Audiences are “FEELIN’ GROOVY” at The Music Box

The Cast of “FEELIN’ GROOVY 8” at The Music Box

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By David Dow Bentley III     “The People’s Critic”

Houston’s MUSIC BOX THEATER continues to amaze audiences with their seemingly bottomless reservoir of musical creativity and comedy flair. With its long-running and very talented quintet of regular stars, Rebekah Dahl, Brad Scarborough, Kristina Sullivan, Cay Taylor and Luke Wrobel, the brilliant troupe has been delighting full house crowds for more than a dozen years. That popularity shows no signs of a let up. Titled, “FEELIN’ GROOVY 8,” the cast subtitles this current show (which opened in June) as “9 Weeks of Peace & Music.” While they may not bring about World Peace, they most certainly prove once again that music is their collective forte. And their uniformly brilliant singing is perfectly matched by the superb 6-member Music Box Band, led by gifted lead guitarist, Mark McCain.

Regular visitors to the Music Box know that each new production has some clever theme. This edition undertakes to musically bring us “the best of the 60’s & 70’s,” using an unusual construction which, between song numbers, is cleverly (and amusingly) narrated by 3-time Emmy Award Nominee, Mr. Wrobel. With a dusty and ancient looking book in hand, he introduces the program by explaining that the very ground on which the theater now sits, formerly housed the 19th century saloon of one Joseph Becker. The crumbling volume, he tells us, is the discovered memoir of Becker’s grandson, Alfred, with the many tales of his own journey through love, loss and self-discovery in the age of peace-loving hippies, “flower children,” and drug experimentation. Wearing some of the funky, off-beat styles of America’s war-weary years of the 1960’s, the cast guides us along this journey with memorable songs of the era. As for details of Alfred’s complex tale, I suggest readers purchase a ticket to one of the upcoming August performances. But here is a sampling of the musical delights that await you.

The ensemble’s thundering opening is a loud wake-up call of The Who rock classic, “My Generation.” Brad then keeps the excitement going with the piercing resonance of his rendition of The Eagles hit, “One of These Nights,” sprinkled generously with his always amazing moments of falsetto. Kristina’s rich, mellow voice paired perfectly with the resonant electric bass notes of band member Long Le, during their fine rendition of Cat Stevens’ “Wild World.” In his colorful, tie-dyed shirt, Luke next stepped up with a fun-filled take-off of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” and even did a hyper tour of the audience. Pleasant rhythmic guitar from Brad launches the next part of the tour, as Rebekah and Cay take us for a pleasant trip on the “Ventura Highway.” Then came some intoxicating fun as the cast spoofed the California kookiness of the era’s drug culture scene, while bursting with prancing joy and rhythmic movement during Starland’s “Afternoon Delight.” I found myself thinking that the show’s Technical Director, Pat Southard, was really on top of things, as the audio and lighting in this number all worked beautifully. Changing gears for an Elvis hit full of longing and desperation, the guys delivered a solid “Suspicious Minds.” To lighten that mood, Luke continued reading passages of Alfred’s memoir that recalled a corn-shucking episode so full of hilarious double entendres, it is much too racy to describe here. But happily, it gives Cay a great chance to portray one of Alfred’s love interests as she beautifully revisits Dionne Warwick’s warm, embracing, “Alfie,” while singing to the dreamy-eyed Mr. Scarborough.

When Ms. Dahl takes a much-deserved break, sitting on the front edge of the stage to calmly begin Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” the song soon bursts into an explosive Act One finale that even includes a sizable group of youngsters from Houston’s Tribble School of the Performing Arts. They enthusiastically joined in as guests of the ensemble cast.

The second act gets off to a great start as the ladies give a razor-sharp delivery of the Rolling Stones’, “Paint It Black,” and the guys pop in for its sassy finish. The Heart tune, “Crazy on You,” gave the cast ample opportunity to spoof the abundant psychodrama of the era of transcendental meditation, along with such nutty novelties as “scream therapy,” “whisper therapy,” and “shouting therapy,” all nicely tied together as Kristina’s fierce performance of that song shot into the stratosphere. Alone on the stage, Wrobel then toned things down beautifully with a tender rendition of Don McLean’s, “And I Love You So.” Performance of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” was unexpectedly interrupted by a brief moment of levity when Miss Taylor made a wide-armed gesture and accidentally poked her finger into the eye of the quickly wincing Scarborough. While he tried to suppress his own laughter, the quick thinking Taylor placed her hand on his head declaring, “You are healed!” which brought another round of loud laughter from the audience. But Scarborough quickly recovered to offer a calming and seductive take on the Hall & Oates tune, “Sara Smile,” that also featured several nice solo riffs from members of the sensational band. The gals then return to poke a bit of fun at the era’s cults with a coy delivery of Dusty Springfield’s, “Son of a Preacher Man.”

As keyboardist Austin Biel created the atmosphere of a silent movie with his lightly tinkling piano, fans of Paul Simon would not be disappointed by Luke and Kristina’s pairing for “American Tune.” Then movie fans got the in-jokes about “The Poseidon Adventure,” but it was no joke when Taylor gave her solid performance of “The Morning After,” the song that singer, Maureen McGovern turned into an Academy Award winner for that film as, “Best Original Song.” If all of that was the main course, then the final pairing of “Ooh La La” and “Gimme Some Lovin’,” must have been the tasty dessert. The cheering standing ovation that followed, suggested the audience was fully prepared to “Give ‘em Some Lovin’”

Following the popular June & July success of their summer production, “FEELIN’ GROOVY 8,” the company now has additional shows scheduled for August, with Friday & Saturday performances at 7:30 pm Aug. 11, 12, 18 &19, and one Sunday matinee at 2pm August 13th. The Music Box Theater is located in Houston’s CityCentre district, 12777 Queensbury Lane. Tickets for each show are $52 for reserved seating and $38 for general admission. For tickets or information, call 713-522-7722 or visit, where you can also find details of the next show, “Back to the 80’s

The columns of David Dow Bentley III have appeared on Broadway websites, in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast, and may be viewed online at the website: E-mail may be directed to

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Houston Symphony Soars with Cirque de la Symphonie

[PHOTOS Courtesy of Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. Click any photo to enlarge]

By David Dow Bentley III     “The People’s Critic”

They say that “Seeing is Believing,” but for last week’s audience at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, the Houston Symphony had prepared a program that would seriously test that notion. And as summer vacations were winding down, what a memorable night of excitement was in store for Houston area youngsters just weeks away from returning to school. That excitement would be provided by the orchestra’s special guests, the brilliant artists and acrobats of Cirque de la Symphonie.

