Review: Music Box Theater Sings No. 1 Hits
One of the great pleasures of famous entertainment at the Music Box Theater is that you never really know what you’re going to hear.
You know what you’re going to get – outstanding interpretive singing from the Fab Five: Rebekah Dahl, Brad Scarborough, Kristina Sullivan, Cay Taylor, Luke Wrobel; delicious orchestrations by the band: Austin Biel (keyboard, guitar), Arthur Gilligan (percussion), Long Le (bass guitar); Mark McCain (lead guitar); improvisational camaraderie between singers and band; bar treats, beers and mimosas; an intimate lounge ambience; a wispy script to tie the numbers together; a grateful audience; and two hours of sublime musicality and talent at the top. It’s all here in their new program, Shots number 1playing weekends until June 18.
I have to admit, I was hoping the five could wrap their vocals around “I’ll Never Smile Again,” “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” or “To Each His Own,” but MBT’s number ones are pulled from the Billboard Top 100 , the industry standard from 1958. There you go, Glenn Miller, Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters. Hello, Elvis, Doobie Brothers, Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston, John Denver, The Beatles, Meatloaf and dozens more. Not a bad playlist either.
Even though all the songs reached No. 1, I completely ignored a few, especially Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” performed by Dahl; “Stay” by Lisa Loeb by Taylor, accompanying herself on guitar; and Boyz 2 Men’s “It’s so Hard to Say Goodbye” to “Yesterday” gloriously sung a cappella by all five. What was I doing in my life when it was on the radio? Well, I know them now, thanks to Music Box, and I can’t imagine them being sung better than here.
As is standard practice at MBT, each artist shines solo, or they seamlessly blend into a stunning quintet, or serve as a backup to the others, doo-wopping and dancing in the background. Among favorite hits: Wrobel’s sweet rendition of The Drifters’ “Save the Last Dance for Me,” seductively augmented by Biel’s muted trumpet; Dahl and Scarborough’s “I Got You Babe” with a wink, channeling Sonny and Cher; Scarborough’s haunting tenor caressing “Yesterday” on harmonica with floating piano riffs from Biel; Sullivan’s singing version of The Doobie Brothers’ “What a Fool Believes,” Taylor’s valentine to Lulu’s valentine to Sidney Poitier, “To Sir With Love.”
But there is more. “Here You Come Again” by Dolly Parton, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” by Streisand and Neil Diamond, a rock tribute to Elvis; a triptych of solar songs by Gordon Lightfoot, Stevie Wonder and John Denver; “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston, “Happy” by Pharrell, “The Dance” by Garth Brooks, “River of Dreams” by Billy Joel. Each is its own specialty, each exquisitely executed.
Tying it all together is an off-stage oldies homage to those ubiquitous radio countdown programs with smooth DJs with their bass vocals, men and women, weather and traffic reports, calls with requests. Fortunately, these are not jingles. It works well enough, if only to keep us waiting for the next song.
If you’re unfamiliar with Music Box, which itself was rated number 1 of things to do in Houston on Trip Adviser, now’s a great time to get to know each other. You too may not know all the numbers, but it really doesn’t matter. The evening is a wonderful way to hear five great artists at the top of their game (and the band too.) They could sing tweets on Twitter and make them utterly delicious and definitive.
Performances are scheduled until June 18 at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays at the Music Box Theatre, 2623 Colquitt. For more information, call 713-522-7722 or visit themusicboxtheater.com. $35-$48.