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!

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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.

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!

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(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