I had wanted to visit The Music Box Theater ever since I met Luke Wrobel on the set of Manor of Speaking, a Downton Abbey after-show by Houston Public Media. Wrobel played the butler, Mr. Rodgers, during this popular talk show hosted by Ernie Manouse, who has won multiple Emmy Awards. But Wrobel can do more than just act. He’s been singing the hits ever since The Music Box Theater opened in May 2011 in the heart of Upper Kirby.
The Music Box Theater’s show this month highlights favorite acts from various performances over the past half decade, ranging from Broadway hits to Dolly Parton covers. I love the intimate setting of the theater—performers escort attendees to their seats!— including founding members Rebekah Dahl and Brad Scarborough, the husband and wife duo who run the theater.
Dahl and Scarborough not only run the theater, but they also sing in the show. One of the highlights of the performance was Dahl’s cover of Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart.” And when Scarborough sang Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” I felt like I was I listening to a great floor show without having to get on a plane for Vegas.
Adding to the mix was another husband and wife team, Wrobel and Kristina Sullivan, whose performance of Fiddler on the Roof’s “If I Were a Rich Man” was a crowd favorite. Everyone in the cast played off one another and delivered moments of self-deprecating humor that garnered a ton of laughs. You could tell that they enjoyed performing together, and for me, that made the show even more worthwhile.
The fifth performer, Cay Taylor, who is also a board certified music therapist, played the guitar while delivering a wistful rendition of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” Representative of the range of all of the performers, Taylor easily moved from Broadway staples such as “I Dreamed a Dream,” to pop to country hits, providing a glimpse into all of the genres that The Music Box Theater presents in their shows.
Wrobel explained how the theater came to be in its present incarnation: “Radio Music Theatre (RMT) had been in our building for about 25 years until it closed in 2011. Rebekah had worked in RMT’s box office every so often because she loved its vibe and wanted to stay connected to the people who worked there,” Wrobel said. “When they announced their final season, she and Brad spoke with the owners of RMT about buying the equipment and tables and chairs and props, and then they were able to get the property owner to lease them the space. I signed on almost a year before we opened, and so did Cay. We took over two weeks after RMT left. It was a pretty insane turnover.”
Before becoming The Music Box Theater, the theater underwent an evolution. Wrobel remembers, “We started with Opening the Box, which ran for about 3 months... Sometimes we literally had 10 people in the audience. We were just figuring out how to play the room and relate to one another onstage. We had all been performing at The Hobby Center for years with The Masquerade Theatre, so it took a while to get used to the level of intimacy that’s required in our space,” Wrobel said. “Damaged Divas of the Decades was our second show... We invited our friend John Gremillion to join us for that one as a kind of ‘host.’ He has been a guest artist for at least one show per year, and is an amazing mimic and performer. That show became pretty successful and our audience began to grow. We’ve done a yearly Broadway-themed show, a television-themed show as well as Motown, Woodstock, New York artists, and country. We also performed a Damaged Divas sequel, and a yearly Christmas show which combines Christmas with Beatles music called ‘The White Christmas Album.’”
Although the five-year anniversary show will only run through June 25, the theater has long-range plans for future performances. A Feelin’ Groovy sequel Feelin’ Groovy 2, Feelin’ Groovier: The Best of the '60s and '70s starts July 2 and runs through August 27.
Through June 25. $ 13.50. The Music Box Theater, 2623 Colquitt. 713-522-7722. themusicboxtheater.com