Enrico Lopez-Yañez, Conductor

The unusual concert got underway with the sweeping excitement of Shostakovich’s “Festive Overture,” under the fine direction of conductor, Enrico Lopez-Yañez. Standing tall and erect, he looked splendid in his crisp electric blue blazer with its formal black bow tie. The eye-catching and dramatic flexibility of his animated movements while conducting the orchestra would be a show in itself during the evening. Meanwhile, the giant projection screens to the right and left of the main concert stage would display marvelous close-ups of the musicians throughout the performance.

Next, as the orchestra played Rimsky-Korsakov’s devilish “Dance of the Buffoons,” a mischievous couple came on stage with the gent dressed in a glittering silver sequined jacket and black top hat. But it would be the woman’s attire that would steal the show during the mystifying magic of this sequence. There was a foil-draped hoop on the stage floor, and each time her partner directed her to stand in the middle of the hoop, he would gently lift it up to momentarily obscure her from view for what I would estimate was an instantaneous two seconds before dropping the hoop back to the floor revealing her in a totally different dress. During the pair’s comical antics, the process was repeated at least a half-dozen times in rapid succession, with a dramatically new dress adorning her each time. It was truly astonishing!

During the segment that followed, as the orchestra played Rachmaninoff’s lovely, “Vocalise, Opus 96,” the audience would learn the reason for the tantalizing red hoop that had hung high above the stage since the beginning of the program. An attractive woman dressed in sparkling yellow, with a long blonde braid of golden hair, grabbed on to some ropes hanging from the ceiling and quickly ascended skyward where she proceeded to display amazing strength, agility, and the grace of a ballerina while performing countless acrobatic twists and turns using that red hoop.

Then it was on to the music of Glinka’s “Overture to Rusian and Ludmila,” as yet another amazing acrobat arrived, but this time with an enormous orange/neon hoop so large that he could place himself within it, supported only by his fully extended arms and legs as he rolled about in remarkable and ever-changing ways. At times he resembled a human gyroscope, or an extravagant rotating Christmas tree ornament. After the orchestra’s beautiful performance of Smetana’s, “Dance of the Comedians,” the first part of the program closed with Wagner’s thrilling, “Ride of the Valkyries.

Bugs Bunny & Elmer Fudd (Public Domain photo)

The conductor began that selection by reminding the audience that the piece might sound familiar to Looney Tunes fans of Bugs Bunny, who may have ever heard Elmer Fudd singing, “Kill da wabbit, Kill da wabbit!” During this exciting selection yet another remarkable acrobat appeared, and this handsome man had an amazingly muscular physique that was put to good use during his impressive displays of strength and aerial trapeze brilliance.

Following the Intermission the fun began anew during Bizet’s Danse Bohȇme from the opera, “Carmen.” An acrobatic clown began his balancing antics on a high wire, and even included a hands-free headstand mid-wire. When his bloomers were revealed as his baggy pants fell down, the audience roared with laughter. It reminded me of the merriment at another Pavilion event years ago that had featured the screening of a classic Charlie Chaplin film. With the orchestra playing Manuel de Falla’s “Ritual Fire Dance,” the next acrobat to step forward brought with her a large assortment of colorful “hula hoops.” She proceeded to amaze the crowd with countless tricks while sometimes whirling the hoops simultaneously on every arm and leg. She concluded with such a huge number of stainless steel hoops that she resembled a human “Slinky,” for those who remember that popular toy. Then, with a dramatically waxed and curled mustache and a devilish gleam in his eye, the amusing gent in the top hat returned. While the orchestra played “Les Toreadors” from the opera Carmen, he proceeded to do another series of amazing balancing tricks, this time with some large rectangles and cubes constructed only of metal rods.

While the hard-working acrobats took a much-deserved break, the musicians carried on brilliantly as the symphony performed Offenbach’s majestic Overture to “Orpheus in the Underworld.” As the piece made its way toward the familiar “Can-Can” theme of its thrilling conclusion, there were many impressive solo moments from individual musicians. Then came the wondrous closing Waltz from Tchaikovsky’s immortal “Swan Lake,” as a handsome couple now ascend skyward on two flowing red ribbons attached to the ceiling. It would be a calming sight of incredible grace, strength and precision as they appeared to fly about in the open space above the stage during their acrobatic routines.

Finally, under blood-red lighting, came the seductive, slow and intoxicating theme of the ever escalating “Bolero” of Maurice Ravel. It would feature a last astonishing feat as two gentlemen slowly positioned themselves so that one was high atop the other performing a mind boggling, one-handed handstand on the head of his partner. It was a perfect final reminder that we had been in the presence of magnificent music, a sensational orchestra, and awesome demonstrations of miraculous human strength, agility and imagination. Bravo!

BLAST OFF TO SPACE will be the Houston Symphony’s next Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion event at 7:30 pm on September 14th, 2023. Mezzanine and Lawn seating will be free, and Reserved Orchestra seating will be $25.00. For tickets and information call 713-224-7575, or visit The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion is located at 2005 Lake Robbins Drive, The Woodlands, TX. 77380

The columns of David Dow Bentley III have appeared on Broadway websites, in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast, and may be viewed online at the website: E-mail may be directed to


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“GUYS & DOLLS” Cools the Sizzling Texas Summer Heat

JACK WHEELER (as Nicely-Nicely), and the cast of Class Act’s “Guys & Dolls,” light up the stage for the rousing “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.”

[All photos by SPRY ART PHOTOGRAPHY. Click any photo to enlarge.]

By David Dow Bentley III     “The People’s Critic”

Those familiar with the witty short stories of newspaper columnist, Damon Runyon, may also be acquainted with the types of gangsters, gamblers, hustlers and floozies that populated the 1940’s Manhattan and Brooklyn prohibition underworld of which he wrote. Those amusing stories became the inspiration for composer Frank Loesser’s delightful Broadway musical, “Guys & Dolls.” With Loesser’s charming music & lyrics, and the witty book by Jo Swerling & Abe Burrows, the 1950 show became an enduring hit that was also brought successfully to the screen with the 1955 adaptation starring Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Vivian Blaine and Jean Simmons. Now Montgomery County residents can enjoy the fun once more thanks to the cheerful Class Act production of the show currently playing at The Class Act Theater, and directed by the company’s founder and producer, Keith Brumfield.

