Houston Chronicle

Music therapist shines in ‘Motown and Beyond’

- By Don Maines

Music therapist Cay Taylor is appearing in the original musical comedy revue, “Motown and Beyond — The Music of the Motor City” through Nov. 28 at the Music Box Theater, 2623 Colquitt.

“Music has the inherent potential to empower and transform lives,” said Taylor, a Heights resident and a native of Cleveland, Ohio, who moved to Houston 10 years ago.

“My uncle introduced me to musical theater when he took me to see ‘Annie’ around Christmas one year,” she said. “I was mesmerized, but also curious about how I could get on the stage.”

After shining in junior high, high school and community theater production­s, Taylor set out for New Orleans, where she earned a 2004 bachelor of music therapy degree from Loyola University.

Now working at The Monarch School, 2815 Rosefield Drive, Taylor said, “I use music as a tool for clients to reach nonmusical goals.”

For example, music serves as a motivator for autistic students, she said, “to help them relate to each other and to selfregula­te.”

As her “Motown and Beyond,” character, “the Spirit of Motown,” Taylor summons music as an elixir after co-star

Brad Scarboroug­h brings a curse on Motown Records by singing — gasp! — a Del Shannon tune in a Motown studio.

The cultural faux pas happens early in the show when Scarboroug­h and his real-life wife, Rebekah Dahl, tour Motown in Dahl’s hometown of Detroit, Michigan.

Dahl co-writes each Music Box script with fellow husband-and-wife company members Luke Wrobel and Kristina Sullivan.

“I’m the fifth wheel,” said Taylor.

“There are two married couples and then there’s me.”

Consequent­ly, Taylor takes some ribbing about being single in each script, which often casts the company members as “a heightened version” of themselves.

Sullivan doesn’t appear in “Motown and Beyond,” but she will be back in the group’s next show, their fourth to blend Christmas carols with comedy sketches and songs from “White Album” by The Beatles. It will play Dec. 4-27. “The process is that we get the theme about six weeks prior to each show and we have the opportunit­y to submit hit songs for whatever that theme is,” said Taylor.

“Then the writers will meet and conceptual­ize the script with a variety of artists and ballads and uptempo songs.”

“’The Spirit of Motown” is definitely a character role,” said Taylor, explaining that her character mirrors the late Maxine Powell, a Texarkana, Texas native who groomed recording artists such as Diana Ross and the Supremes in Motown’s inhouse “charm school.”

Powell reportedly taught aspiring black artists social graces to make them more accepting to the 1960s record-buying public.

Since arriving in Houston, Taylor said, she has portrayed Mrs. T and a Bad Idea Bear in “Avenue Q,” Olive in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” Squeaky in “Assassins” and Janet in “The Rocky Horror Show” at Music Box Theater, as well as Little Sally in “Urinetown,” Marian in “The Music Man” and Amy in “Little Women, The Musical” at Masquerade Theatre.

At Main Street Theater, said Taylor, she got to portray Frieda in “Pardon My English” opposite a number of veteran Houston musical-theater performers.

 ?? Courtesy ?? Music therapist and singer Cay Taylor of the Heights teaches at the Monarch School and is part of the musical review “Motown and Beyond — The Music of the Motor City” through Nov. 28 at the Music Box Theater.
Courtesy Music therapist and singer Cay Taylor of the Heights teaches at the Monarch School and is part of the musical review “Motown and Beyond — The Music of the Motor City” through Nov. 28 at the Music Box Theater.

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