At long last it has finally dawned on me how appropriately Houston’s MUSIC BOX THEATRE has been named. I say that because while it casts itself as a comedy club, music is central to its irresistible allure. Oh, you will have plenty of laughs there, that I can assure you. The performers were even respectfully hilarious on the recent somber 10th anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks when a previous commitment required my hesitant attendance at “The Box” for a Sunday matinee of the current riotous production, “Damaged Divas.” Divas indeed! This cast of six sports some of the finest vocalists anywhere with husband & wife team and club founders, Brad Scarborough and Rebekah Dahl heading that list with music and comedy skills they thoroughly honed during their years as stars at the Masquerade Theatre. If we could transport ourselves back toward the middle of the last century this couple would probably have had a nationally telecast hit musical comedy variety show, and Sonny & Cher and Donny & Marie would have been suitably worried. Equally important to the success of The Box are talented fellow cast members and Masquerade veterans, Cay Taylor, Luke Wrobel, Colton Berry and John Gremillion, along with the jazzy Music Box Band led by musical director, Glenn Sharp, who is ably supported by Mark McCain (lead guitar), Long Le (bass guitar), and Donald Pain (percussion). To top it off, the venue is cozy, intimate and comfortable. With all of that as background, let’s move on now to the fun of Damaged Divas.
The show humorously bills itself as an effort to, “…seek out damaged performers and profit from their misfortune,” and appropriately opens with a rockin’ and ghostly rendition of “When You’re Strange.” There are running gags about Celine Dion and Whitney
Houston (is she hiding backstage?) that work sometimes but not always. A William Shatner take-off by Mr. Gremillion was not nearly as strong as his really hilarious take-off on newscaster, Tom Brokaw and the “MBT Nightly News.” They may want to make that bit a running gag at the club. But back to the music, Rebekah delivered an electrifying, “Crazy.” Colton and Brad followed with a strong counterpoint arrangement combining “At Last,” (Brad in a rich, mellow and confident performance worthy of a Vegas showroom) and a Patsy Cline version of “Crazy,” from Colton that was full of longing and passion. Miss
Taylor follows with a really sexy, solid, and vibrant, “Cabaret,” that featured an especially well done “girlfriend Elsie” segment. The performers tipped their hats to the music of Stevie Nicks & the Dixie Chicks with great harmonies for, “Landslide.”
With expressed reverence for “Aretha Franklin’s collection of endangered furs,” the cast joined forces singing a, “Respect-a-thon,” as they took on such personas as Ethel Merman,
(Rebekah), Pavarotti (Luke), and Liberace (Brad) while Cay and Colton had zany fun as Joni Mitchell and Britney Spears. Rebekah follows with Merman’s classic from Gypsy, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” and it was an exciting performance but just a bit too exciting. Dahl’s voice is superb and I would urge her to trust it more when going into overdrive to hit one out of the park. She’s a natural winner without any need for excesses that might strain such a fine vocal instrument.
The next segment’s prison theme was well carried off by Colton, Luke, Brad & Company, and featured more of John’s Brokaw spoofing, a terrific “Folsom Prison Blues,” from Luke, funny Lil Wayne gangsta wrap from Colton and a sensational “Jailhouse Rock” from the
ever-amazing Mr. Scarborough. Following the intermission the fine band warmed up the crowd with a jazzy, “Dancing Queen.” Then it was on to “Big Girl’s Don’t Cry,” featuring
Brad’s beaming smile and terrific falsetto. Luke followed with a fine accent and terrifically clever spoof of French stereotypes before he launched into a warm, seductive and very passionate,” La Vie en Rose,” and Cay joined the fun with a dreamlike “Dream a Little Dream.” Colton brought lashing desperation to a fierce, “Man in the Mirror.”
Perhaps the most hilarious part of the show finds the cast recreating an onstage gathering of Judy Garland (Rebekah), Barbra Streisand (Cay), Dean Martin (Brad), Frank Sinatra (Luke) and the endlessly riotous Colton in drag as an ever-fidgeting Liza. Rebekah & Cay skillfully perform the familiar Garland/Streisand counterpoints of “Happy Days” & “Get
Happy,” and then the whole gang combines for an “I Love Paris,” free for all that I would have used for the final number. It was a screaming riot! But there was more as Luke produced a thoughtful Billie Holiday tribute with an easy going “God Bless the Child” that built to an almost operatic conclusion. Rebekah played “can you top this?” with a savage and very on-target “Me and Bobby McGee” that seemed to reincarnate Janis Joplin right down to the rose-colored glasses and matching feather boa. When the full cast joined in the finale of, “Get Together,” I’m sure many in the audience were thinking about when they would next be able to get together at The Music Box. Perhaps a good time would be during the November 18th – January 15th run of the club’s “very special holiday special”, titled Fruitcakes. All shows run Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm at 2623 Colquitt in Houston. For tickets and information call (713) 522-7722 or visit the website at www.TheMusicBoxTheater.com .