Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock Apple TV+ Season 1 Review January 19, 2022 Eclectic Arts

Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock

Apple TV +
Reviewed: 1/19/2022

Rating: 5 / 5

(Apple TV +)

The return of the beloved 80’s series Fraggle Rock is nearly upon us. On Friday the 21st the Fraggle Rock universe returns with thirteen fun loving 2022 style episodes on Apple TV +!

If you remember the original Fraggle Rock series that ran for five seasons back in the day, you are already salivating at the chance to see your beloved characters again.

While I do remember the show, I was already in my “too cool for school” phase so I never watched the original series. Like millions, however, I was a fan of The Muppet Show before it.

The new show takes the best of Jim Henson’s creations and adds a balanced dose of today’s technology to create a truly fantastic show. As I watched the first two episodes, I smiled, I laughed, and I actually had to ask myself am I just a big kid? Yes and no. I may be young at heart but “Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock” is quality entertainment for any age.

As the series progressed, it not only maintained the creative quality, in some of the later episodes, it even surpassed it. I feel a lot of people are going to binge the series again and again once all thirteen episodes are available.

(Apple TV +)

I have to add the musical numbers may or may not turn off some viewers. If I had seen this show ten years ago, I most likely would have a different opinion of it. But, now that I’ve been covering live musical theatre for a few years now, I found the music numbers fun and creative without being too over the top or annoying for the non-musical loving viewer. In other words, it should work for most folks.

The nostalgia part does kick in seeing anything from Jim Henson’s Company. The characters with eyelids, the ones with just eyeballs, the eye-catching colors, the crazy hair, etc. If you grew up during the Jim Henson years, you know what I’m talking about.

But, as I mentioned earlier, the show is truly fun for any age. I think kids today would still get a kick out of it as there’s something for everyone. If you don’t like one character, you’re bound to find at least one other that you do like.

I think the next step besides another season of the show is to consider doing a feature length film. After the last two years and some change that we’ve all been through, we need something that is just plain fun. “Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock” delivers on the fun in spades.

Highly recommended!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Friday, January 14, 2022

SHATTERED Film Review January 14, 2022 Eclectic Arts


Reviewed: 1/14/2022

Rating: 3 / 5

Available in Select Theaters and On Demand January 14th! Available on Blu-ray and DVD on February 22nd!

(Lionsgate Films)

The new film “Shattered” is a thriller that takes a stab at the “crazy psycho character” genre.

The story is like something from a straight to video movie (remember those back in the day). However, once the two lead characters are established, which happens rather quickly, things progress and the thrills begin.

The shining bright point is Sky (played by Lilly Krug). Lilly Krug commands the screen and watching her character go to crazy lengths is something to behold. Lilly Krug makes this film worth watching for her talent alone.

The rest of the cast and film is either non memorable or throwaway appearances by known veterans (like John Malkovich and Frank Grillo).

“Shattered” could have been a lot more than what was served up in the end. Thankfully, Lilly Krug is not only one of those parts, but easily the best part.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Monday, January 3, 2022

AMERICAN GADFLY Film Review January 3, 2022 Eclectic Arts


Sunpunks Productions
Reviewed: 1/3/2022

Rating: 4 / 5

The new film “American Gadfly” is a well done documentary about a group of high school students that convince Senator Mike Gravel to come out of retirement and run for President of the United States in 2020.

These are no ordinary teens. They are bright, sophisticated, and gung ho about the democratic process. They utilize the best of today’s technology (such as social media) to bring a grassroots campaign into the modern day.

When viewing the film one can’t help but marvel at the creativity the teens bring forth to get this far fetched idea into a very real reality. Idealism be damned as they bring up great points along the way of why Senator Mike Gravel should not only be on the debate stage but in the White House.

It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if one or all of the teens end up involved in politics themselves as they graduate college and start their own careers.

“American Gadfly” is a solid viewing worth your time.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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WHO IS AMOS OTIS? Film Review January 3, 2022 Eclectic Arts


Gravitas Ventures
Reviewed: 1/3/2022

Rating: 4 / 5

The new film “Who Is Amos Otis?” is a compelling courtroom drama with a twist. The plot centers around the trial of Amos Otis who is charged with assassinating the President of the United States.

The bulk of the drama is filmed in the courtroom as the trial is shown from beginning to end. There are some twists to keep things interesting and there will be no spoilers here.

What I immediately thought about “Who Is Amos Otis” was that it would make an interesting play. It was even reminiscent of a play in terms of how it was filmed. So it didn’t come as a shock to find out the source material is a play that the director/writer/producer of the film, Greg Newberry, also wrote and directed.

The film does its best to show just how divided a society we in the U.S. had become during the last presidency. At least that’s what some viewers will assume. So, depending on which side of the aisle you consider yourself, the film may make you nod your head in agreement or shake your head in disbelief.

Any which way you slice it, “Who Is Amos Otis?” is a worthwhile viewing.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Friday, December 10, 2021

JAKE SHIMABUKURO Christmas In Hawaii Live Concert Review December 8, 2021 Eclectic Arts

Jake Shimbukuro
Christmas In Hawaii

Edmonds Center for the Arts
Edmonds, WA

Wednesday December 8, 2021

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

It was a welcome return to the greater Seattle area (Edmonds to be specific) for Jake Shimabukuro and his amazing group of musicians. Billed as “Christmas In Hawaii”, the show was a well rounded mix of old favorites, new songs from the recently released, “Jake & Friends”, as well as holiday classics.

The sold out show was abuzz with anticipation as this was Jake’s return to the area since 2019 AKA pre-pandemic times. Jake, like many other artists, went virtual during 2020 as a way to stay connected with his fanbase. Of course a virtual show doesn’t compare to an in-person concert experience.

