The setup: Nostalgia for the past keeps getting more and more recent, and The Music Box Theater provides a reprise of 2012 musical events, on its stage and elsewhere, that fits in beautifully with a longing look backward and a joyful look ahead with The Year in Review.
The execution: The Music Box repertory cast consists of five stalwart singers -- and a most excellent band that keeps the rhythm going and the pace energetic and fun -- and their trademark is ensemble acting, working so well together, hand-in-glove, that they become an organic unity. It appears that they are having as much fun as the audience, and the result is a warmhearted and welcoming ambience that is delightful.
There are standouts among the five. Brad Scarborough has movie-star good looks and can switch from a romantic ballad to a comedic falsetto in a split second, and he owns the stage when he is the lead singer. The same is true for Rebekah Dahl, tall and blond, with a powerful presence and voice. And Luke Wrobel has rich body language, verging on genius, in some of his numbers. My favorite among many delights was a song belted by Dahl as Scarborough and Wrobel did backup, so brilliantly and entertainingly, with compelling and hilarious "crazy hand" gestures, that they became front-men instead. Wrobel was hilarious in a nonmusical skit about a Frenchman embittered and contemptuous because the capitalist Americans had won so many Olympic gold medals.
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Cay Taylor and Kristina Sullivan round out the cast, providing additional female charm and each holding her own in her spotlight number. While the stage is limited in size, there is more choreography than one would expect, and it is handed with the brim-snapping charm of a professional. Scarborough and Wrobel are both masters at pantomime, and their expressive reactions add measurably to the entertainment. The evening is a pastiche of songs, most of them filled with excitement and drive, and the occasional slow song provides a change of pace. There are a few skits by a Tom Brokaw-imitator, and while some of his lines are sharp and incisive, others could use an editor's scalpel.
Besides the reprises from the Music Box 2012 shows, many of the other songs are linked by a yearning to get to a certain part of America, so this musical evening is in its own way a tribute to the driving force and emotional and physical strength that built the country. But the central thrust of the evening is pure entertainment, delivered with so much style, good humor and genuine fun that it would be difficult to find a more pleasant and enjoyable way to spend a few hours. It is the perfect background for a date, or for sharing with a spouse, as the experience of witnessing so much talent, energy and humor on stage suggest that there is hope yet for the species.
The verdict: Five exceptionally talented performers deliver an evening of song and dance that is exciting, pleasurable and even memorable, so good and so gifted that the audience exits walking on air, as will you.
The Year in Review continues through January 12 at The Music Box Theater, 2623 Colquitt. For information or ticketing, call 713-522-7722 or contact www.themusicboxtheater.com.