Monday, January 27, 2020

JOSEPHINE Northshore Performing Arts Center Bothell, WA 1/25/2020


A Burlesque Cabaret Dream Play

Northshore Performing Arts Center
Bothell, WA
January 25, 2020


It was great to be back at the Northshore Performing Arts Center exactly a year to the day of our first visit last year. Having indirectly help fund the construction of the building, it has some sentimental connection for Eclectic Arts.

“Josephine” was the show Saturday night and it did not disappoint. For many, like myself, they know the name Josephine Baker but little else. In my case, I knew about the infamous “banana dance” she performed in France wearing a skirt made of bananas and little else but that was about it.

Tymisha Harris portrayed Josephine Baker in the one performer show. This is a tall order for any professional as they are required to sing, dance, act, titillate, inspire, and challenge. But Ms. Harris transported the audience to the world of Josephine Baker flawlessly.

Starting from the early beginnings in the United States through the fame and fortune in France to the later years of her life, everything was covered in the show. I found myself being consistently educated about Josephine’s life while also being thoroughly entertained - a testament to how well done the show was.

Ms. Harris commanded the stage at every turn. Her singing voice matched the eras of Josephine and when she needed to belt it out, boy did she. I’ve reviewed my fair share of professional stage talent and I can’t remember the last time I was as mesmerized as I was when Ms. Harris sang.

Then mix in her dialogue to the audience, her storytelling ability was absolutely on point. She was engaging and at times was literally in the audience which added further engagement. Her acting helped the audience understand just how iconic Joesphine was and why it's important that we not forget who she was or her importance in the world of not just entertainment figures but historical figures as well.

The show was co-created, directed and produced by Michael Marinaccio. Tod Kimbro was a co-creator, playwright, and musical director. Co-created, performed, choreographed, and costume designed by Tymisha Harris.

By the end of the show, I wanted to see it again. And let’s be honest - that’s the real litmus test of any live event. Would you go back? Would you tell others about it? In the case of, “Josephine” it’s a resounding yes!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
EA on YT

Post Show VIDEO Interview!

Thank you: John with the NPACF. Thank you very much for the opportunity.

Northshore Performing Arts Center Foundation Official Site

Special thanks: Michael and Tymisha with the play. It was a pleasure meeting you both!

STEEL MAGNOLIAS Taproot Theatre 1/24/2020


Taproot Theatre
Seattle, WA

Cas Pruitt, Marlette Buchanan, and Arika Matoba in Steel Magnolias.
Photo by Robert Wade.


The 2020 Season at the Taproot Theatre kicked off in grand style Friday evening. A capacity crowd was in attendance for the much beloved play (and film), “Steel Magnolias”.

It was quite evident that many in the crowd were fans of the film. The anticipation of certain scenes and/or characters was high throughout the performance. I only knew the film by name having never seen it. So, my review is from that perspective.

Playwright Robert Harling captured a great amount of southern sass, hospitality, and drama all in one play. Set in the late 80’s in a beauty shop, the story unfolds as Truvy Jones (Cas Pruitt) and Annelle Dupuy-Desoto (Arika Matoba) begin their day in the shop. Regulars Clairee Belcher (Marlette Buchanan), Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie (Melanie Hampton), M’lynn Eatenton (April Poland), and Ousier Boudreaux (Kim Morris) eventually make their way to the shop where they share about their daily lives through comedic banter and eventual drama.

Arika Matoba in Steel Magnolias.
Photo by Robert Wade.

“Steel Magnolias” had the audience laughing consistently throughout the production. For director Marianne Savell (who starred in the previous Taproot Theatre production of the show back in the early 90’s), it must have been a joy to go from acting in the show to now directing it. For actor Kim Morris it was the exact opposite (she directed the show the first time through and acted in this one) but equally enjoyable I can imagine.

The comedic timing of the entire cast could not have been better. The audience got to see the growth of their friendships throughout the show as the years passed. Having seen many of the cast members in previous productions, I already knew that the caliber of the show would be off the charts. And it was.

