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Broadway at The Box Covers Broadway Over the Years

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The set-up:

The Music Box Theater is a repertory group of three women and two men - they sing, they dance, they act, they reminisce about their childhood, they do solos and they do ensemble numbers, and all this with such a sense of togetherness, of fun, of personal enjoyment that their talent and enthusiasm cascade into the audience and wrap it in a warm embrace.

The execution:

The raised stage is compact but a lot sure happens on it during Broadway at The Box. One of the men, Luke Wrobel, has been handed a large section of the evening, and he more than rises to the occasion. He commands the stage early, as Tevye singing "I Wish I Were a Rich Man" and again toward the evening's end as Don Quixote singing "The Impossible Dream" and in-between logs time in an hilarious impersonation of Andrew Lloyd Webber, and as an amusingly brutal casting director, and shares a duet of "There's Nothing like a Dame" with Brad Scarborough, the other male member.

The evening is in fact a family affair, as Scarborough is married to Rebekah Dahl, one of the three female vocalists. Scarborough sings "Till There Was You" and "Walk Like a Man" and leads an entertaining skit about a "Real-Time Critic" who reviews a performance as it happens, and, thanks to time travel, even before it occurs. On the distaff side, Dahl shines as lead singer in "The Age of Aquarius", and Kristina Sullivan provides an intelligent, subtle and compelling rendition of "Send in the Clowns". Cay Taylor nails the haunting "I Dreamed a Dream" and received one of the evening's several standing ovations.

The theme is Broadway over the years, not the recent season, and since most of the songs are familiar, the audience is quick to recognize them and eager to hear them again. The downside is that a truly famous song may trigger recall of memorable renditions by gifted performers, and choices such as "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" and "Lola" run that risk. The band is in plain sight, but unobtrusively on the side and below stage level, and consists of Donald Payne on percussion, Mark McCain as lead guitar, Long Le as bass guitar and Glenn Sharp as music director. They opened the second act - there is one intermission - with an instrumental medley from Mame and Hello Dolly, and are rich contributors to the overall success of the show.

An acting class taught by an imperious and demanding director, played by Kristina, is insightful, and rings with the humorous clarity of truth. Less successful was a skit with three puppets - the puppets were elaborate but the writing could use polishing. The Music Box is a cabaret theater, so drinks are available, and there are small tables, and one is greeted upon entering by the performers themselves, adding to the feeling of joining a family convention where you really like the relatives.

The verdict:

Talented performers showcase much-loved favorite songs and spotlight some less familiar but brilliant ones, sprinkle the evening with entertaining and witty original skits, and shower the audience with so much charm and good will that it not only demands viewing, it may well be an evening you want to revisit again.

Broadway at the Box continues through April 6 at The Music Box Theater, 2623 Colquitt. For information or ticketing, call 713-522-7722 or contact www.themusicboxtheater.com

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