Following the familiar tunes of the pleasant Overture, the show opens on the simple street scene set of designer, Jonathan Shelledy, which can easily rotate to a different scene when needed. A large number of nicely costumed passers-by (designer BeLynda Smith) scurry through the neighborhood. The fun begins with the merry entrance of the Save a Soul Mission band. Led by mission director, Sarah Brown (Hannah Yarbrough), and Sarah’s grandfather, Arvide (Jadin Rivas), the rag-tag group chants, “Follow the Fold,” in a seemingly desperate quest to find new Christian converts for the Mission. By contrast, the next scene moves to a perfect collection of potential sinners, as a group of gamblers gathers in the street with a quest of its own while their leader, Nathan Detroit (Brandon Brumfield), searches the town seeking a location for the upcoming big gambling night that would be safe from discovery by the always-lurking detective, Lt. Brannigan (Felipe Campos Amaya). The rowdy group breaks into delightful song to accompany this search to relocate “The Oldest Established” […Floating crap game in New York].

Nathan needs cash to rent a hall for the gambling. In hopes of winning the needed funds, he tricks high-roller, Sky Masterson (Ian Ramirez), into a wager that he could not get a date with the very prim Miss Brown.

Hannah Yarbrough as Sara and Ian Ramirez as Sky

As the slick Sky makes that attempt, Sarah at first rebuffs him during their charming duet of, “I’ll Know.” During that number it became clear that Miss Yarbrough has an extraordinarily fine voice. (That suspicion was quickly confirmed when I noted in the program that Yarbrough is a Vocal Performance Major at Sam Houston State University).

Next, we have the beaming arrival of Hot Box Nightclub star, Miss Adelaide (Sarah Ryan, looking as sunny and cheerful as her bright yellow frock and matching hat).

The HOT BOX Dancers

Wearing cute gingham farm girl dresses, Adelaide’s adorable backup dancers (choreographer, Heidi Kloes) join her in singing the delightful “A Bushel and A Peck,” number, but then things get a bit more complicated with the arrival of Adelaide’s 14-year, marriage-shy fiancée, Nathan.

Sarah Ryan as Adelaide and Brandon Brumfield as Nathan

(She’s been lying in letters to her distant mother about their “marriage” and their many children). Her desperation for a wedding show’s itself with Miss Ryan’s amusing and whiny-voiced performance of “Adelaide’s Lament.”

The lively title song, “Guys & Dolls,” gets a lusty performance from the gamblers in the ensemble, with plenty of high-energy dancing. And speaking of high-energy dancing, clever Sky finally wins a date with Sarah, and whisks her away to Cuba for a night on the town. Nightclub cocktails get the usually reverent Sarah very drunk, and the tropical island excitement has everyone out on the dance floor for this dazzling “Havana” number full of colorful costumes. Before the Intermission, Miss Yarbrough puts the audience in a great mood bringing her lovely voice to, “If I Were a Bell,” and then a pleasant duet with Ramirez, as Sarah and Sky deliver the charming, “I’ve Never Been in Love Before.”

Miss Adelaide (Sarah Ryan) advises “Take Back Your Mink”

In Act 2 the fun continues at The Hot Box Club as Adelaide and her dancers arrive onstage in elegant, electric blue evening gowns, with matching jewels and furs, to sing the hilarious, “Take Back Your Mink” reprimand, aimed at rich guys that think they can buy a woman’s affection with lavish gifts.

The HOT BOX GIRLS suddenly revealed.

The real fun begins when the girls suddenly display that they are wearing split-second, fall-away costumes that instantaneously drop and leave them all standing in just their black lingerie undergarments and full-length white gloves. What a hoot!

Audiences will find many more delights in Act 2, like the touching surprise from Sarah’s grandpa as Mr. Rivas brings his beautiful voice to the tenderness of, “More I Cannot Wish You.” Another treat is the whirling and acrobatic choreography for the gamblers during the “Crapshooter’s Dance,” and “Luck Be a Lady.” But looming above all those treats, I would have to say that Jack Wheeler’s performance as Nicely-Nicely in the “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” number, brought the full cast to its blockbuster moment. Fans of the late Stubby Kaye, who originated that role both on Broadway and in the film, will not be disappointed.

GUYS & DOLLS will have final weekend performances this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm, and there will be matinees both Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 pm. For tickets and information visit Performances will be at the Class Act Theatre, 25275 Budde Rd. (Suite 27) The Woodlands, TX

The columns of David Dow Bentley III have appeared on Broadway websites, in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast, and may be viewed online at the website: E-mail may be directed to

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Another STAR-SPANGLED SUCCESS for The Pavilion

The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
The Woodlands, Texas

By David Dow Bentley III     “The People’s Critic”

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They say, “Time Flies When You’re Having Fun,” and when I think back over the many times during the past quarter-century that I have had the privilege of reviewing the Houston Symphony’s “Star-Spangled Salute” concerts, held each year at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion on the eve of Independence Day, it brings to mind many fond memories. Oddly though, my first such joyous report on America’s day of national observance was published here in our Montgomery County COURIER on July 8th of 2001, just two months before the now infamous SEPTEMBER 11th.* Needless to say, our great nation has continued to weather many storms since that tragic day, but it’s comforting to know Americans still gather in celebration on each 4th of July.

Like the many such concerts that preceded it, this one began with the orchestra’s rousing performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which was equaled in passion by the robust singing of the clearly patriotic audience. A neon-violet glow embraced the stage, and pleasant summer breezes circulated under the pavilion. Then it was on to Copeland’s thrilling “Fanfare for the Common Man,” with the excitement of its echoing French horns, the pounding power of the kettledrums, and the shimmering accents of the cymbals.

Houston Symphony conductor, Steven Reineke.

The excitement was compounded by the dramatically animated direction from conductor, Steven Reineke, looking splendidly summer-cool in a beautiful white silk shirt. Next, he guided his talented musicians in the brisk and explosive musical bursts of Gould’s composition of, “American Salute,” as it beautifully weaved its way around the familiar American tune, When Johnny Comes Marching Home.

A delightful surprise would follow as the audience was introduced to the amazing voice and talent of guest vocalist, Jimmie Herrod.

