Michelle DeJean, Michael Tapley to Lead TUTS' BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS


Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) just announced the cast of The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, running June 5 – 17 at the Hobby Center for The Performing Arts. It's all big songs and big hair in this sassy, spirited musical about a real-life brothel in Texas. Based on the "Chicken Ranch", the infamous, long-running house of ill repute, this tongue-in-cheek story chronicles Miss Mona Stangley, a classy yet brassy madam with a heart of gold, as her "business" becomes the center of a media controversy. Thrusting the Chicken Ranch into the spotlight is Melvin P. Thorpe, a loud-mouthed reporter based on Houston's own late Marvin Zindler. Spicing up the story line is a hot-headed, trigger-happy town sheriff, the Texas A&M football team, and Miss Mona's risqué girls. The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas will be a feisty, fun-filled treat that includes favorites such as "A Lil' Ole Bitty Pissant Country Place" and "Hard Candy Christmas".

Leading the show as Miss Mona Stangley is Michelle DeJean. DeJean, a graduate of the TUTS' Humphreys School of Musical Theatre, boasts the recent TUTS credits of White Christmas and Urban Cowboy. DeJean's other theatre highlights include Broadway's Chicago and national tours of Jesus Christ Superstar, West Side Story and Oliver!. Opposite her will be Kevin Cooney as Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd, Miss Mona's love interest. This show will mark Cooney's 20th appearance at TUTS, including most recently Guys and Dolls, White Christmas, and The Sound of Music. He has also appeared on Broadway in The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas and The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public. Cooney's other accomplishments include several national tours, film and television appearances.

Starring as the loudmouthed television reporter Melvin P. Thorpe will be Michael Tapley. Tapley's previous worked in Broadway's The Who's Tommy as well as the national tours of Evita, 42nd Street, Mame, The Who's Tommy, and The Unsinkable Molly Brown. TUTS' audience members will remember him from shows such as A Wonderful Life, White Christmas, Guys and Dolls and Annie. Playing the role of Jewel, Miss Mona's confidante and housekeeper at the Chicken Ranch, is Tamara Siler. The Wizard of Oz, Little Shop of Horrors, Cinderella, and Chess are the shows that Siler lists as her theatre work at TUTS.

John Holly will play the Texas governor who knows how to "sidestep" anything. Holly will revive his role as the governor from TUTS' 1990 production of The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas. He also has played on Broadway in Grease as well as appeared in several notable theatres across the country. Greg Dulcie will appear in the roles of Mayor Rufus Poindexter as well as Senator Wingwoah. Dulcie has appeared at TUTS in When You Wish, Beauty and the Beast, Brigadoon, and South Pacific.

Jim Bernhard will appear as Edsel Mackey, the newspaper editor with a liberal edge. Bernhard is a renowned Houston arts administrator who has served as the former general manager of Theatre Under The Stars. His TUTS appearances include My Fair Lady, Mame, The Sound of Music and several other shows. Additionally, he has written plays and musicals that have been produced at TUTS, Playwright's Showcase and the Tower Theatre. Bernhard is the editor of Stars In Your Eyes, a pictorial history of TUTS.

Playing the mayor's sidekick C. J. Scruggs will be Mark Laskowski, whom TUTS audience members will remember from A Wonderful Life and 110 In The Shade. No stranger to playing multiple roles, Susan Koozin returns to the TUTS stage to play the role of Doatsey Mae, the wisecracking waitress at the Texas Twinkle Café, as well as the TV reporter. Koozin also appeared in three roles in 2010's Hairspray and is a staple in the Houston theatre scene.

Appearing in the roles of Amber and Shy, two of Miss Mona's most popular girls, will be Julia Krohn and Brooke Wilson. Krohn, a Humphreys School of Musical Theatre graduate, has appeared in the original Las Vegas company of Jersey Boys as well as at TUTS in Anything Goes and Cats. Wilson's most recent TUTS productions include Urban Cowboy, Beauty and the Beast, Cats and Singin' in the Rain.

The ensemble for the show includes Xavier Alcala-Herrara, Blaire Baker, John Berno, Caitlin Cannon, Brendan Cyrus, Michael Daly, Heather Hall, Matthew Harr, Danica Johnston, Alissa LaVergne, Chris Martin, Molly Pierce, Joe Shepherd, Alex Stone, Charles Swan, Colleen Trotter, and Paige Wheat.