The evening started off with a solid set from Thunderstorm Artis. A popular contestant from the television show, “The Voice”, and a native of Hawaii, Thunderstorm sang original and cover songs in his short but sweet set. His angelic voice really worked well in the venue and his set went over really well with the fans.

As soon as Thunderstorm’s set finished, Jake, along with Jackson Waldhoff (bass) and Taku Hirano (percussion), walked on stage and immediately went into a trio of songs (see the set-list photo - thank you to Brett for providing one after the show). The band sounded fantastic. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating - Jake’s live concerts are always better when he has other musicians to play off of. He’s learned to perform as a mix of full band, partial band, and solo and I hope this never changes. I’ve seen him in the past by himself, with a bassist (Nolan), and as a trio (with Dave and Nolan) - and, again, the concerts are more enjoyable in my opinion with other musicians joining in on the fun.

Thunderstorm Artis joined the band for a few songs which was another nice touch by adding vocals (Dave had sung during past shows). Thunderstorm’s voice really worked well with the music - not to mention his acoustic guitar playing.

Jake, of course, was the center of attention but he never hogged the spotlight. If you’ve ever met him, you know just how down to earth and humble he is as a musician and as a human being. He always shares the stage with the other musicians. But, perhaps it was the pandemic “break” or the fact that this was my first concert back as media since the pandemic but Jake sounded nearly flawless. His playing was effortless and he always brings endless joy and energy to his performances.

With a set of around twenty songs, and a brief venue intermission, the show was extremely satisfying. Every fan got a little something to make them happy. And, let’s face it, for many of us - just being back at a live concert was awesome enough. But being back at a sold out Jake Shimabukuro concert? Well, that was absolutely incredible.

Thank you so much to Jake, Jackson, Taku, Thunderstorm, Brett, and Nichole for a perfect experience.

Happy holidays,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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

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

Monday, December 6, 2021


George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker

Pacific Northwest Ballet
McCaw Hall
Seattle, WA

Review: 12/4/21 7:30pm Performance

For many in the Pacific Northwest, the holidays mean an annual visit to McCaw Hall for the spectacle that is “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker”. There is no denying that upon entering the venue - seeing the gigantic Christmas tree, the festive holiday decor all throughout McCaw Hall, and many patrons dressed up in their holiday best - it is easy to get in the spirit of the season.

I tend to people watch to get a vibe on the audience for any given event at McCaw Hall. This year there was much more of a welcome anticipation of being back in-person after the Covid-19 induced absence that was 2020. Not just for myself (which was very true), but for the majority of the patrons that attended.

As I entered through the Covid-19 protocols outside, there was much laughter, giggles, eyes wide open by the children, and just a good buzz around the hall. This continued as more and more patrons came in. Attendees of all ages, more dressed up this year than previously, from a diverse demographic filtered in as the curtain call drew near.

This year’s performance followed the format that is Balanchine. Yes, a few things were altered/changed costume wise (to keep with the times) but the majority of the performance was still the same.

One striking difference of course were the masks on all of the younger performers (and one adult looking performer, too). Just another reminder of the trying times we’re living in.

This was my third time seeing this edition of “George Balanchine's The Nutcracker” in as many years. I still have my quibbles about the stiff choreography, the lighting design choices at times (especially the second act), etc. But this year the PNB company dancers really made things worthwhile. Perhaps it was due to the fact that I haven’t seen an in-person PNB performance in two years. Or perhaps it was because I recognized some of the familiar faces on stage Saturday night, somewhat like seeing old friends again. Perhaps most of all it was experiencing the high art that is ballet in a convivial atmosphere during the holidays. In other words, I enjoyed this experience fully.

For those annual return suspects, there has been much talk about which version is better - the current one or the previous PNB version that played for many, many years. My advice? Go see it for yourself and form your own opinion.

“George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker” runs through December 28th. Click HERE! to purchase tickets.

Happy Holidays,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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"INSPECTING CAROL" Performance Review - 12/3/21 7:30pm Show THE PHOENIX THEATRE Eclectic Arts

Inspecting Carol

The Phoenix Theatre
Edmonds, WA

Review: 12/3/21 7:30pm Performance

Back by popular demand (from the initial run in 2019), “Inspecting Carol” returns to The Phoenix Theatre this holiday season. A zany comedy that I personally loved two years ago, I was looking forward to seeing this new interpretation of the show.

With returning cast members and a few new faces, The Phoenix Theatre continues its vigilance by having a reduced capacity audience at each show due to the times we are living in. This means don’t snooze on tickets (it may be too late as of this review). Check out the link at the bottom to purchase any tickets that may be left.

The premise revolves around a down and out theatre company that needs to earn a grant through the National Endowment for The Arts to basically stay open. They stage a version of “A Christmas Carol” and then mayhem ensues.

There were standouts in the cast and definitely scenes that made the audience laugh out loud (myself included). A few changes were made to the narrative to reflect the times (2020) but overall the material was still intact from the first run two years ago.

My overall impression of the performance was that it was solid but it didn’t reach the heights of hilarity that happened in 2019. Perhaps it’s because I had seen it previously so I knew what to expect. Or perhaps it was due to a few changes in the cast and the creatives behind the scenes. In any event, it was still a fun and crazy show that I loved. I only think I enjoyed it a tad bit more the first time around if that makes any sense.

“Inspecting Carol” runs through December 19th. Tickets are limited so don’t wait. Check here for availability:  PURCHASE TICKETS

Happy Holidays,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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