Guest vocalist, Jimmie Herrod

His soaring and rich voice blended elegantly with the orchestra’s soothing background as he beautifully performed Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.” As the orchestra opened with the exciting rhythms of the bongo drums, Mr. Herrod then wowed the crowd with a uniquely original interpretation of the Johnny Mercer/Harold Arlen classic, “Come Rain or Come Shine.” His rendition seemed to even rise above the pleasing levels of the more familiar Sinatra version. It was rapidly becoming apparent why this handsome young man had so quickly moved on from being a finalist on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” to performances with the National Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony and the Oregon Symphony, while in addition being the toast of such important venues as Lincoln Center in Washington and the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas.

Next, movie fans familiar with the brilliant scores of composer John Williams were then treated to the orchestra’s elegant performance of his sweeping and regal “Liberty Fanfare,” composed for the Statue of Liberty Centennial celebration in 1986. That had the crowd nicely warmed up to accompany the musicians with hand-clapping glee during Sousa’s classic, “Liberty Bell March.” With darkness descending, the audience lit up the arena as they waved about the electric neon glow-sticks they had been gifted when entering the Pavilion. And of course, fans of “The Lone Ranger,” were not disappointed when maestro Reineke conducted Rossini’s thrilling “Overture to William Tell.”

Following the intermission, Mr. Herrod returned to the stage to perform his original song, “Each Time,” which seemed well-designed to display his remarkable vocal range. Then he brought his artistry to yet another astonishing level as he seemed to do the impossible when singing Barbra Streisand’s classic “Evergreen” so beautifully that it seemed the equal of the great Diva.

Of course, no such concert would be complete without the traditional Kessler/Hayman arrangement of the “Armed Forces Medley,” during which the veterans in the audience were invited to stand for appreciative audience applause as the songs of each military branch were played.

As the concert moved toward conclusion, the symphony offered a shimmering and majestic, “America the Beautiful,” nicely complemented by both the voice of Mr. Herrod and the passionate assistance of the patriotic crowd.

Then, just as it seemed the program couldn’t be more wonderful, conductor Reineke lifted his baton to conduct Tchaikovsky’s magnificent “1812 Overture.” With its included sounds of distant cannons, the overpowering score seemed to remind us all that this was a celebration of something very important. If anyone had forgotten that the closing encore of Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” was the perfect reminder.

CIRQUE DE LA SYMPHONIE will be the Houston Symphony’s next Pavilion event at 8pm on July 20th, 2023. For tickets and information call 713-224-7575 or visit The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion is located at 2005 Lake Robbins Drive, The Woodlands, TX. 77380

*For readers who might enjoy a look back at the above referenced world just before the infamous September 11th, here is a link to that story:

The columns of David Dow Bentley III have appeared on Broadway websites, in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast, and may be viewed online at the website: E-mail may be directed to

Posted in American Theatre Critics Association, AMERICANTHEATRECRITICS.ORG,, Concert Reviews, Houston Chronicle online, The Courier Columns,, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

For Elvis Fans, it Seemed Like Reincarnation at Pavilion

Patrick Dunn as ELVIS (Courtesy Phot0)

By DAVID DOW BENTLEY III     “The People’s Critic”

[Click any photo to enlarge]

As one of the world’s premier outdoor amphitheaters since Frank Sinatra was its Grand Opening star on April 28, 1990, the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands, Texas, has had no shortage of blockbuster talents gracing its stage. And while Elvis Presley had long before predeceased the arrival of this splendid venue, it seemed very much as though he arrived there last Wednesday night. Now, “tribute” concerts celebrating departed superstars are not uncommon, and often they are very good. Just this month I had the pleasure of reviewing fine such events honoring both Johnny Cash and Buddy Holly. But this Pavilion production titled, “Symphonic Tribute to Elvis,” brought the concept to a whole new level.

Patrick Dunn as ELVIS
Act One (Courtesy Photo)

Pairing the magnificent Houston Symphony with the extraordinary talent of renowned Presley tribute artist, Patrick Dunn, was most certainly a “match made in heaven.” It is no surprise then, that in 2021 at the Presley estate, Graceland, Mr. Dunn was crowned, “The Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist,” by none other than the Elvis Presley Enterprises organization.

As warm pastel lighting danced on the walls surrounding the musicians, the concert opened with the orchestra’s performance of, “A Tribute to the King,” a beautiful medley of classic Presley hits that made it fun for audience members trying to identify each tune. (Arr. Ted Ricketts). Then the thunderous kettle drums would punctuate the orchestra’s performance of R. Strauss’, “Thus Spake Zarathustra,” the thrilling music that always accompanied Presley’s arrival on stage. Mr. Dunn then arrived in a bejeweled and sparkling black jumpsuit that would be a winner at any rodeo, and his opener, “That’s Alright,” quickly affirmed his Presley-esque vocal credentials. His wiggling gyrations during, “Burnin’ Love,” would be a feature throughout the evening, and the richness of his voice would be on full display for, “Sweet Caroline.” The pavilion sound designers had everything so beautifully balanced that even during the explosive excitement of, “It’s Now or Never,” the delicate piano accents could be clearly heard as that song raced toward the power of its amazing conclusion.

Dunn’s skill as a musical storyteller was evident during the tender warmth of, “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” and his resonant vocal control for the mellow opening of, “What Now My Love,” would contrast dramatically with its sensational close. Then there would be audience frenzy from screaming young girls who would besiege the stage as the star began giving out many of his trademark silk scarves during both, “All Shook Up,” and “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling.” There was playful audience interaction for, “One Night With You,” and the soaring vocal power of, “Bridge Over Troubled Water, was absolutely breathtaking. The first act closed with the lesser known, but very beautiful, “If I Can Dream,” which Elvis performed for a 1968 TV special following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Patrick Dunn as ELVIS 
(Courtesy Photo)

After the intermission, Dunn returned to the stage in a cool white jumpsuit that sparkled with jeweled accents, as he launched into a very hot, “Blue Suede Shoes.” A passionate “Kentucky Rain,” would follow, but somehow the orchestra and vocal were off balance in a way that made much of that lyric difficult to discern. That misstep was quickly forgotten as Dunn moved on to his warm, embracing, “Love Me Tender,” with its elegant orchestration and stunning climax.