The show will be directed by Roger Allan Raby. Raby boasts more than 50 years as a member of Actors' Equity Association, and served as the production stage manager for the The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas' two-year stay in Las Vegas. His work on Broadway includes How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, Sherry!, and Mame, and he counts Phantom, Nine, Mame, and Camelot among his national tours. Raby has worked on more than 80 TUTS productions including the world premieres of Phantom, Sayonara, Hot Shoe Shuffle, Zorro, and several more. He is the 2006 recipient of the Bayou City Concert Musicals' Awards for Outstanding Contribution to Houston Musical Theatre.

Joining Raby on the creative team is choreographer Angie Wheeler. Wheeler worked on both the national tour and Las Vegas stay of The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas. Her credentials also include the national tours of Nine and Mame. Her credits at TUTS include the choreography for both Carousel and The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas as well as several acting and dancing roles throughout the years.

Andrew Austin, who last worked at TUTS with Urban Cowboy, will serve as the musical director and conductor. Lending their talents to the creative team are longtime TUTS colleagues sound designer Kit Bond, lighting designer Richard Winkler, costume designer Ray Delle Robbins and wig designer Bobbie Grizzle.

Based on the book by Larry L. King and Peter Masterson, with music and lyrics by Carol Hall, the original Broadway production of The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas debuted in 1978 and earned two Tony Awards and a slew of Drama Desks.

Tickets (starting at only $24) are available on-line at TUTS.com, by phone at (713) 558-TUTS (8887), outside the Houston area at (888) 558-3882, or in person at the Theatre Under The Stars Box Office, located at 800 Bagby at Walker, Monday - Friday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., and Saturday - Sunday 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. An audio described performance is available Sunday, June 17 at 2 p.m.; open captioning is available Sunday, June 17 at 7:30 p.m. The Hobby Center is wheelchair accessible. Discounts are available for groups of 15 or more. Group tickets may be purchased by calling (713) 558-8888 or via email at groupsales@tuts.com.

TUTS' presentation of The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas is made possible by the generosity of The Humphreys Foundation.

Theatre Under The Stars' 2011-2012 Seeing Is Believing season is generously sponsored by St. Luke's Episcopal Health System. For all of TUTS' shows, air transportation is provided by United Airlines, the official airline of Theatre Under The Stars. Media sponsors include ABC-13 and Houston Chronicle. Season support is funded in part by grants from the City of Houston through the Theater District Association and the Texas Commission on the Arts.

Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) is Houston's acclaimed nonprofit musical theatre company whose mission is to enrich life through the experience of quality musical theatre and to positively impact lives beyond the stage through innovative education & community outreach programs. TUTS was the first theatrical organization in Houston to perform free to the public when it was founded in 1968 at Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park and is the only Houston arts organization that has performed there free to the public every year since the theatre opened. Founded by Frank M. Young and currently under the direction of President and CEO John C. Breckenridge, TUTS has produced more than 300 musicals including many local, national and world premieres such as Kopit and Yeston's Phantom, Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Jekyll & Hyde, and Irving Berlin's White Christmas as well as critically acclaimed re-inventions of classics Cabaret and Les Miserables. Through its membership in the Independent Presenters Network, TUTS has helped bring Bombay Dreams, 9 to 5, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Spamalot, Legally Blonde, Ragtime, Curtains and The Color Purple to Broadway and ultimately back to Houston audiences.

In support of TUTS' mission, TUTS Education programs provide instruction and stage experience for more than 21,000 students annually, allowing them to flourish in a year-round schedule of classes. The Humphreys School of Musical Theatre (HSMT) offers technique-driven classes for all ability levels and ages, ranging from four to adult. Through a merger with The River Performing and Visual Arts Center (The River), TUTS provides an accessible and inclusive arts education for children of all abilities that will enhance their development into confident, balanced individuals. TUTS Education provides extended on-site programming as well as off-site programming for children in schools, hospitals and other community-based sites. TUTS also annually presents the Tommy Tune Awards, honoring the best and brightest in Houston's high school musical theatre programs.

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