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The White Christmas Album: a Beatles Holiday, A Caberet Act Both Sultry and Soaring

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The set-up:

Hmmm, the Beatles and Christmas? Together? Sounds a little looney? Rest easy, everything's fine in The White Christmas Album: a Beatles Holiday. This musical potpourri is stirred, not shaken, and served on a silver platter by Music Box Theater. The holiday season is in terrific hands - all ten of them; 12 if you count the special guest appearance by John Gremillion; and 20 when you add the jazzy quartet led by Glenn Sharp. So many fine hands, one great show.

The execution:

By now you should know the ultra-talented MBT: Rebekah Dahl, Brad Scarborough, Cay Taylor, Kristina Sullivan, and Luke Wrobel. Separately and together, they blend their voices in their intimate venue down on Colquittt (the former home of Radio Music Theatre and those insane Fertles from Dumpster, TX) and create startlingly original cabaret shows around certain themes that strike their fancy: the Oscars, or travel. This month, it's the Beatles and Christmas. Five-part harmony never sounds more beautiful than when these five performers meld in song. Each shines in a solo, backed up when appropriate by one or more members; sometimes they sing a cappella, giving the band a rest; sometimes they act in a screwy comedy routine. Put these Broadway babes together and the result is bound to be unique and unfailingly good.

Their White Christmas Album is no different, a superb musical evening of Christmas cheer. The concept works surprisingly well, deftly so. Think about it: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" segues into "With a Little Help From My Friends." "All You Need is Love" smoothly blends with "Ring Christmas Bells." The idea is some sort of brilliant. And the execution is unrivaled by this quintet's incomparable artistry.

Not to give away their playlist, but here are some highlights. Brad Scarborough's supremely smooth account of the Mel Torme/ Bob Wells' classic "The Christmas Song" (you know, "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...") has to be the finest rendition I've ever heard. Cay Taylor's sultry rendition of "I Will," supported by Kristina Sullivan, is simple joy made into music. Sullivan's hymn-like "There's Still My Joy" haunts with its exquisite phrasing. Dahl rocks triumphantly through, over, and around "Let it Be." Luke Wrobel's burnished baritone in Parrish and Anderson's "Sleigh Ride" wraps you up in glowing warmth. And when all five harmonize in an ethereal version of "Because," the song floats like mist.

Then we're treated to John Gremillion's impeccable, funny impersonation of Tom Brokaw, the evening's narrator and running gag, or later Bill Cosby, just as spot-on. The entire show is a delight. Maybe it was the wine at intermission, but have the orchestrations under musical director Sharp become richer and fuller? With this show, the band became symphonic.

The verdict:

There are many ways to celebrate the Christmas season in Houston. This cabaret act, in which the Music Box Theatre Fab 5 sing the Fab 4, is a real gift.

The White Christmas Album: A Beatles Holiday runs through December 29 at Music Box Theater, 2623 Colquitt. Purchase tickets online at themusicboxtheater.com or call 713-522-7722. $25-$35.

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