The set-up: Five veteran performers from Masquerade Theatre, Houston's repertory company of Broadway musicals, have left that company to form their own: Music Box Theater. This is the company's first show. The five artists (Rebekah Dahl, Brad Scarborough, Luke Wrobel, Cay Taylor, Colton Berry) use the cabaret format to showcase their formidable talents, and plan to produce four different shows a year. The music is an ecumenical assortment from Broadway, the great American songbook, Hollywood, and contemporary pop and rock.
The execution: As musical performers, this quintet is unimpeachable. Since they no longer have fictional characters to play, the five play themselves, or some version of the persona they want us to believe they are. Inevitably they overplay. Even solo cabaret acts get bogged down in personal patter, but since this is the troupe's first original show, and details must be worked out, they are forgiven -- this time. More singing, less talk.
Miss Dahl, a Houston treasure and definitive Broadway baby, is as comfortable on stage as breathing is to everyone else. Happily she satisfies our Broadway craving when Valkyrie-like, she rides joyously through Wicked's powerhouse anthem "Defying Gravity." Easy-going with charm to spare, Mr. Scarborough proves it with his crooner's smooth rendition of the Beach Boys' "Don't Worry Baby." He's a comic foil for dramatically dark Mr. Wrobel, who oozes intensity. Wrobel's idiosyncratic take on "Over the Rainbow" is reason enough to see this show. Miss Taylor belies her stature with a ringing, rich soprano and piquant humor. Mr. Berry has a hipster's presence and a knockout wail of a voice, used to superb effect on Aerosmith's "Dream On." Using rich, colorful arrangements, the musical direction under Glenn Sharp is cool, jazzy, and an earful. The verdict: As a first romp without the spine of a book musical to buoy them, Music Box Theater delivers the vocal goods with inspiring results. Keep the intros short, the songbook as varied, and the future, as Momma Rose belts in Gypsy, will be comin' up roses.
8 pm Fridays; 8 and 10:30 pm Saturdays; 2 pm Sundays, through August 7. Music Box Theater, 2623 Colquitt. 713-522-7722.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.