By DAVID DOW BENTLEY III “The People’s Critic”
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Is there musical theater after Covid-19? You betcha! And Houston’s MUSIC BOX THEATER is prepared to prove it to you. But before I get into that, let me briefly digress. I would like to first thank the countless readers of ThePeoplesCritic.com who have sent emails and messages of appreciation, encouragement and support during this very challenging time for both theater critics, and for us all.
Having said that, it is now my high honor to announce the winner of this year’s award for CLEVEREST TITLE OF A NEW MUSICAL! May I have the envelope please? … [Drum roll]… And the winner is… The Music Box Theater, for “QUARANTUNES Live!” Better still, the show itself is very clever as well. Sporting the usual talented cast of five, (Rebekah Dahl, Brad Scarborough, Cay Taylor, Kristina Sullivan, and Luke Wrobel), this timely new production is built around carefully selected songs, which, in various ways, can serve to comment on the months of pandemic confinement we are all still grappling with.
The opening medley captured that mood perfectly, beginning with a warm, inviting rendition of Neil Diamond’s, Hello Again from Mr. Wrobel, as he nicely accompanied himself on keyboard. The stress we have all endured was well-expressed as Luke joined Brad for the Queen hit, Under Pressure. Wearing a cool summer dress, Miss Taylor then turned up the heat with a sultry performance of the old Peggy Lee hit, “Fever.”
At the mention of that now frightening word, some of her Covid-concious cast mates humorously burst forth wielding antiseptic spray. Kristina’s exciting performance of another Queen hit, The Show Must Go On, seemed to summarize what this whole experiment was all about. Miss Dahl’s several months away from the stage seemed to have only enhanced her talents as she delivered a powerful, “That’s Life” with a voice so thrilling that it could have etched fine crystal. She quickly brought that same power to the Melissa Etheridge hit, “Come to My Window,” nicely chosen in this age of being housebound.
Luke and wife, Kristina, honored recently deceased singer, Kenny Rogers, with a stellar duet of “Island in the Stream,” that they would do well to record. With lines like, “…if we rely on each other,” and “…sail away to another world,” that song’s lyrics made me feel we will all come through our current trials. Miss Taylor enhanced that feeling as she followed sweetly with, “What the World Needs Now is Love.” After a few respectable opening notes on his harmonica, Brad carves out another masterful performance with the Hollies’ hit, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.” With Rebekah and Cay up front, and glorious harmonizing from the cast, a show highlight would have to be the stunning “Hey, Jude,” that climaxed with Rebekah’s spectacular voice soaring heavenward.
Back in the latter part of the last century I had the privilege of reviewing a New York performance of Crystal Gayle, which, of course, included her signature, “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.” Here, dressed in a pretty flowered summer dress with puffed sleeves, we have an absolutely wonderful rendition of that song from Kristina.
The three gals then combined forces with great vocal blending for a lively trio of, “Hold On.” That was followed by the full cast beautifully delivering a brilliant a cappella arrangement of, “Somebody to Love.” Luke moved on to a fine performance of, “Long December,” and speaking of “long,” he was nicely accompanied by one of the house band’s talented members, guitarist, Long Lee. Miss Taylor’s, “Higher Love,” seemed timely with its references to “facing our fears,” and was enhanced by two of the bands fine guitarists. Reminding one again of Crystal Gayle, Kristina brings silken voice to the Cat Stevens tune, “Wild World,” nicely decorated by Mr. Lee on electric bass. Some playful nonsense arrived as Frank Sinatra (Wrobel), and Judy Garland (Miss Dahl) stumbled on to the stage, cocktails in hand. Rebekah’s hilarious tousled wig, and the stool-sitting angularity of her Garland impression are worth the price of admission as Judy announces, “Drink up! What doesn’t kill you, makes you older!”
Brad calms the mood with a relaxing and beautifully sung, “Take it Easy,” and then, as we all continue to make our way through this Pandemic War, it seemed most appropriate for the ensemble to wind things down with the touching World War II tune, “We’ll Meet Again.” Let’s hope so!
QUARANTUNES Live continues at the Music Box Theater, 2623 Colquitt, Houston, Texas, through July 25th, with performances at 7:30p.m. Fridays & Saturdays, (Except July 4th). For this show only, due to required social distancing & limited seating requirements (Click sidebar at right), all tickets will be $60. There will be one Sunday matinee at 2 pm on July 12th. For tickets and information call 713-522-7722 or visit the website at www.themusicboxtheater.com,
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.