Patrick Dunn as ELVIS
Act Two (Courtesy Photo)

The star then shared the interesting story of how Presley had ended his long tenure in Las Vegas, and then made his first on-the-road stop in 1974, the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, where he opened with the Sinatra classic, “My Way.” Dunn’s performance of that classic brought wild applause. Then, with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy, it was full steam ahead for the song, “Suspicious Minds,” and the poignant images of the touching, “In the Ghetto.” A crackling rendition of “Heartbreak Hotel,” would give way to a soothing, “Amazing Grace,” that lifted the audience heavenward with the help of the star’s two talented backup singers. There were also two gifted, guitar-playing sidemen throughout this great evening of music, presided over by by the show’s brilliant arranger/conductor, Brian English, as he skillfully led the Houston Symphony from the podium. There would be more of the expected delights like, “Hound Dog,” and “Jailhouse Rock,” and then the ultimate display of Presley vocal power with Dunn’s astonishing, “Unchained Melody.” With all of that, the Veterans in the audience were not forgotten as they were invited to stand during the conductor’s beautifully patriotic arrangement of, “American Trilogy.” And perhaps the icing on the cake came during the show’s final moments, as the near full house audience, stretching up and down the surrounding pavilion hillsides, was invited to raise and wave their cell phones and flashlights to accompany Dunn’s wonderful closing number, “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.” That sentiment was certainly greatly reciprocated by the grateful crowd.

CIRQUE DE LA SYMPHONIE will be the Houston Symphony’s next Pavilion event at 8pm on July 20th, 2023. For tickets and information call 713-224-7575, or visit . The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion is located at 2005 Lake Robbins Drive, The Woodlands, TX. 77380

The columns of David Dow Bentley III have appeared on Broadway websites, in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast, and may be viewed online at the website: E-mail may be directed to

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Classic Rock and Country Music Light Up the Crighton Stage

The Crighton Theatre

By DAVID DOW BENTLEY III     “The People’s Critic”

[Click any photo to enlarge]

An assortment of out-of-town commitments had taken me away from Texas for just over two years, so it was a dream come true to at last find myself back enjoying a fine meal at Joe’s Italian Restaurant in Conroe, before taking an after dinner stroll past the inviting town’s various gift shops, pubs and antique stores, on the way to the historic and beautifully restored Crighton Theater for the evening’s concert. And what a concert this “Authentic Tribute to CASH & ORBISON” would be, with the talents of Colin Dexter as the legendary ROY ORBISON, and Bennie Wheels as JOHNNY CASH presiding on the Crighton stage. Last minute tickets were hard to come by, but luckily a few scattered balcony seats were available for late arriving fans.

First up was the unexpected, but delightful arrival of the show’s “Special Guests,” the ladies of “Shake, Rattle and Roll.” Joining the fine musicians of the Walkin’ the Line Band onstage, the gals would be the back-up singers throughout the evening. Looking sharp in dark jackets, over glistening red-sequined tops, they wasted no time in lighting up the room with a terrific rendition of the old Ronettes classic, “Be My Baby.” If that wasn’t enough medicine for what ails us, they quickly followed with a “Love Potion #9” that had the appreciative audience singing along on the chorus. Closing out that opening set, they offered a cheerful, “Bye, Bye Love,” and then it was on to the main events, beginning with Mr. Dexter.

PHOTO: AMM Music Productions

He arrived in a sleek and polished black suit and sunglasses, and took off right away with a great Orbison classic, “Only the Lonely,” that was a smooth as the silk of his suit. There would be rhythmic and pulsing backup from the band as he reached some of those challenging high notes in “Running Scared,” and he weaves a nice vocal tapestry with “In Dreams.” And speaking of dreams, his “Dream Baby,” had the audience rhythmically clapping along. He did a great job with the higher ranges in, “Crying,” and brought a fierce intensity to the “Mean Woman Blues.” When he sang Linda Rondstadt’s “Blue Bayou,” there was some nice smooth back-up from the gals. Then he made a lot of new friends in the crowd when he dedicated his last song to all the pretty women in the audience. Can you guess the title?

Bennie Wheels as Johnny Cash

Following the Intermission, Mr. Wheels took commanding charge of the proceedings with his deep, rich and resounding voice immediately declaring he was fully qualified to take on the Johnny Cash repertoire. What better way to prove it than with a powerful “Folsom Prison Blues” for the opener? He told the audience that as a young child, he was first captivated by Cash when the singer did a guest appearance on “The Muppets.” What an impression that must have been. He went on to a sensational, “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” that had the ladies returned to the stage for more fine back-up. And when Wheels sang, “Get Rhythm,” he really had the room rockin’. Apologetically, he then explained that now and then he feels compelled to sing a sad song. With that he brought plenty of smiles as he did the great tongue-in-cheek tune, “A Boy Named Sue.” Performing the Cash #1 hit, “Walk the Line,” was a perfect place to show off his deeply resonant voice, and he also showed his skill as a storyteller with the beautifully visual tale of “Sunday Morning Coming Down.”

Now of course we critics are sometimes thought to be cranky and mean, but that’s just not my style. But I will say this. I like to HEAR beautiful lyrics, and I like to HEAR beautiful voices. When instrumental volumes are so strong that singers with great voices cannot be properly heard, it is a disservice to both those performers and to the audience. At various points in this otherwise terrific show, this was an issue that needs to be addressed by the sound management team going forward. End of rant!

But of course the audience wouldn’t let Mr. Wheels off the stage without his doing the Johnny Cash hit, “Jackson,” and there would be plenty of audience foot stompin’ and hand clappin’ during the tongue twister that followed with, “I’ve Been Everywhere.” But the audience hadn’t seen it all yet. The star would amaze the crowd once again when he pulled out his harmonica for a high-powered performance of “Orange Blossom Special.” Now that’s entertainment!

THE CRIGHTON THEATRE, 234 North Main St. in Conroe Texas, will present “NIGHTBIRD An Authentic Tribute to Fleetwood Mac,” this Saturday, June 10th, 2023 at 7:30 p.m. For tickets and information visit or call 936-441-7469.

Other links of interest: and

The columns of David Dow Bentley III have appeared on Broadway websites, in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast, and may be viewed online at the website: E-mail may be directed to

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A Triumphant DROWSY CHAPERONE from Class Act

The cast of Class Act Productions’ THE DROWSY CHAPERONE

[All photos by SPRY ART PHOTOGRAPHY. Click any photo to enlarge.]

