Travelsty: Singing and Hitting the Road at the Music Box Theater

The setup:

Two couples travel around the country, singing songs about various states (Georgia, Tennessee, California), various cities (Coney Island, San Francisco, Houston) or simply a highway (Route 66), and through the alchemy of talent and showmanship turn this slight material into a totally entertaining two hours of pure pleasure.

The execution:

The setting is cabaret, with tables and chairs if desired (refreshments are available), and the set is a simple raised stage, with the talented four-piece band (G Sharp and the MBT 3) seated unobtrusively at audience right. Band and performers are miked, and the thump of audience toe-tapping begins early and remains, for the driving force of musicians and performers fills the intimate venue with energy and drive.

I erred when I wrote "slight material," for, while the concept itself is not earth-shaking, the skits that bridge the songs -- all original writing -- range from merely pleasant to absolutely hilarious. Three of the skits had punch lines that seemed to come out of the blue, but paid off so well I was blown away -- SNL might send some of its writers down for lessons.

And the tone of the performers, and of the skits, is good-natured camaraderie. On the matinee I saw, the performers mingled with the audience during the intermission, and this seems just right for the friendly informality of the venue.

The gifted performers are Rebekah Dahl and Brad Scarborough, married in real life and founders of the Music Box Theatre, and Cay Taylor and Luke Wrobel, and after journeying cross-country with them, I feel I know them so well I will refer to them by their given names. All are attractive, work well together in harmony and synchronize in the choreography that supports the songs. Rebekah is tall and blond, Cay is medium height and dark; both are adept at holding the stage, and Cay can shake a mean hip. Luke has the look of an American David Niven, and Brad has movie star looks, with hair to match, but he excels here not as a romantic lead but as a comedic actor.

He plays briefly several singers, Dean Martin, Enrique Iglesias and others, and has a pantomime as Charlie Chaplin, in an episode about Record #17 of Tony Bennett's Duets. I have no idea how it fit into the theme, but am delighted it was included -- it's fast-paced and huge fun. Luke, in a gray wig as Tony Bennett, nailed some of Mr. Bennett's mannerisms.

Upon reaching Coney Island, Brad and Cay explain to visitors Luke and Rebekah that they are standing on a boardwalk -- made of real wood! -- and manage to make this seem thrillingly exciting, a rich comic turn from both, sparking the same deeply felt emotion from the visitors.

A recurring thread has the four of them in a car, Luke driving and Brad in the passenger seat, with the ladies behind. Much of this is funny, and a bit of it predictable (Brad has motion sickness), but what Cay does with her shoe is priceless. They also travel by rail and, hilariously, by plane. There are videos that accompany the opening and closing songs, and add to the fun, but the show's triumph is the ensemble acting that creates a real sense of friends off on a madcap odyssey.

The verdict:

Four strong performers and a witty script weave familiar pop hits into a thoroughly pleasurable evening, a must-see for cabaret aficionados and for music lovers of any stripe.

Travelsty continues through August 5 at the Music Box Theater, 2623 Colquitt. For information or ticketing, please call 713-522-7722 or contact the theater online.

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Jim Tommaney