It was a night to showcase the singers & songwriters of the Lone Star State, and the stars of Houston’s Music Box Theater were certainly up to the challenge with their latest production, MADE IN TEXAS. Rebekah Dahl, the company’s co-founder (along with husband and fellow Masquerade Theatre veteran, Brad Scarborough) gave a Texas-sized welcome to the crowd, and then it was on to a sample of Willie Nelson’s “Whiskey River” that offered just a brief strident moment of excess volume concern until the talented cast members gave an eye-roll to the sound board operator who quickly had the audio back on track. Cast regular, Cay Taylor, followed with a gentle rendition of Buddy Holly’s “Every Day,” and opening performances from Brad and company member, Luke Wrobel made it clear that, like the gals, these boys just keep getting better. A rich, warm and inviting version of Waylon Jennings’ “Luckenbach, Texas” was a special treat. Then the fifth member of this gifted troupe, Kristina Sullivan, offered a tender, delicate and thoughtful rendition of another Willie Nelson hit, “Always on My Mind.” Miss Taylor accompanied herself on guitar for a whimsical version of Kelly Clarkson’s, “Heartbeat Song,” and handled the song’s exciting escalations well.
When it came to the seductive rhythms of the Brooks & Dunn tune, “Neon Moon,” the gifted Mr. Scarborough drove that infectious melody across the finish line like it was some expensive sports car. With his easy and appealing George Strait vocal style, this guy should be picked up for a few nights performing at the Houston Rodeo. (That would again be evident in Act Two when he nails Strait’s “You Look So Good in Love.”) Next, Luke maintained the high standards with the fun of Lyle Lovett’s, “If I had a Boat,” and then rolled right into an appropriately raspy-voiced turn for Kenny Rogers’ “Coward of the County,” that featured nice solos from the gang. Rebekah would close out the first set with a loud and lashing version of Beyoncé’s, “Daddy’s Lessons.”
Following Intermission things got underway with the introduction of gifted fiddler, Alisa Pederson, the talented new member of Music Director, Glenn Sharp’s fine house band. She warmed up the crowd with a medley of “Orange Blossom Special,” “You Are My Sunshine,” and “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” Next came some rowdy and silly fun as Luke roamed the audience during, Barry White’s “You’re the First, the Last, My Everything.” The “spontaneous” group choreography for the Meat Loaf tune, “’Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” reminds one of a beginner’s exercise class. Recognizing the talents of BJ Thomas, Brad delivers a lilting, layback and delightful, “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” and Cay follows with an “Another Somebody Done Me Wrong Song,” featuring vocal clarity that could etch fine crystal. Kristina gives us a smooth and elegant, “Arthur’s Theme,” by Christopher Cross. Other Act Two treats include “Delta Dawn” (Cay), “He Stopped Loving Her Today” (Luke), “You’ve Got It”, (Kristina), and “Build Me Up From Bones” (Cay). And for those who may have missed the memorable 2011 Music Box production of Damaged Divas, Rebekah reprised her savagely brilliant interpretation of Janis Joplin’s “Me & Bobby McGee.”
My headline hints at the “Family Affair,” of this quintet of players who all met as performers during the golden age of Houston’s famed Masquerade Theatre. Brad and Rebekah became man & wife as did Luke and Kristina. Cay gets teased that she should marry a member of the band. But one more member of the family made his stage debut the night I attended. It was handsome young Beckett Scarborough, and the toddler quickly won the audience over as he sang along with gusto for the group finale of Johnny Nash’s, “I Can See Clearly Now.” It was a night to remember.
MADE IN TEXAS continues at the Music Box Theater, 2623 Colquitt-Houston, Texas, with 7:30 pm performances on Fridays October 14th & 21st, and a final performance on Saturday October 22nd. Their next production, THE 80’s MIXED TAPE DIARIES, opens on October 29th. Reserved seating for all shows is $37 and General Admission is $27. For tickets and information call (713) 522-7722 or visit the website at www.themusicboxtheater.com.