By DAVID DOW BENTLEY III     “The People’s Critic

It was exactly one quarter-century ago when I had the first of what would be dozens of opportunities to review the splendid musical productions of CLASS ACT as you can see here:

Now, these 25 years later, the organization continues to amaze with the astonishing, Broadway-worthy musical productions it produces year after year. The latest such success story is its absolutely wonderful “The DROWSY CHAPERONE,” now playing for one last weekend at the Class Act Theater in The Woodlands, Texas.

The authors of this uniquely constructed 1998 Musical (Music & Lyrics by Lisa Lambert & Greg Morrison, Book by Bob Martin & Don McKellar), have conceived a show so unusual in its organization, it is simply fascinating to see it all play out on a stage.

Cyril Pajestka as “The Man in the Chair” in Class Act’s THE DROWSY CHAPERONE

We are guided along on this intriguing journey by the central character who is simply described as, “The Man in the Chair.” (Cyril Pajestka in a brilliantly understated performance as the young man who serves essentially as the show’s narrator.) As you might expect, the show opens on a darkened stage, with that narrator sitting in a chair beside his old-fashioned record player, along with his vast collection of 33 1/3 record albums of Broadway musicals. In what may be a longer soliloquy than any Shakespeare ever created, the narrator begins to informally address the audience as though they were a group of friends visiting his home. But Mr. Pajestka handles it with such ease and skill that it is totally believable as the narrator reverently relates his passion for listening to these musicals, while imagining everything that would be happening in a full production. He selects one of his albums titled, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” and begins to play it for us. That is where the sheer genius of this show begins, because as he imagines what would have been happening in a Broadway staging of this imagined musical, the entire show begins to come to life right before our eyes. All of that is beautifully supported by the fine set design of Kevin Colburn, Lighting designs of Jonathan Shelledy, Sound designs of Meredith Alexander, and especially the countless beautiful period costumes from designer, Alyson Gerber.

The lightweight Roaring 20’s plot is fun from beginning to end, as we meet the entire large cast in the dazzling opening number, “Fancy Dress,” and even the household servants join in the fun reminding one of a scene in “My Fair Lady.” The setting is the elegant home of a wealthy widow, the absent-minded Mrs. Tottendale (amusingly played by Sarah Ryan).

Grace Schexnayder as Janet in Class Act’s THE DROWSY CHAPERONE

Everyone is preparing for the anticipated marriage of the adorable, young, (and soon-to-be retiring) starlet, Janet Van De Graaff (Grace Schexnayder). Her betrothed is the very good looking and endlessly cocky fiancee, the ever-beaming oil tycoon, Robert Martin (uproariously played by Beau Snortland.)He looks for all the world like one of those handsome men modeling Van Heusen shirts in fashion magazines of the day. Thanks to masterful leadership from Director/Choreographer, Heidi Kloes, and Musical Director, Kameryn Zetterstrom, the couple is perfectly cast, and like the rest of the actors here, in my opinion they all could have easily passed the test on any Broadway stage.

Brilliant choreography is a hallmark throughout the show, and explodes right away with “Cold Feets,” and the stunning tap dance acrobatics of Robert and his Best Man, George (Jack Wheeler). Mr. Wheeler brings still more fun to the delightful “Wedding Bells” number. And Janet, a natural born “ham” herself, insists she will leave show business to become a dutiful wife, but without the blessing of her Broadway producer, Mr. Feldzieg (Jadin Rivas). While performing the song titled, “Show Off,” she is unable to resist flamboyant gestures with every line of the tune, while repeatedly singing “I don’t want to show off no more.” It is a laugh riot. Another amusing aspect of the show is the way the narrator sometimes wanders through his imagined scenes while commenting to the audience, and there are even humorous moments when his needle gets stuck on the record and the full cast freezes in place until he adjusts it.

Natalie Monreal in the title role of Class Act’s THE DROWSY CHAPERONE

The comedy continues to escalate with the arrival of the mildly alcoholic Chaperone, (Natalie Monreal), who is charged with protecting the bride’s virtue until the wedding. Singing, “As we Stumble Along,” with the full cast joining her, cocktail glasses in hand, Monreal’s droll, dead pan characterization reminded me of Beatrice Arthur’s “Mame” performance as Vera Charles on Broadway. Then still another comic plateau is reached with the tango-flavored and deliciously outrageous performance of Latin lover, Adolfo (Henrik Zetterstrom). And what a voice this guy has! Wow! Then there is a delightful and delicate pairing of Robert and Janet for the sweet, “Accident Waiting to Happen.” And before the close of Act One we meet two gangsters disguised as bakers, (Ella Schexnayder & Amy Jackson), along with Mr. Feldzieg, his “dumb blonde” protegee, Kitty (Angela Pajestka in a sassy fringed flapper dress), and Mrs. Tottendale. They all join forces with the ensemble for the lively “Toledo Surprise” number. And all that fun takes place in just Act One. To sample the delights of what happens after Intermission, do yourself a favor and try to capture one of the last available tickets. You won’t be sorry. It is an absolute joy!

The DROWSY CHAPERONE will have final weekend performances this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm, and there will be matinees both Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 pm. For tickets and information visit

Performances will be at the Class Act Theatre, 25275 Budde Rd. (Suite 27) The Woodlands, TX

The columns of David Dow Bentley III have appeared on Broadway websites, in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast, and may be viewed online at the website: E-mail may be directed to

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A Sensational Opening for the New MUSIC BOX Theater

Courtesy Photo

By DAVID DOW BENTLEY III     “The People’s Critic”

[Click any photo to enlarge.]

The Music Box Theater

A brief transportation delay in reaching the new location may have caused me to miss the first moments of the Opening Show from the MUSIC BOX THEATER in its cozy and attractive new house located in the Queensbury Theatre complex of Houston’s chic and increasingly popular CITYCENTRE neighborhood.

Houston’s CityCentre District

Houston’s fashionable new shopping destination, the area has a growing reputation for offering, “Everything from global cuisine, to inviting patios and fine dining.” And now the area lays claim to the first Music Box production in its lovely new home. Happily, this long-running family of gifted performers remains intact, with married co-founders, Rebekah Dahl, and Brad Scarborough heading the Fab Five, rounded out by Cay Taylor, Luke Wrobel and his lovely wife, Kristina Sullivan.

