Colton Berry’s considerable talents benefit Music Box Theater both behind and in front of the curtain
by David Goldberg
One often wonders where all those American Idol contestants cast away to after their auditions, challenges, and eventual eliminations. Do they become local stars or famewhores? Do any of them bear fruit? Luckily for Houston, former contestant Colton Berry, 21, has settled in to establish a productive performance presence.
The young performer was a proud member of the LGBT community long before his days on the reality show. “I’ve been ‘out and proud’ for as long as I can remember,” Berry says. “I think coming out early really helped to bolster both my confidence and my shield-for-negative-energy while leaping into the industry.”
Since his days in the top 24 of the seventh season of American Idol, Berry has toned down his hair—and his act. He now performs every weekend at the brand-new Music Box Theater, a local cabaret and comedy revue that opened in May. The Virginia native recently relocated back to Houston to perform in the show. Though this is not his first time living in Houston, he is thrilled to be back. “When this opportunity presented itself to me, it was like a godsend,” Berry says. “I’m here for the long haul. As long as Houston will have me, I’m here.”
Berry argues that Houston’s performance community seems phenomenal, especially to outsiders. “The theater scene is incredible,” he says. “When I first visited, I was floored by the industry and quality all over the place. It is great to live in a city that you can sink your teeth into and work as a performer.”
The Music Box Theater has a cast of five musical performers and one host, though everyone pitches in with the comedy. This structure allows every participant to shine. Their current show, Damaged Divas of the Decades, features Berry, along with Brad Scarborough, Rebekah Dahl, Luke Wrobel, and Cay Taylor. The show features a range of songs, from Patsy Cline to Etta James to the Dixie Chicks. Berry sings and does impressions—which include beloved divas such as Britney Spears and Liza Minnelli—and has more machinations for potential diva impersonations. “I really want to play Christina Aguilera in this show and in the future, but she wasn’t damaged enough for this show. And I’ve always wanted to do Oprah.”
While Berry has a strong stage presence, his backstage involvement is impressive. “I did all the costume, hair, and production design for Divas,” he says. “I also wrote probably 45 percent of the show.” Considering the amount of costume changes and wigs thrown around, his contribution is pretty impressive. The Music Box’s fluid creative environment allows Berry and the other writer/performers to create material on the go. “When gay marriage passed in New York, we wrote a whole new scene and put it in until the run of the show completed,” Berry says. “So everything is very current and flows with the world around us.”
Dahl and Scarborough’s theater is charming and quaint, with a friendly live band and an accessible cast. And the ascription of certain songs with particular singers shows that each cast member is involved in choosing the music that he or she loves to perform. But while the comedy and impersonations are honest, they often throw off the balance and mood of the show. And, as any drag queen can attest to, attempting to imitate Liza, Barbra, or Judy is like playing with fire—on stage. But hopefully the theater will work through these kinks in the rest of its season, which includes Fruitcakes! (a very special holiday special), Oscar in a Box, and Travelsty.
Berry says he looks forward to the upcoming Rocky Horror Show at the Music Box Theater this October, just in time for Halloween. “We are doing the musical that the movie is based on, completely 100 percent live, with a punk-rock design,” he says.
The Music Box Theater has much potential. So do its performers, especially Berry. As a gay man, he is very comfortable in his surroundings. “The Music Box has been a wonderful opportunity, as it embraces my true self and my community, while doing a wonderful job of breaking stereotypes and labels,” Berry says.
Hopefully, the rising star stays in town, and develops alongside his new workplace.
What: Damaged Divas of the Decades
Where: The Music Box Theater, 2623 Colquitt
When: Through November 13. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Tickets: themusicboxtheater.com, 713/522-7722
Cost: $25 (reserved seating $35)
For OutSmart readers is the Friday “Family” Special: $5 off tickets purchased online for Friday performance with promo code “OutSmart.”
David Goldberg is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.