Music Box Theater Knows How to Handle The Best of Broadway

Talk about Broadway greats.
Talk about Broadway greats. Photo by Eric Edwards Schell Photography
The Fab 5 who rule over the Music Box Theater are Houston musical theater treasures. Consummate entertainers, they sing, act, and dance in sparkling intimate cabaret revues that glorify their prodigious talents, their warm camaraderie among each other and the audience, and their showbiz chops. They love to perform and it shows. They are so good.

The five (Rebekah Dahl, Brad Scarborough, Kristina Sullivan, Cay Taylor, and Luke Wrobel), all alumni of the fabled Masquerade Theatre, are born for the stage. Over the seasons, the Music Box has presented revues featuring the Beatles, rock, TV anthems, country-western, the Great American Songbook, Motown, standards about New York City, hippie favorites from the '60s, travel songs from around the U.S., iconic Texas singers and composers, and other genre-bending amalgams. Sometimes, there's a storyline, sometimes not, just a skit or two or an adlib to knit the songs together. In any genre these five shine, but they are most alive when they do Broadway. For all their dexterity, they're most at home on the Great White Way. It's in their blood.

At least once a season they do a showbiz tribute, and The Best of Broadway is the latest incarnation. What a beauty this concert is. Nothing is more effective than a singing actor at the top of his/her game, standing in the spotlight, gleaming like a klieg light, and putting across a song. It looks so effortless and sounds so right.

Each gets to shine in their own way, when not blending their voices in triumphant quintet, or trios, or duets. Even when singing backup, these five phenoms meld into one. With his matinee idol presence and ethereal tenor, Brad Scarborough parasails through Stephen Schwartz' “Corner of the Sky” from Pippin and, later, ratchets up the bebop to 11 in Churchill Kohlman's teen angst “Cry” from Forever Plaid. Power diva Dahl, who could sing Angie's List and have it sound like Verdi, overlays “Memory” from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats with furious stabbing regret, and then switches gears into '80s power disco for “Flashdance...What a Feeling” from Flashdance, the Musical, by Giorgio Moroder, Keith Forsey, and Irene Cara.

Sullivan, with that polished diamond top range, soars achingly through Sara Bareilles' “She Used to be Mine” from Waitress, then adds steel and vigor to Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion's “I, Don Quixote” from Man of La Mancha. Always sultry, Taylor steams up the intimate Music Box with a low-down “Whatever Lola Wants,” by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross from Damn Yankees, then elicits tears with a heartbreaking “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables, by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Herbert Kretzmer. Wrobel, with his earth-shakingly rich baritone turns Frank Loesser's secular prayer “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” from Guys and Dolls into a rollicking tribute to all gamblers everywhere, then, in the 11 o'clock number, blows us away with a gorgeously phrased “Old Man River” that iconic anthem from Show Boat by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein.

Numbers from Funny Girl, Paint Your Wagon, Little Shop of Horrors, Hamilton, Sunset Boulevard, Chicago, and Hair round out the revue, with a deliciously whacky sendup of The Sound of Music reprised in seven minutes to close the first act. Ably abetted by Glenn Sharp (keyboard), Mark McCain (guitar), Long Le (bass), and James Metcalfe (percussion), whose jazzy orchestrations perk up these musical wonders that only Broadway can conjure. The Fab 5 see to that. Do they ever. A splendid night at the cabaret.

The Best of Broadway continues through April 20 at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays at Music Box Theater, 2623 Colquitt. For information, call 713-522-7722 or visit $31 - $41.
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D.L. Groover has contributed to countless reputable publications including the Houston Press since 2003. His theater criticism has earned him a national award from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) as well as three statewide Lone Star Press Awards for the same. He's co-author of the irreverent appreciation, Skeletons from the Opera Closet (St. Martin's Press), now in its fourth printing.
Contact: D. L. Groover