[All Photos by ThePeoplesCritic.com. Click any photo to enlarge]
By David Dow Bentley III “The People’s Critic”
If The Music Box Theater was revisiting some familiar territory during this third edition of its seemingly annual show, “KEEP IT BRASSY,” it really didn’t matter. The musical selections were updated, the often hilarious comedy bits and sketches were original, and the talented regular cast of five is singing better than ever. (L-R in above photo: Rebekah Dahl, Brad Scarborough, Luke Wrobel, Cay Taylor & Kristina Sullivan). No wonder this ever-popular Houston cabaret continues to hold the #1 position in the city’s entertainment listings with TripAdvisor.com, even besting the Houston Symphony at #2 and the Alley Theater at #3. No wonder they even fill the house for a rare Sunday matinee.
The opening number was full of pulsing action with a glistening rendition of The Temptation’s hit, “Get Ready,” that quickly blended into some cute, hip-swinging choreography for its celebration of Wilson Pickett’s, ”Land of 1,000 Dances.” Brad then took center stage with comic flair and his amazing vocal range to weave a warm and lovely reminder of Frankie Valli during “Can’t Take My Eyes off of You.”
Sassy and sultry Ms. Taylor sparkles while delivering a “Diamonds Are Forever,” full of haunting mystery. The ladies combine forces with deep-voiced Luke for fine vocal blending during a fun-filled “All About That Bass,” that is nicely decorated by moments from the band’s bass guitarist, Long Lee. That G-Sharp Band is named for its longtime Musical Director, keyboardist, Glenn Sharp, and includes Lead Guitarist, Mark McCain, Technical Director, Pat Southard, and Arthur Gilligan on percussion.
And celebrating the “Brassy” theme of the production, this show features 3 guest brass musicians always on stage, with Louis Sanchez on trombone, Michael Adamcik on reeds, and Lonney Lalane (known for his work with B. B. King) featured on trumpet. The three would soon offer some great, bluesy back-up for Rebekah during the James Brown hit, “I Feel Good,” which slowly evolved into some snappy and prancing choreography from the cast during the exciting Bruno Mars number, “Uptown Funk.”
With comically outlandish wigs and amusing British accent banter, the guys take on the roles of Neil Diamond (Luke) and Tom Jones (Brad). Luke’s “Crackling Rosie” rocks the room, and Brad’s chest-revealing satin shirt helps keep the ladies attention during his solid, sexy and hip-shaking, “It’s Not Unusual.” Kristina moves us to a calmer segment with the gentle pace of her leisurely and thoughtful, “Dock of the Bay,” before it escalates with assorted fine moments from the guest musicians, and Mr. Gilligan on drums.
And speaking of drums, there was a poignant reflection from director, Sharp, as he spoke of the great affection felt by all for the group’s longtime drummer, Don Payne, who had passed away. It was also revealed that Sharp would be concluding his near decade-long service as Music Director as he moves on to Christian ministry to become a pastor. But that did not prevent him from moving on to a wonderful piano introduction for “New York State of Mind,” before Luke brought laser-like power to that vocal.
The “Make Me Smile” hit of the band, Chicago, would be the delicious explosion of joy to take us to intermission. La Porte, Texas native, Bob Pizzitola, was in the audience, and he had another reason to smile. During the break, he was the winner of the house raffle drawing for free guest passes to a future Music Box production.
Act Two has countless more delights like a bubbly full cast “Spinning Wheel,” a poignant Carpenters tribute with Kristina leading a melancholy “We’ve Only Just Begun,” that has mellow back-up from the cast. Brad sports a joyful grin for, “Feeling Stronger Everyday,” while Cay owns the stage with a fluent command of Spanish during her passionate, “Mi Tierra,” full of sensuous and intoxicating moves. There’s lots more with a knockout finale of Bruce Springsteen’s, “Born to Run,” and a dreamy and mysterious “Skyfall,” from Rebekah.
But whatever you do, don’t miss the savagely funny talk show spoof with Luke as Sinatra, and Ms. Dahl absolutely hilarious capturing the contorted body language, rumpled hairdo, nervous mannerisms, and the hyper-chatter of a Judy Garland clearly under-the-influence. Just wait until you hear Judy’s sage advice about drinking water, but if that doesn’t interest you, remember the Music Box has a bar available for beer, wine and light snacks.
KEEP IT BRASSY 3 continues at the Music Box Theater, 2623 Colquitt, Houston, Texas, through October 19th with performances at 7:30p.m. Fridays & Saturdays, and there will be one Sunday matinee at 2 pm on Oct. 13th. 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, BACK TO the 80’s Again.
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.