By the time Act 2, Scene 1 started, it was as if the audience was watching a group of friends from across the hall. The theatre disappeared and the performances became real. It is a testament to the team of actors on the stage and all of the production folks that the play transcended the theatre and placed the audience right there in the show.

I can’t recommend the show enough for those who, again, love the play and/or film or for first timers. “Steel Magnolias” will hit all the right buttons that will leave you immensely satisfied with the Taproot Theatre experience.  It "melted my butter" for sure.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
Eclecticartszine AT gmail DOT com

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

"Steel Magnolias" runs through February 29th. Buy tickets here:  TICKETS!

April Poland, Arika Matoba, Melanie Hampton, and Cas Pruitt in Steel Magnolias.
Photo by Robert Wade.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

EUGENE ONEGIN Seattle Opera 1/11/2020


Seattle Opera

McCaw Hall
Seattle, WA
January 11, 2020

Seattle Opera Chorus and Cast. Philip Newton photo.


It’s hard to believe it’s been one year now of reviewing the productions from the Seattle Opera. I entered into this venture having never seen an opera - ever. With six shows under my belt, I have learned a great deal but I have a long, long way to go. It’s been such a joy to learn about the world of opera through a local gem like the Seattle Opera.

Saturday evening was opening night of their newest production, “Eugene Onegin”. With music by Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky, libretto by Peter Llych Tchaikovsky and Konstantin S. Shilovsky, and based on Alexander Pushkin’s verse novel Eugene Onegin, the near capacity crowd waited anxiously to see the classic tale of love and loss.

The production looked spectacular. The scenic, lighting, and costume designers had everything on the stage looking as perfect as can be. The country setting to start the first act was immediately evident with the three dimensional trees, extended background, and building decorations.

Marjukka Tepponen (Tatyana) sang with such emotion as a young naive country girl to start before marrying and becoming a noble woman, she absolutely drew the audience into her character. Her character wrote a letter professing her love for Eugene Onegin but she was dismissed by him quickly and painfully.

Marjukka Tepponen (Tatyana). Philip Newton photo.

John Moore (Eugene Onegin) also brought his character to life in crisp and decisive ways. Having seen him last year in, “The (R)evolution Of Steve Jobs”, I knew he would be outstanding and he did not disappoint.

Colin Ainsworth (Lensky) was equally captivating in his roll. His love of Olga only to be betrayed by the flirtatious Eugene Onegin was carried out in dramatic but realistic ways. His solo performance was breathtaking and a high point of the show.

The orchestra, as conducted by Aleksandar Markovic, absolutely stood out throughout the production.  I was impressed beyond measure by the work and interpretation of Mr. Markovic.

The other performers in the cast and ensemble were just as good as one would expect from a Seattle Opera production. The amount of moving parts for any of the shows I’ve reviewed is just staggering. When everything comes together, it really is the perfect meld of everything that I love about the arts.

Seattle Opera Chorus, Melody Wilson (Olga) and Colin Ainsworth (Lensky). Sunny Martini photo.

Without giving away too much of the plot, I can say that the performances were so strong by Marjukka Tepponen and John Moore that by the end of act three, I was emotionally invested in the storyline. I wanted Tatyana to tell Eugene Onegin off, slap him in his smug face, and maybe even kick him in the family jewels, considering his outrageous behavior towards Tatyana. I was actually glad it ended the way it did as Tatyana deserved better.

Overall, “Eugene Onegin” is a story that is easy to follow and clearly stands the test of time. New patrons will find a great introduction to the Seattle Opera and long time attendees will be satisfied with the quality of the performances.

Meredith Arwady (Filipevna) and Margaret Gawrysiak (Madame Larina). Sunny Martini photo.

