By DAVID DOW BENTLEY III “The People’s Critic”
The Texas-sized excitement of our city’s annual Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo was just minutes away, but over at the nearby Music Box Theatre, the chic cabaret’s popular cast of five is serving up annual excitement of its own with this year’s edition of The Best of Broadway. In the near-decade of this company’s success, that tight-knit and talented troupe of entertainers (Rebekah Dahl, Brad Scarborough, Luke Wrobel, Kristina Sullivan and Cay Taylor) have continued to keep the club’s popularity at the top of Houston-area entertainment listings with their numerous creative productions each year. This yearly Broadway celebration is a favorite among them.
In the current show, Music Director, Glenn Sharp, continues to preside over his talented G-Sharp Band. While many Music Box productions are scripted with varied themes to frame the music, in this case the audience is forewarned that there would be a more free-wheeling and spontaneous format for this salute to The Great White Way. Making a surprise entrance through the audience from the rear of the theater, Miss Dahl opened with a fierce and exciting “Downtown,” from Little Shop of Horrors, that was nicely decorated by the solid bass voice of Mr. Wrobel, while Scarborough joins in rounding out some terrific harmonies and counterpoints. In the next number, the rich resonance of Brad’s voice would be a vocal laser beam for the thrilling, “Corner of the Sky,” from Pippin. A trio from the gals followed with no shortage of energy during Funny Girl’s, “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” That number seemed a bit frantic at times, and might have benefited from a slightly slower and more thoughtful tempo. Luke then joked a bit about being, at age 14, the youngest cast member of his high school’s Guys & Dolls production, but it was easy to see how he was chosen. He led the wonderful “Luck Be A Lady,” number, backed by the smooth blending of a great quartet from his cast mates. Miss Taylor then stepped forward to tease the audience with, “Now we’re gonna have some fun miserably.” She then proved her worth as a vocal storyteller, bringing dreamlike and piercing focus to, “I Dreamed a Dream,” from Les Miserables, during a performance that was enhanced by elegant touches from Mark McCain on lead guitar. There would be a web of mystery for the explosive performance of the title song from Flashdance, before Luke and Brad followed with some silly fun as a couple of dudes in oversized cowboy hats, during their robust, “They Call the Wind Maria,” (aka Mariah) from Paint Your Wagon. Kristina then turned things a bit more serious with an agonizing look at life’s changes during her melancholy, “She Used to be Mine,” from Waitress. Rounding out Act One was the group’s traditional and challenging,”Seven Minute Musical,” actually performed under a ticking clock for exactly that long. This year’s winner, The Sound of Music, has lots of frenzied merriment that included some zany nuns for “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?” some laughable and leaping choreography for, ”Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” with a perky and whirling, “The Lonely Goatherd.”
Act Two is no less fun, and begins with Brad leading his compatriots in the excitement of the title song from Hamilton, as they brilliantly conquer the amazing rapid-fire and tongue-twisting lyrics of that song. Cay then calms things a bit with her sultry and seductive, “Whatever Lola Wants,” from Damn Yankees. The ladies then combine forces for the thrilling, “As if We Never said Goodbye,” from Sunset Boulevard. From the show, Forever Plaid, Brad provides a lush, warm rendition of the old Johnny Ray hit, “Cry.” Rebekah followed that with a visual and embracing, “Memory,” from Cats, that was full of passionate desperation.
A cheerful change of pace then arrived as the guys offered “Nowadays,” and “Hot Honey Rag,” with their hilarious version of the Bob Fosse choreography from Chicago. As we say in Texas, “It was a hoot!” Miss Sullivan brought lashing power to the title song from, “Man of La Mancha,” and soon it was time for a major standing ovation as Luke applied his sensational bass voice to a song he must have been born to sing: “Old Man River,” from Showboat. The audience leapt to its feet. For a perfect finale, the joyful and gyrating cast offered a medley from Hair, with “Aquarius” & “Let the Sunshine In.” One suspects they could give Undulating Lessons on their days off. Come see for yourself.
BEST OF BROADWAY performances continue at the Music Box Theater, 2623 Colquitt, Houston, Texas, through April 20th at 7:30p.m. Fridays & Saturdays, and there will be Sunday matinees at 2 pm on March 24th and April 14th. Reserved seating for all shows is $41, and General Admission is $31. For tickets and information call 713-522-7722 or visit the website at www.themusicboxtheater.com, where you can also find information about the upcoming show, Songs of the SILVER SCREEN.
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: www.ThePeoplesCritic.com . E-mail may be directed to ThePeoplesCritic3@gmail.com