BWW Review: THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS has a big night at Brookfield Theatre Of The Arts
Nothing says live like things not going according to plan. After all, live is what gives theater its magic. There's a reason why people still go to the theater even though we have movies: It's the ephemeral, flawed nature of the theater that draws you back in. While you hope that everything goes well and you see an amazing performance that moves you, you take your seat knowing that anything can happen. Luckily, sometimes performances don't go according to plan but it's the professionality dedication of the cast and crew that brings it all back together.
The Brookfield Theater of the Arts is mid-run of their production of "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," by Carol Hall, Larry King, and Peter Masterson, but even in their second weekend of performances, there are still mishaps: In particular, a power outage. Moments into the opening song, the theater loses power and the emergency lights kick on. Rather than pause and wait, the cast and the band continue on, projecting their voices over the instruments and using the emergency lights to see. By the end of the song, the power has come back on and they take a brief pause to reset cues before continuing with the show. Pauses like that can disrupt the flow of a performance, but this cast kept the energy high and powered through to give a remarkable performance that left the audience reeling.
The most forward way to capture an audience is with the cast and, with a show like this, the cast needs to commit to their characters. A few characters that excelled in this were the Narrator, played by Victor Roldan, Shy, played by Katie Yeargin, and Melvin P Thorpe, played by Eli Patton. Shy, an awkward and nervous girl who wants to become a lady of the house, goes through a fascinating arch where she starts off shy and then becomes more confident as time goes on while not losing that touch of awkward and uncomfortable. The transformation from a hung head and wringing hands, to a-little-too-big hand gestures and standing a little too close to people was well played by Yeargin to show growth without abandoning who the character is: Shy. Conversely, Melvin P. Thorpe, a political televangelist with a calling from God to close down the whorehouse, had to show little in terms of growth, but much more in terms of confidence and charisma. Large steps, steady hands, and always a smile on his lips and a wink in his eyes, Patton had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand from his first entrance; everyone could see that this was a man who knew what he was about. It can be difficult focusing on one character, let alone several. Roldan had the challenge of playing multiple characters. While they were all relatively small, he needed to distinguish between them all while keeping the audience engaged with the magic. Each characterization was unique and Roldan flaunted this committing to every move he made; at times outshining his castmates on stage and at times a little exaggerated, but in a show with cartoony characters, exaggerated can be the way to go.
There is more than one way to stand out to an audience. Sometimes it goes beyond a thrilling performance or a beautiful song- although I must give a shout-out to Anya Caravallo (Doatsy Mae) and Stacey Snyder (Jewel) for their stunning renditions of the powerful, empowering "Doatsy Mae" and the jazzy, sultry "Twenty Four Hour of Lovin'," respectively- but rather how you react to those around you. The confident and loving nature of Miss Mona Stangley, charmingly portrayed by Beth Bonnabeau, shone not only in her performance but how her performance affected others. Whenever someone shared the stage with her, she built them up and you could see it in her partner's eyes that she made them glow. Even if an actor was having a hard time keeping the flow of the scene, whenever Bonnabeau walked on stage, she made everything better like a warm hug. It's clear that Mona's Girls picked up a thing or two from her. During choreography, it was clear which of them were dancers and which of them were just trying to remember the steps, but once they settled into their poses and were interacting with each other or their customers, they were all smiles and sunshine and made the whole room light up.
Speaking of lighting up, this article wouldn't be complete if it didn't speak to the lights and sound. Unfortunately, it's hard to guess what the opening number was supposed to look like given the power outage, but the lights through the rest of the show were effective and artistic. They went beyond just lighting the faces and really established the mood of the scenes; they also weren't afraid to break reality and add some spinning colored lights during a dance number, which was fun and not at all distracting given the bouncy nature of the score. Sound, however, had a few minor issues that they were able to work out as the performance continued. In the beginning, post power outage, of course, the band and the vocals were a little unbalanced, but that was easily correctable. The only other hardship they had was the timing and volume on the gunshot sound effects. Rather than using blanks in a small theater, they used gunshot sound effects: A proper choice given that a blank would have been too loud in such a condensed space. Unfortunately, Sheriff Ed Earl's gunshots were too quiet and Miss Mona's shotgun shell was mistimed. Live theater grows with time and sound is a fickle beast. Lastly, the band is to be commended on a tight performance of the country/rock score of "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." Their violinist, Andi Chakraborty, was phenomenal to watch, particularly in her solo during "The Aggie Song," and the music really brought all of the pieces together.
The Brookfield Theater of the Arts production of "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" is a funny and charming show and the cast and crew showed great discipline and dedication to their work. Don't miss your chance to see it on Friday's and Saturday's at 8pm and Sunday's at 2pm until July 20th!