The Seattle Opera is continually putting on world class productions here in Seattle. If you haven’t taken in a performance yet, you are really missing out. “Eugene Onegin” would be a great place to start. The show runs through January 25th, 2020 at McCaw Hall.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
Eclecticartszine AT gmail DOT com

Seattle Opera "Eugene Onegin" - purchase tickets here:  TICKETS!

Seattle Opera Chorus and Margaret Gawrysiak (Madame Larina). Philip Newton photo.

Monday, January 6, 2020

GUYS & DOLLS Opening Night Review! Village Theatre Everett, WA 1/3/2020


Village Theatre

Everett Performing Arts Center
Everett, WA

The cast of Guys & Dolls
Guys & Dolls production photo.
© 2019 Tracy Martin
Property of Village Theatre.


As soon as I saw that this show was announced on the 2019/20 schedule I was looking forward to it. A big production of a classic show with a large ensemble cast, this show had everything going for it. On opening night, the Everett Performing Arts Center was at capacity so I wasn’t the only one looking forward to the performance.

The storyline of Nathan Detroit and Miss Adelaide was brought to life by Matt Wolfe and Kate Jaeger. Expertly acted by both, they were amazing in the roles. The other storyline of Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown was equally captivating. Dane Stokinger and Mallory King embodied the characters to their fullest potential.

The cast of Guys & Dolls
Guys & Dolls production photo.
© 2019 Tracy Martin
Property of Village Theatre.

The large cast had so much to do during the show - which was one of the longer productions I’ve reviewed in recent years. Acting on the two story stage, singing several numbers, many wardrobe changes, all the dance choreography, as well as the choreography during the spoken word parts seemed overwhelming to me, but the cast pulled it off with ease.

The Havana sequence was great fun to watch. Kudos to choreographer Nikki Long for all the dance numbers during the show. They were spectacular!

Matt Wolfe (Nathan Detroit) and Kate Jaeger (Miss Adelaide).
Guys & Dolls production photo.
© 2019 Mark Kitaoka
Property of Village Theatre.

The set designs were beautiful and numerous. The music was also incredibly well done so kudos to Julia Thornton on her work with the show.

There was nothing to pick at at this show. It was as well done as could be. No weak links in the production.  You will be entertained when you go. 

The cast of Guys & Dolls
Guys & Dolls production photo.
© 2019 Mark Kitaoka
Property of Village Theatre.

If you’ve seen other iterations of the show over the years, I’m sure you’ll be comparing and contrasting what you see on stage. This was my first time seeing any performance of GUYS & DOLLS so now I have a foundational performance to compare to in the future.

As I was leaving the show, I heard many people in the lobby talking about how great the performance was. I absolutely agree. The show runs through February 2nd so be sure to catch a performance or two.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
Eclecticartszine AT gmail DOT com

Special Thanks:  Ann for giving me the opportunity to review the show.  Thank you!

Purchase tickets here:  TICKETS!

Saturday, January 4, 2020

THUNDERPUSSY - New Year's Eve Party 2019 - Event Review! 12/31/19!


Bear Axe

Constant Lovers

Trash Fire

Showbox at The Market
Seattle, WA

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


It's kind of funny that when I sat down to write this, I looked at my reviews folder and saw New Year's Eve reviews for Thunderpussy 2016, Thunderpussy 2017, and Thunderpussy 2018. Well, here we are, it's the second day of 2020 and here I am writing the New Year's Eve review for Thunderpussy 2019.

Each show on New Year's Eve in Seattle has been special and unique. No two have been the same. The band always pulls out all the stops for these shows and I sincerely hope they continue to do so for years to come. This year was the "neon glow of electric sax" - so neon was the theme.

As the lights went down in the Showbox at The Market, the near capacity crowd screamed and hollered as a group of dancers slithered their way onto the stage. Ambient sounds from Whitney's guitar (with violin bow) created the mood as the dancers slowly made their way to the center catwalk from the stage. Here - the lead dancer was undressed of her jacket and wig to reveal lead singer Molly. The crowd cheered as the band kicked off the main set sporting neon outfits under dark lights to show off the glow.

