BWW Reviews: Zack's Mac Shack's SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD Is Electrifying

This past weekend, I had the distinct pleasure of discovering the Greater Houston Area's best kept secret. Ever since The Masquerade Theatre announced they were permanently closing on April 27, 2012, I have been going through Masquerade withdrawals. Other theatre groups, namely Michael J. Ross' Music Box Musicals among others, have sprung up in their absence and offer musical productions of the quality and caliber to fill the void that was left. As good as these productions are, they just aren't the same. Of course, Sunday's closing performance of Jason Robert Brown's SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD at The Masquerade Theatre's Artistic Director Phillip Duggins', Luther Chakurian, and Charles Noll's Zack's Mac Shack, a new restaurant and cabaret performance space, in Galveston, Texas wasn't the same either, but it was pretty close.

Somewhere between a song cycle and full-on musical is where SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD exists. For those familiar with Jason Robert Brown's style, whether you've heard this score or not, the experience will be comforting. Across the 14 musical numbers, there is a distinct theme of American narratives, Americana, and the American experience. With musical numbers that incorporate jazz, gospel, and the commercial pop sentimentality of musical theatre, America's native art form, the performances serve as an experience that is wholly relatable to domestic audiences.

Arriving at the restaurant, I was greeted by extremely friendly and professional staff. They promptly showed me to my table in the quaintly intimate venue. The cozy ambience encouraged good conversation, and soon the first courses were being served. When it comes to food, the menu was simply excellent. Standout offerings were the delicious Sherry Tomato Basil Soup and the decadent Lobster Mac. While the name Zack's Mac Shack and the bright green and yellow paint doesn't give the impression of a sophisticated cabaret, the artful ambience, crisp musical direction, fascinating musical staging, and astounding performances easily transform the restaurant into a top notch cabaret venue.

Luther Chakurian's well-assembled cast for SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD featured five Houston favorites, Luther Chakurian, Monica Lynn Passley, Illyich Guardiola, Katie Harrison, and Kyle Crawford. The whole cast had excellent and electrifying chemistry with one another. The quintet masterfully blended their vocals when needed, sewing a rich aural tapestry. Stand out solo moments included Luther Chakurian's spiritually satiating "On the Deck of a Spanish Sailing Ship, 1492" and impassioned, jazzy "King of the World," Illyich Guardiola's zealous personality during his solo "The River Won't Flow" and his mesmerizing egotistical, all-star basketball player persona on "The Steam Train," Katie Harrison's sultry, charismatic, and powerful "Surabaya-Santa" and her beautiful "The Flagmaker, 1775," and Kyle Crawford and Monica Lynn Passley's tender and loving "I'd Give It All for You." In total, all of the 14 songs were quite fantastic, ensuring that the small audience was gifted with a night of strong performances worth remembering.

SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD was at least the second cabaret performance at Zack's Mac Shack, and it definitely won't be their last. As of now, the crew at Zack's Mac Shack are planning a Christmas cabaret and a cabaret in the spring. To be informed about future productions, visit or call (409) 539-5618.

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From This Author David Clarke

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