BWW Reviews: THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS at the Best Little Theater in Virginia
I recall in 1978 attending the ABA convention in New York City and being thrilled to see at the registration desk, the opportunity to buy tickets to a Broadway show. Well, my wife and I soon had tickets to see Jack Lemmon in TRIBUTE, the wonderful thriller DEATHTRAP, and then, not sure why, tickets to see THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS.
We knew only that is was a musical and probably had a lot of country music in it. We were surprised how much we enjoyed it.
I admit that I was very surprised when I saw that the Signature Theatre's Artistic Director decided to revive the show and to direct it. I knew that the topic would keep young people away and that sort of annoyed me. On the other hand, why not attempt to produce an "adult" musical.
Well, I will say from the start, keep the young people away. This is for mature audiences only due to the subject matter, nudity, and the suggestive choreography.
The show is based on an article in "Playboy" magazine about an actual house of ill repute named "The Chicken Ranch" since at one time, cowboys paid for services rendered with live poultry. Can you imagine going to a group of producers and seeking funds for a musical with this topic? But, they succeeded and so did the show which ran for over 1,500 performances and was made into a Hollywood film with Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds.
You will not get many opportunities to see this show so that is one reason to attend. Another reason is the terrific and talented cast and ensemble. But, on the other hand, the show drags at time, especially in Act II.
But the music is terrific. There are songs (music and lyrics by Carol Hall) which have some great melodies which have stayed with me over the years. I love "A Lil" Old Pissant Country Place", "Texas Has a Whorehouse in It", "The Aggie Song", and my favorite "Hard Candy Christmas".
As you enter the MAX theater at the Signature, you can't but help notice the 20 or so fans working from the ceiling, many with wagon wheel light fixtures. I immediately thought how come the Casablanca Fan Corporation isn't underwriting this event. And guess what the first song of the show is..."20 Fans"! Another brilliant idea from Schaeffer and Scenic Designer Collin Ranney.
Karma Camp has terrific erotic choreography and she has a fabulous ensemble to do the work.
Kathleen Geldard 's costumes will be long remembered by many in the audience.
Collin K. Bills is responsible for the clever lighting and Matt Rowe is responsible for the Sound Design.
But it's the actors that make this such an entertaining event.
Signature stalwart Sherri L. Edelen plays the matron of the "Chicken Ranch", Miss Mona and she is marvelous in this demanding role. Her real-life husband Thomas Adrian Simpson plays her confident Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd who attempts to help Mona keep the place open. Is there any wonder why they work so well together?
The masterful Christopher Bloch has a ball playing television watchdog Melvin P. Thorpe who attempts to shut down Mona's place of business. Wait till you see his ugly wig.
Other standouts are Dan Manning as the Governor of Texas (who leads The cast in "The Sidestep"), Tracy Lynn Olivera as Doatsy Mae who runs a diner and has a great number called "Doatsy Mae", and finally the amazing Nova Y. Payton (Jewel) who sad to say has only one number and does she nail it, "No Lies". (Look for Payton in the Signature production of DREAMGIRLS).
Once again the Signature has assembled a great orchestra under the baton of Gabriel Mangiante with Andrea Vercoe on Violin and Viola, Gerry Kunkel and Tom Lagana on Guitars, Chris Chlumsky on Bass and Gary Tillman on Drums.
The show was also featured in the national publication "The Week".
Don't expect a lot from this musical. If you can overcome the problems of the book, just sit back, relax, listen to the great music, watch the wonderful dancing, and enjoy.