Titled, “THE GREATEST HITS ALBUM—Side B,” this Grand Opening show took off like a rocket when Brad stepped onstage to deliver his absolutely thrilling rendition of the The Animals song classic, “House of the Rising Sun.” I have never heard it sung better. Then came another “never-better” performance from Luke Wrobel, who joked about the group now celebrating, “the 12th year of the never-ending storm of our insanity.” Elegantly framed by the lush drape of the crimson stage curtain, he went on to deliver a hauntingly mellow interpretation of Gordon Lightfoot’s classic, “If You Could Read My Mind.” The song was beautifully backed up with the perfect blending of Cay and Kristina. The group then reestablished their well-honed comedy chops with an uproarious spoof of the Bee Gees disco hit, “Stayin’ Alive.” It was packed with hilarious body language for the dancing, and some falsetto vocal fun from Brad. Guitar in hand, he then joined Rebekah for a “Defying Gravity,” that would start out gently, and then build to a breathtaking and exciting conclusion. Next, Kristina appears in a glittering black top to deliver an equally glittering performance of, “You Don’t Own Me.” With impressive vocal power, Brad and Cay then offer a pleasing pairing of, “Just Like Heaven,” and “Heaven is a Place on Earth.”

With his parents in the audience, Luke gave them a warm welcome singing a dreamlike and passionate, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” The first half of the show would then conclude with a very cleverly constructed, “7-Minute Musical,” featuring the cast attempting to rapidly perform bits of every song from “The Sound of Music.” With a countdown clock displayed above the stage, and with rapid-fire costume changes that would even supply a group of singing nuns, the cast actually pulled that feat off to the delight of the audience while actually including every song from the show.

The Music Box Theater
(Courtesy Photo)

Following Intermission, the cast brought a cappella perfection and counterpoint mastery to every detail of an original and creative arrangement of, “Somebody to Love.”And speaking of perfection, the theater itself is beautifully designed with an elevated area off to the left of the stage where the brilliant band is on full display to become an intimate part of the show, and members can be periodically introduced to the audience. (Band Director, Austin Biel, on keyboards & guitar, Mark McCain on lead guitar, Long Le on bass guitar, and Arthur Gilligan on percussion. Technical Direction from Pat Southard and assistant, Michael Burka keeps everything from sound to lighting and beyond running smoothly.

Other second act delights include a soaring performance of Neil Diamond’s “Holly Holy,” and Ms. Taylor’s laser-like delivery of a magnificent, “Maybe This Time,” from Cabaret. Rebekah gives us a thoughtful and warm, “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” that evolves into a solid duet with Luke, while the band rounds it out with pulsing power. Another special treat was the 4-guitar fiesta of the Gipsy Kings’ hit, “Bamboleo,” as Brad joins the guitar playing band members for this romantic musical feast, lightened by some comical silhouette shadow dancing from Luke and Kristina in the background. The gals followed with a heartwarming, “As If We Never Said Goodbye,” before Luke and Brad have some fun moving around in the audience to teasingly serenade various ladies there with, “You’ve Lost that Lovin Feeling.” Then Rebekah did some mingling of her own among the band members during her sassy and powerful, “Dream On.” Continuing the excellence, Kristina delivered a brilliant, “Both Sides Now,” that featured beautiful accents from lead guitarist, Mark McCain. The relaxing cast finale nicely combined, “When You Wish Upon a Star,” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Of course, this cheering audience had gotten exactly what it wanted, and couldn’t have wished for anything better.

THE GREATEST HITS ALBUM—Side B,” continues through June 17th at the Music Box Theatre in Houston’s CityCentre district, 12777 Queensbury Lane. [The theater will validate parking tickets for patrons using the garage right next door.] Performances are Fridays and Saturdays thru the run, with one Sunday matinee June 11th at 2pm. Tickets for each show are $52 for reserved seating and $38 for general admission. For tickets or information, visit, or call 713-522-7722

For tickets or information, visit, or call 713-522-7722


The columns of David Dow Bentley III have appeared on Broadway websites, in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast, and may be viewed online at the website: E-mail may be directed to

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A Winning “RENT” Production for Some, But Not For All

Tomas Matos as Angel and The Cast of RENT. Photo by Melissa Taylor

[All Photos by Melissa Taylor. Click any photo to enlarge.]


“The People’s Critic”

It was bold. It was brassy. It was rowdy. It was brazen. It was “in-your-face.” And for much of the time, it was musically quite loud. Perhaps it was those collective elements that resulted in a substantial portion of the Theater Under the Stars audience frequently cheering enthusiastically during the current production of Jonathan Larson’s successful off-beat Broadway musical, “Rent.” Or perhaps it is the fact that there is often an underlying atmosphere of affectionate caring and sweetness that threads its way among this odd collection of youthful ne’er do wells, “hippies” and “free spirit” rebels living on Manhattan’s sleazy Lower East Side during the early days of the dawning HIV/AIDS epidemic in the last century. The play struck a close chord for me, as I had briefly lived in that same unsavory neighborhood when I first came to The Big Apple to study theatre at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts after graduating from the University of Texas ages ago. But enough about me.

This particular production could not have been more enthusiastically introduced than was the case when TUTS Artistic Director, Dan Knechtges, stepped forward to greet the audience, while himself visibly bursting with excited anticipation of the opening curtain. He concluded by giving the audience a short video treat screening a well-done promo for the TUTS Organization’s renowned Humphreys School of Musical Theatre. Since 1972 it has been Houston’s outstanding training ground for young people following a performing arts path. After that, it was on with the show!

Scott Redmond as Mark and Adrian Lopez as Roger in the TUTS production of “RENT.”

Loosely based on Puccini’s opera, “La Boheme,” the often-challenged characters in this sometimes-dizzying musical drama are a Bohemian group of struggling young artists. They are collectively furious at an unscrupulous local landlord who is locking tenants out of an apartment building. Their mood of protest is reinforced by the spirit of rebellion that was already widespread in a war-weary nation increasingly unhappy with the escalating conflict in Vietnam. The opening Christmas Eve scene gives us roommates, Mark (Scott Redmond as a would-be cinematographer), and rock guitarist, Roger (Adrian Lopez). Bad news begins to abound as we learn (via hard-to-hear answering machine messages), that Mark’s girlfriend, Maureen, has left him. Meanwhile the guys’ gay friend, Tom Collins (Will Mann), a very left-wing professor at NYU, announces he is coming to visit, but finds himself mugged enroute.  If that is not enough bad news, the guys’ landlord, Benny, (Jamal Houston) is shutting off their power and demanding the prior year’s back rent, which they had previously understood to be forgiven.

