By DAVID DOW BENTLEY III “The People’s Critic”
[Click any photo to enlarge.]
A brief transportation delay in reaching the new location may have caused me to miss the first moments of the Opening Show from the MUSIC BOX THEATER in its cozy and attractive new house located in the Queensbury Theatre complex of Houston’s chic and increasingly popular CITYCENTRE neighborhood.
Houston’s fashionable new shopping destination, the area has a growing reputation for offering, “Everything from global cuisine, to inviting patios and fine dining.” And now the area lays claim to the first Music Box production in its lovely new home. Happily, this long-running family of gifted performers remains intact, with married co-founders, Rebekah Dahl, and Brad Scarborough heading the Fab Five, rounded out by Cay Taylor, Luke Wrobel and his lovely wife, Kristina Sullivan.
Titled, “THE GREATEST HITS ALBUM—Side B,” this Grand Opening show took off like a rocket when Brad stepped onstage to deliver his absolutely thrilling rendition of the The Animals song classic, “House of the Rising Sun.” I have never heard it sung better. Then came another “never-better” performance from Luke Wrobel, who joked about the group now celebrating, “the 12th year of the never-ending storm of our insanity.” Elegantly framed by the lush drape of the crimson stage curtain, he went on to deliver a hauntingly mellow interpretation of Gordon Lightfoot’s classic, “If You Could Read My Mind.” The song was beautifully backed up with the perfect blending of Cay and Kristina. The group then reestablished their well-honed comedy chops with an uproarious spoof of the Bee Gees disco hit, “Stayin’ Alive.” It was packed with hilarious body language for the dancing, and some falsetto vocal fun from Brad. Guitar in hand, he then joined Rebekah for a “Defying Gravity,” that would start out gently, and then build to a breathtaking and exciting conclusion. Next, Kristina appears in a glittering black top to deliver an equally glittering performance of, “You Don’t Own Me.” With impressive vocal power, Brad and Cay then offer a pleasing pairing of, “Just Like Heaven,” and “Heaven is a Place on Earth.”
With his parents in the audience, Luke gave them a warm welcome singing a dreamlike and passionate, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” The first half of the show would then conclude with a very cleverly constructed, “7-Minute Musical,” featuring the cast attempting to rapidly perform bits of every song from “The Sound of Music.” With a countdown clock displayed above the stage, and with rapid-fire costume changes that would even supply a group of singing nuns, the cast actually pulled that feat off to the delight of the audience while actually including every song from the show.
Following Intermission, the cast brought a cappella perfection and counterpoint mastery to every detail of an original and creative arrangement of, “Somebody to Love.”And speaking of perfection, the theater itself is beautifully designed with an elevated area off to the left of the stage where the brilliant band is on full display to become an intimate part of the show, and members can be periodically introduced to the audience. (Band Director, Austin Biel, on keyboards & guitar, Mark McCain on lead guitar, Long Le on bass guitar, and Arthur Gilligan on percussion. Technical Direction from Pat Southard and assistant, Michael Burka keeps everything from sound to lighting and beyond running smoothly.
Other second act delights include a soaring performance of Neil Diamond’s “Holly Holy,” and Ms. Taylor’s laser-like delivery of a magnificent, “Maybe This Time,” from Cabaret. Rebekah gives us a thoughtful and warm, “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” that evolves into a solid duet with Luke, while the band rounds it out with pulsing power. Another special treat was the 4-guitar fiesta of the Gipsy Kings’ hit, “Bamboleo,” as Brad joins the guitar playing band members for this romantic musical feast, lightened by some comical silhouette shadow dancing from Luke and Kristina in the background. The gals followed with a heartwarming, “As If We Never Said Goodbye,” before Luke and Brad have some fun moving around in the audience to teasingly serenade various ladies there with, “You’ve Lost that Lovin Feeling.” Then Rebekah did some mingling of her own among the band members during her sassy and powerful, “Dream On.” Continuing the excellence, Kristina delivered a brilliant, “Both Sides Now,” that featured beautiful accents from lead guitarist, Mark McCain. The relaxing cast finale nicely combined, “When You Wish Upon a Star,” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Of course, this cheering audience had gotten exactly what it wanted, and couldn’t have wished for anything better.
“THE GREATEST HITS ALBUM—Side B,” continues through June 17th at the Music Box Theatre in Houston’s CityCentre district, 12777 Queensbury Lane. [The theater will validate parking tickets for patrons using the garage right next door.] Performances are Fridays and Saturdays thru the run, with one Sunday matinee June 11th at 2pm. Tickets for each show are $52 for reserved seating and $38 for general admission. For tickets or information, visit http://www.TheMusicBoxTheater.com, or call 713-522-7722
For tickets or information, visit http://www.TheMusicBoxTheater.com, or call 713-522-7722
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