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The hilarious show was called, OSCAR® IN THE BOX, and on a cool, clear Texas night, and under a growing moon, the crowd of customers assembling at The Music Box Theatre was about to have more fun than any televised Academy Awards program could ever provide. The talented resident cast of five (Luke Wrobel, Colton Berry, Cay Taylor, and club founders, Brad Scarborough and wife, Rebekah Dahl) was not hiding backstage waiting for the show to begin. The affable group was out front greeting the customers, working the crowd, shaking hands, and just generally continuing the kind of family atmosphere that is drawing ever-larger crowds to Music Box shows as the word gets around. And then, — it was Showtime!
The fine four-piece band (Glen Sharp, musical director), tipped its hat to Hollywood right away as it struck up an Overture that began with a bluesy “The Way We Were,” and moved on to a twangy, “Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend.” Then, in a classic black tuxedo, the handsome Mr. Scarborough suddenly arrived center stage amid dramatically shadowy lighting (technical direction, Pat Southard). With his elegant voice he proceeded to knock out a first inning home run with a classy counterpoint arrangement of “Puttin’ On the Ritz,” that featured slick, slow, and jazzy choreography from the ensemble. The show took off like a rocket and never looked back except to lampoon just about every film cliché and song you could think of. Countless movie quotes and memories would abound with such familiar phrases as “Rosebud,” “As God as my witness I’ll never be hungry again,” “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse,” “I want to be alone,” “Show me the money,” “Snap out of it!” and “It’s gonna be a bumpy night,” all echoing round the room as the show moves toward a cleverly written series of well-made video movie “trailers,” projected above the stage, and numerous well written comedy sketches, none of which ever interfere with a great series of movie songs, all beautifully sung by this exceptionally talented group of vocalists. This company shows a real gift for separating clever comedy bits from exceptional vocal work and it all comes together beautifully.
One early segment nicely spoofs the James Bond films with the very cool and tuxedoed Scarborough as Bond, during the cast’s dark and cleverly staged slow-motion gun battle, with Colton all the while singing a masterful, “Nobody Does It Better,” on the side. There is more slow-mo and video fun during a Hawaiian surfing segment that features a silly dance contest, a great takeoff on the West Side Story song, “Maria,” and more familiar Hollywood clichés like “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn,” and “Love means never having to say you’re sorry. Next, with first-class guitar accompaniment, the lovely Miss Taylor enters a vocally sweet comfort zone for a rich rendition of, “Feels Like Home.” It was great, and I found myself hoping she does not leave the company to take off on a concert tour.
There was Star Wars merriment as Colton appeared as “Yoga” with a spoof of the character, Yoda. And Oh, those long green ears, making him look a bit like a wilting palm tree! Hilarious. There would be more space films before the night ended, and Colton would be a riot once more playing ET with a perfectly extended forefinger. Outer space themes provoked an appropriately noisy rap version of “Swinging on a Star.” A show highlight followed with Mr. Wrobel doing a great turn as The Godfather that was full of fun with lines like, “Stand up in the presence of Don Cortisone!” as the Godfather prepares for the marriage of his daughter, Mary Nara. He barks orders at his gangsters with lines like, “Lefty, you and Righty will leave in the morning!” But beyond the nonsense, Wrobel lets go with a hypnotic “As Time Goes By,” while twinkling sparkle lights bathe the audience in a glittering glow. When the Godfather announces, “Fredo, you broke my heart,” poor Fredo is presented with a surprise gift. Can you movie fans guess what it is?
Not to be outdone, Scarborough returns to the stage with a vocal that would have made Roy Orbison proud as Brad sang a terrific “Pretty Woman” that then dramatically shifts gears to become an elegant “Unchained Melody,” all while Dahl looks on adoringly. Then it’s off to an action movie segment with Colton as Kneau Reeves, Luke as Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Taylor as an Angelina Jolie who wants to “adopt six Mongolians.” Soaring above that mirth we have Miss Dahl delivering a showstopper with an electrifying, “I Need A Hero.”
Following intermission there was a prize of future theatre tickets awarded during an audience drawing. I was only disappointed the announcement was not preceded by another Hollywood cliché: “May I have the envelope please?” But that would be the only disappointment as the band began the second act Overture with frisky guitar for the theme from The Pink Panther. Moving to scary movies, the cast reappeared with spooky a cappella humming of the theme from Jaws, and ghostly lighting on their faces as they deliver familiar lines like, “I see dead people.” Then the cast moves on to a tribute to film westerns, and you won’t want to miss the gunfight showdown between Brad and Colton, and the resulting trio of “Man of Constant Sorrow,” that results when indian chief, Luke, enters the mix.
There would be a segment for films of heartbreak such as “Love Story,” and “An Affair to Remember,” but there is always enough humor to keep our hearts from breaking. Eventually the show works its way around to a stunning, “The Man That Got Away,” from Dahl. With the focus fully upon her and just a tinkling piano for accompaniment, she’s not doing Judy Garland here, she’s doing Rebekah Dahl, and she’s doing it really well. It was thrilling! And speaking of thrilling, don’t miss Taylor’s delicate, and warmly whispered, “Moon River.” It’s a knockout as Dahl and husband Scarborough dance romantically center stage.
A clever “Wizard of Oz” twist wraps things up nicely as Brad awakens with the cast hovering over him. “It wasn’t a dream!” he protests. “It was a real place. But we’re home now, and this is our theatre, and I’ll never leave here ever again!”
That sounds like a good plan to me.
OSCAR® IN THE BOX continues through April 28th with performances Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm and Sunday matinees at 2 pm, all at the Music Box Theatre, 2623 Colquitt, Houston, Texas. For tickets & information call 713-522-7722. Next Up at the Music Box: A spoof of summer travel will be titled, “Travelsty” and runs from May 4th – August 5th.