Hilarious Launch for Music Box Theater

(L-R) Front: Cay Taylor, Colton Berry Rear: Brad Scarborough, Rebekah Dahl, Luke Wrobel

It was a day of considerable refreshment for the Houston scene. It began with the
first afternoon of cooling rain that the drought stricken area had seen in the
three months since my arrival last February when I fled the snow in New York.
Then, as evening arrived, there was new refreshment for the Houston nightlife
scene with this month’s Opening Night of the Music Box Theatre’s
musical comedy club. First night patrons would find some very familiar faces in
this new troupe made up of five experienced actors who honed their considerable
musical comedy skills as repertory members with Houston’s famed Masquerade
Theatre. The performers include Rebekah Dahl, Brad Scarborough, Luke Wrobel,
Cay Taylor and Colton Berry. The standing room only audience even included
Masquerade’s founder/director, Phillip Duggins, who was on hand to cheer for a
group of stars he will surely miss as members of his company. The intimate
venue is a bit snug, but not terribly so, and some of the seating is at tables
or sidebars. Come early for the best options in that regard.

I am sure there have been times in my many reviews of attractive Miss Dahl’s work
when I have compared her zany comic style to that of the legendary Lucille
Ball. It was sweet vindication for me to see her now taking her career in that
specific direction. She is well supported in that effort with her talented and
handsome husband, Mr. Scarborough. Looking sleek in an elegant black dress
accented by numerous ropes of pearls, Dahl stepped forward to greet the
audience with the words, “Thank you for sharing our dream.”

This debut show has the clever title of “Opening the Box,” with its premise being a group of performers that have decided to start a new comedy club. How appropriate is that? The
nuttiness got underway a short time later as the full cast emerged on the
darkened stage and the audience heard an ominous announcement to, “Please
remain seated for the national anthem of some other country.” The players joked
a bit about the risks of starting the new venue with lines like, “Hope we don’t
lose our shirts,” and mused about giving up previous careers, quipping that,
“We didn’t want to get boxed in.” Dahl patronizingly teased the audience as she
warned her fellow players, “We have an obligation and responsibility to honor
this crowd.” That did not take long as the show took off like a rocket with
Dahl leading the group in a sensational rendition of, “Get Me Jesus On the
Line.” The collective musical experience at Masquerade was quickly apparent.
The song precipitated an amusing debate among the players as to the political
correctness of a tune with such religious overtones.

Mr. Scarborough then calmed the controversy down while leading the song, “Don’t Worry Baby,’with an elegant falsetto and a closing high note that was a pip. Mr. Berry
meanwhile has great fun adding, shall we say, a “gay” atmosphere to the
proceedings with his expressed devotion to both Lady Gaga and Paula Abdul.
Fantasizing about Abdul he sings a passionate “Happy Together.” (Berry, by the
way, was a member of the “Top 24” contestants during the seventh season of American
). All the accompanying music is carefully crafted with the club’s
musical director, Glenn Sharp, on keyboard, Donald Pain on percussion, and
guitarists Mark McCain (lead) and Long Le (bass). Pat Southard handles
technical aspects for the show.

Top to Bottom: Wrobel, Scarborough, Dahl, Berry, Taylor

Dahl reflects a bit on missing the Hobby Center and Masquerade’s, “costumes, balcony and drama.” It is worth noting that she had no difficulty filling that much larger theater with her talent dynamics. The one caveat might be that in a few of her numbers here
in this smaller venue she was still reaching for that balcony in a room that
doesn’t have one. That made for a few moments that seemed to offer strident
high notes that I am confident will disappear as she adapts to the new space.

As for Miss Taylor, she did her best to loosen up the new group while singing a sassy, “Let
Yourself Go,” that featured some cute soft shoe choreography with Dahl joining
in. Taylor further advised her fellow actors that letting themselves go could
be very therapeutic, “like an herbal colonic.” That brought a roar from the
crowd, and may have been one of the racier jokes in a show that was tastefully
funny without ever being crude.

There were some comic bits that were cute, while perhaps in need of fine-tuning as the group continues refining its material. Taylor’s Martha Stewart routine and the Frank
Sinatra/Dean Martin spin-off of the Rat Pack from Wrobel and Scarborough come
quickly to mind. The boys dabbled a bit with tunes like “That’s Amore,” and
“The Lady is a Tramp.” Scarborough delivered a confident and solid, “That’s
Life,” but Wrobel’s Sinatra-esque rendition of Cole Porter’s 1932 hit, “Night
& Day,” got him briefly into a vocal problem with the key. To his credit he
apologized to the audience and started over, though the languid pace of the
tempo kept the song from catching fire, as it should. The song’s lyric that,
“…it’s torments won’t be through…” may have had special meaning for Wrobel, who
a short time later would vindicate his considerable talent with a sensational
delivery of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” that was not only spot-on, but also
uniquely stylized by Wrobel in a way that made thinking about Judy Garland

There was plenty more fun following the intermission as Berry and Scarborough opened up with the Beatles tune, “Ticket to Ride,” and Taylor led the group in another tune from
the Fab Four, this time with a polished a cappella rendition of
“Blackbird.” Wrobel had fun mimicking the singer, Bono, and Dahl delivered a
rich rendition of, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” Mr. Berry led
a great spoof of Time-Life record offers promoting the “Time-Life Legendary
Hits” collection as cast members came forward for such unlikely pairings as
Professor Harold Hill singing Bob Dylan, or the King of Siam singing Pink
Floyd. Another highlight was Berry’s fierce and lashing performance of
Aerosmith’s, “Dream On.” Scarborough ventured back into falsetto mode for a
great, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” that precipitated a cute animal puppetry
routine from the whole gang.

Rebekah Dahl Defying Gravity

At finale time the audience cheerfully joined in on the chorus of  “Give Me the Beat Boys,” but my mind wandered back to Dahl’s earlier number, a soaring “Defying Gravity,” from the musical, Wicked. When she sang the line, “You can’t hold me down,” I bet
she was speaking for this fledgling group of players that are well on their way
to success on the comedy circuit. [ Ed.Note: Photos above by Dalton Dehart & Jesse Talamantes.]

OPENING THE BOX continues through August 7th
at the Music Box Theater, 2623 Colquitt, in Houston, Texas. For reservations or information call (713) 522-7722 or visit the website at www.themusicboxtheater.com . The club’s refreshment stand offers coffee, tea and an assortment of beers, wines, soft drinks, snacks and desserts. The next show, Damaged Divas of the Decades, begins August 12th and will spotlight the “life and times of popular music’s most talented but troubled singers.”

About The People's Critic

David Dow Bentley III, writes columns about the performing arts which are featured in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast. A member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), The International Theatre Critics Association, and America's oldest theatrical club, The Lambs, he also had long service as the editor of The Lambs' Script magazine. Mr. Bentley may be contacted via e-mail at ThePeoplesCritic3@gmail.com.
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