BWW Review: THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS at Totem Pole Playhouse
A small town community in the south struggles with an ethical dilemma in a lighthearted comedy musical.
You've heard this story before: Ren and Ariel just want to dance. But this isn't Footloose. In The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, locals take a stance against a brothel that's been running in the town for more than a hundred years.
Totem Pole Playhouse's production does its best to make Whorehouse funny and touching, but whether its a lack of energy from the cast or a poorly put-together script, the show was lukewarm. It almost hit, but several things held it back.
The show itself is just disjointed. Whorehouse is going through an identity crisis -- it can't tell if it wants to be touching and relatable or gaudy and hilarious. It jumps between vignettes that open the audience up to the feelings of minor characters and a larger plot. The second act focuses entirely on the bigger plot and leaves the stories of Shy and Angel, two prostitutes new to the brothel, behind entirely.
Shy and Angel's stories are dark -- Shy hints at prior abuse by her father and Angel came to the brothel to provide for her young son. These subplots are totally detached from jazzy choreography and the totally goofy TV personality who tries to expose the whorehouse for what it is.
While I think the book for the show is just poorly put-together, I think it could have been saved had the cast of Totem Pole's production put in more passion to their roles. Miss Mona, the manager of the brothel (if you will) was, at first glance, perfectly casted with Miranda Jane. Jane had the look and the voice, but she didn't accentuate Mona's spunk. The same went for most of the characters: the look was there, but the acting didn't follow through.
The most redeeming part of Whorehouse was the men's ensemble, who played many different roles throughout the show. Each member was full of life -- the group danced so well and had so much fun on stage that they reminded me of the Broadway cast of Newsies.
Their best number was called "The Aggie Song," where they play a group of Texas A&M football players who win the Thanksgiving game and get to go to the brothel to celebrate. The men's ensemble brought the energy and the humor and made it laugh-out-loud funny.
Another standout was Taylor Whidden Knapp, who played Doatsy Mae, a waitress at the diner where reporters and politicians hang out. She's another sideline character with an unnecessary subplot about wanting to get out of town and be a movie star, but Knapp made Doatsy Mae's presence a joy to watch. She seemed like the only truly real character in the entire production.
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas runs until August 18 and tickets can be purchased HERE.