Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is sugar-coated history

Dyan McBride (center) as Miss Mona with the ladies of the Chicken Ranch (L to R: Madison Genovese, Yuliya Edelnant, Andrea Dennison-Laufer, Doris Bumpus, Anne Norland, Brittney Monroe) .Photo: Ben Krantz Studio.

BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS: Musical. Book by Larry L. King and Peter Masterson. Music and Lyrics by Carol Hall. Director/Choreographer Christina Lazo. Music Director Dave Dobrusky. 42nd Street Moon, Gateway Theatre – 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco. (415) 255-8207 or  www.42ndstmoon.org.

OCTOBER 3-21, 2018

Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is sugar-coated history.

42nd Street Moon in its 26th season of staging musicals of years past has pulled out all stops in the rousing, stage stomping revival of the 40 year old chestnut The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.  Although it was lovingly/raucously received by the usual adoring opening night audience the laughter is dashed by present day social and political views.  There are the #MeToo movement, devious politicians and over-zealous evangelists dotting our present landscape.

The #MeToo contingent might even approve of owner of the infamous Chicken Ranch in semirural Texas run by a matronly Madam Mona (A superb Dyan McBride) who runs a “clean house” being protective of her “girls.”  They might be ambivalent to Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd (stage dynamo Michael Ray Wisely) who is protective of the establishment and has become rich from well-deserved “protection” money. Melvin P. Thorpe (a hysterical DC Scarpelli) as the meddlesome crusading TV evangelist would receive most of the approbation and the remainder going to Mayor Rufus Poindexter/Senator Wingwoah (Michael Barret Austin) and Governor, C. J. Scruggs (Brian Watson) among others.

It is based on a true story that began in1917 when a brothel was opened just outside La Grange, Texas and during the depression charged one chicken per sexual act. Move forward to 1961 when the property was purchased and the new madam (our Mona) successfully kept up the ‘clean quality” ( “No kissing on the lips.”). The place was frequented by one-and-all including politicians. Move forward to 1973 and our story begins.

After a prolog by guitar playing Band Leader (Matt Hamons) enter two new girls looking for work. One is wise-cracking wearing thick pancake make-up and an over-the-top wig (gorgeous Ashley Garick) who takes on the name of Angel. The other is inexperienced and mousey later to take on the name of Shy (Madison Genovese).

Mona’s “girls” are paraded out early and each has a distinctive quality as they dance up a storm throughout the show almost always showing a lot of skin with suggestive gyrations. It is the dancing that wins the brass ring keeping the show racing to a ‘stompin’ first act ending with “The Aggie Song.” Before that vivacious act one ending there is the show stopper by Jewel (Doris Bumpus), the assistant to Mona, “Twenty-Four Hours of Lovin.” The songs are very serviceable to carry the plot along: “A Lil Ole Bitty Pissant Country Place”, “Girl You’re a Woman”, “Watchdog Theme” and the title song “Texas Has a Whorehouse in It.”

The introduction of café waitress Doatsey Mae (Taylor Bartloucci) a non-working girl singing the song “Doatsey Mae” longing for a different life is partially unintelligible and falls flat.

The evening ends on a bittersweet note when the establishments has been busted and the girls are packed ready to leave with “No Lies” and “Hard Candy Christmas before Mona plaintively sings “Bus From Amarillo.”

The major success of the evening is owed to a new member of the 42nd Street family. She is director choreographer Christina Lazo. Along with the memorable athletic breathtaking dance by the Aggies (Mike Birr, Patrick Brewer, Carlos Guerrero and Cameron La Brie) there is the hilarious “chair-dance” dance number with each of four members of the ensemble attached by a board to a mannequin with floppy legs.

All this plays out on a multi-level colorful utilitarian set replete with signs symbolic of Texas with enough of stage front reserved for the dancing.  The costumes are a marvel (Tammy Berlin) and add pizzazz to the show.  Suggestion: “Ya’ll come down! Ya hear?

CAST: Michael Barrett Austin as Senator Wingwoah/mayor Rufus Poindexter; Taylor Bartolucci as Doatsey Mae/ensemble; Mike Birr as Aggie/ensemble; Patrick Brewer as Aggie/ensemble; Doris Bumpus as Jewel/ensemble; Andrea Dennison-Laufer as Ginger/ensemble; Yuliya Eydelnant as Linda Lou/ensemble; Ashley Garlick as Angel/ensemble; Madison Genovese Shy/ensemble; Carlos Guerrero as Aggie/ensemble; Matt Hammons as Bandleader/Edsel Mackey/ensemble; Cameron Labrie as Aggie/ensemble; Dyan McBride as Miss Mona Stangely; Brittney Monroe as Dawn/Imogene Charlene/ensemble; Anne Norland Ruby Rae/ensemble; DC Scarpelli as Melvin P. Thorpe; Brian Watson as Governor/C.J. Scruggs; Michael Ray Wisely as Sheriff  Ed Earl Dodd.

CREATIVE TEAM: Director/Choreographer Christina Lazo; Music Director Dave Dobrusky; Scenic Designer/Artist Brian Watson;  Costume Designer Tammy Berlin; Props Designer Taylor Bartolucci; Lighting Designer Michael Palumbo; Stage Manager Alicia Lerner; Assistant Stage Manager Lauren Howry.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com