif (Fluke).
Million Dollar Quartet production photo.
© 2019 Mark Kitaoka
Property of Village Theatre.

Many members of the cast and crew have connections to the show over the years. From Broadway, the national tour, and the original show at the Village Theatre twelve years ago - the list goes on and on. So, to bring all of these talents together for this new production was a total treat.

Matt Wade (Sam Phillips), Skye Scott (Carl Perkins), Brian Gray (Johnny Cash), Jason Kappus (Elvis Presley), John Countryman (Jerry Lee Lewis), Cayman Ilika (Dyanne), James Reif (Drummer/Fluke), and Chris Jones (Bassist/Brother Jay) rounded out the amazing cast.

The cast of Million Dollar Quartet.
Million Dollar Quartet production photo.
© 2019 Mark Kitaoka
Property of Village Theatre.

For the musicians in the audience (like myself) it was astounding watching the performances of all involved. It's such a unique casting responsibility to not only find talented musicians but also those that can act. They have to be a duel threat. And again this cast was playing their hearts out and could back it up when it came time for the dialogue.

If you're new to the show - please know that yes there is a story but the majority of the time the show is about the music. So, if you're expecting a more traditional/dialogue heavy play, that's not this show. I reviewed a touring musical last year that many didn't like, as it was almost all music with very little story. So, fair warning folks - it's more like a concert, which suited me just fine.

There's a lot of comedy throughout the play and that just sweetened the deal. What a show!

 John Countryman (Jerry Lee Lewis), Skye Scott (Carl Perkins), Chris Jones (Brother Jay), Brian Grey (Johnny Cash) and Jason Kappus (Elvis Presley).
Million Dollar Quartet production photo.
© 2019 Mark Kitaoka
Property of Village Theatre.

"Million Dollar Quartet" will have you humming, swaying, and eventually dancing when the show reaches it's climax. This absolutely, positively, is one show not to miss!

See you all next season!
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
EA on FB
EA on IG
EA on YT

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