TUTS production of RENT with Will Mann as Tom Collins and Tomás Matos as Angel and the cast of RENT.

But injured Tom is discovered and helped by cheerfully flighty cross-dresser, Angel (Tomás Matos as a scene-stealing cutie who lights up the stage singing, “You Okay, Honey?”). The two hit it off, and soon learn they are both HIV positive. Oh, and Roger is also infected, having caught it from his last girlfriend who took her own life upon learning she was positive. Courageous director, Ty Defoe, had a mammoth task to weave together such a complex number of characters and plot lines. And that’s just the beginning of Act One.

So, by now you have probably figured out that this is not your grandma’s Rodgers & Hammerstein musical. But it is a profound recognition of a world health crisis, the gritty details of which may make it a no-go for some. I was reminded of this by a pleasant Father & Son pair that was seated near my guest and I in the theater’s Diana Restaurant before the show. The two were avid Broadway musical fans and had recently attended the Hobby Center’s production of “Moulin Rouge.” They were so captivated by it, they bought pricey tickets to return to see that show again the very next night. Alas, on this occasion we passed them during intermission as they apologized that they were unhappy with the production and were heading for the exits. They would not be alone, as there were certainly sprinklings of newly empty seats as Act Two began with a dreamlike full cast performance of one of the show’s loveliest tunes, “Seasons of Love.” But for the many who remained for the second act, this energetic young cast would offer numerous knock-out solo and Ensemble performances that would bring cheers and loud applause, notwithstanding the various depressing plot lines that follow.

Funky costumes from Colleen Grady, equally funky choreography from Monica Josette, back-wall video projections from designer Katherine Freer, and eye-catching lighting from Michelle Habeck, would all contribute to the impact. Sound Designer, Andrew Harper, managed the volume levels well for the several explosive, full cast numbers. Meanwhile, with Charlie Alterman’s Musical Direction, and the prize-winning history of the piece, (The Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Book, and Best Original Score), one can easily be reminded of Linda Loman’s legendary last line in “Death of a Salesman”:


With Book, Music and Lyrics by Jonathan Larson, RENT continues through this weekend at Houston’s Hobby Center main stage. Remaining performances are Friday & Saturday at 8pm, with 2pm matinee performances on both Saturday and Sunday. For tickets visit the website at, or call (713) 558-8887 locally, and (888) 558-3882 (outside of Houston).

A member of both The Lambs Club Inc. and The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), the columns of DAVID DOW BENTLEY III have appeared on Broadway websites, in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast, and may be viewed online at the website: . E-mail may be directed to

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“ANYTHING GOES”: Another Class Act Success

By DAVID DOW BENTLEY III     “The People’s Critic”

[Photo by Spry Art Photography]

It was Thomas Wolfe who famously wrote, “You Can’t Go Home Again.” But I’m thinking that maybe he was wrong, because after two of our nation’s Pandemic Years and assorted family matters that required my presence back in New York, I find myself blessed to finally be back in Texas reviewing a marvelous Class Act Production, as I have been able to so many times since back in the 1990’s. This time around it is the always delightful Cole Porter musical, “ANYTHING GOES,” which I last saw this group perform more than a decade ago back in 2012. It’s still as much fun as ever under the continued guidance of its seemingly ageless Founder/Director, Keith Brumfield. following the show, Mr. Brumfield, along with talented Lighting Designer, Jonathan Shelledy, would graciously give my guest and I a private tour of the mainstage, as well as a backstage tour of their building’s amazingly extensive theatrical spaces including storage space for enormous collections of costumes, props etc., music & rehearsal rooms, meeting rooms, office spaces, dressing rooms, restrooms, and intermission concession areas, all conveniently located at 25275 Budde Rd. in a sprawling commercial park right here in The Woodlands, Texas.

The cute Sailors Quartet (Emanuel Cruz, Colton Frye, Corbin Meredith & Samuel Nash) give us a zany, “They’ll Always Be a Lady Fair,” while swabbing the deck. We get more amusement from the comical pairing of Hope’s often hysterically wailing mother, Evangeline, (Amy Jackson), and the master of facial double-takes, the ship’s Captain (Jack Wheeler). There’s a perky pairing of Reno and gangster, Moonface Martin (Beau Snortland) for the tune, “Friendship,” but the heavy-handed broad comedy here becomes a bit tedious. Relief is quickly on the way, however, as Yarbrough arrives with graceful moves and a lovely soft green gown, to join Billy for the sweet waltz of “It’s De-Lovely.” Then the energetic cast joined Reno for the tap-dancing delight of the title song that would send the audience off to Intermission with smiles on every face.

In Act Two, saucy Reno sashays on stage to liven things up in a sexy, sparkling and ruby sequined gown as she launches into a seductive, “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.” She is joined by her equally sexy back-up “Angels,” amusingly named Purity, Chastity, Charity, and Virtue ( Zoe Marlborough, Kenzie Dawn, Angela Pajestka, Blythe Bowman). With flashy red dresses of their own, boy, can these girls dance! With more great choreography, the number explodes across the stage like a rousing church revival meeting. Next, in a gorgeous, flowing coral gown, Hope delivers a stunning, “Goodbye, Little Dream, Goodbye.” Moonface, the gangster, is captured and thrown into the brig below decks where he wishes he could have his freedom and “Be Like the Bluebird.” Billy follows leading off with a beautiful, “All Through the Night,” that really catches fire when Yarbrough joins in from high atop the ship, with her calming and lovely voice.

The fun continues with some more uproarious comic flair from Mr. Pajestka when Evelyn gives a very funny performance of, “The Gypsy in Me,” featuring hilarious, writhing, and slithering body language that had many in the audience howling with laughter. And there was still one more sensuous number from Erma (Paris Nguyen-Hatsushiba). Wearing polished red silk pajamas, she joined forces with the sailors as she pranced joyfully about, rambunctiously delivering an adorable dance routine. And then, as though we audience members hadn’t already realized this had been a lovely evening of musical theatre, we got one more pleasant reminder with a full cast reprise of the wonderful, “All Through the Night.”

ANYTHING GOES will have final weekend performances this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm, and this Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 pm. For tickets and information visit

Performances will be at the Class Act Theatre, 25275 Budde Rd. (Suite 27) The Woodlands, TX

The columns of David Dow Bentley III have appeared on Broadway websites, in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast, and may be viewed online at the website: www.ThePeoplesCritic.comE-mail may be directed to

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