The band played a mix of songs from their debut album they released in 2018, their newly released digital EP "Milk It", as well as a cover tune or two. Leah plucked away at her bass keeping the rhythm section in check while new drummer Lindsey performed at her first Seattle New Year's Eve gig.

Just before midnight, the band waited and grabbed the champagne as the countdown began. Streamers and confetti filled the air as everyone at the show welcomed in a new decade. I saw a nice fat blunt being passed from the side of the stage, which was awesome. The band just loves to have fun! They didn't waste much time before launching into a song three minutes into the New Year.

Molly was the center of attention with her vocals sounding as fine as ever. Her movement and dance background always, and I mean always, makes for such an interesting sight when she's on stage. I can't think of another lead vocalist that commands the stage the way she does but in such a fun and good-hearted way. As always she asked the audience to meet someone new near you. I remember she did this in 2016 (my first gig) and I met another Asian guy that night. I subsequently saw him at two other Thunderpussy shows in 2017. I haven't seen him since but he may have been at these New Year's Eve shows too for all I know. But, you get the point - and more importantly - her point.

The whole band rarely sits still, if ever. Whitney is always moving while she plays her Les Paul, SG, or Stratocaster guitar and Leah is always banging her head and feeling the music while she plays her Fender Jazz bass. Many a time the three of them come together in front of the drum riser and just rock the fuck out. It's glorious to see.

Lindsey fits the band well. Her style seems to be more rock than anything (I could be wrong). There was a time or two when the band was off tempo but that was quickly fixed. And hey - it's a live concert, not some mix of backing tracks and live. They do it old school - four musicians playing music for the masses, emphasis on playing.

I would love to see more of Lindsey's personality come through in the band. I'm sure the longer she's gigs with Thunderpussy, the more that will happen. I understand she isn't local but that doesn't matter much these days - with technology being what it is, that problem isn't really even an issue.

The last song of the night was a brilliant cover of Pat Benatar's, "We Belong" which then segued into a jam with members of all three local opening bands (as well as Eva from the Black Tones) coming up to sing, play, and bash the drums.

Thunderpussy have always delivered live. Again, I first saw them in 2016 so I'm not necessarily a veteran but I'm certainly not a newbie either. To their credit, being a great live band is essential in today's music business. With physical album sales being as low as what they are, and digital downloads following suit, it's been left to streaming to fill the void - which it's doing a horrible job of for artists. Bands have to tour, utilize social media and funding platforms, and sell merchandise to make it work. But, if you can't cut it live, the road ahead is basically a dead end in 2020 for most artists.

The New Year's Eve 2019 show was a great time as expected. It's getting to the point that I'm starting to compare and contrast the shows and I know I'm not alone as I saw a lot of familiar faces on Tuesday night. I also overheard at least one attendee state that this was his first time seeing the band so there were fans of all kinds there.

What's next for the band? I'm sure more touring, hopefully an opportunity to jump on someone else's tour as a special guest - perhaps a theater or arena tour would be amazing and help grow their audience even further.

Let's hope the band continues this tradition of playing a New Year's Eve show in Seattle. Thank you Thunderpussy and here's to a prosperous 2020!

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

Special Thanks: Thunderpussy and their team for having me back - as always thank you very much for the opportunity! I so appreciate it!

The show was opened with three local bands: Trash Fire, Constant Lovers, and the well-known band Bear Axe. All three bands played tight, well rehearsed sets. Bear Axe definitely have a following and closed out their set with a Soundgarden cover.

One plus of these New Year's Eve gigs is that Thunderpussy have exposed me and many others to bands we wouldn't know otherwise, especially in the local scene here in Seattle. I wouldn't know who The Black Tones were if it wasn't for last year's show. Ditto Kolars from 2017 - who I have subsequently seen when they've toured Seattle on their own. So kudos to Thunderpussy for keeping the scene alive!