The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas – October 2010

 

55The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is a yee-haaing, thigh slapping trip down memory lane that is sure to have the audience tapping its toes long after the final curtain.

Set in the 1970s, the award winning musical tells the story of a brothel known as the Chicken Ranch – so named because, during the Depression, customers were allowed to pay with poultry!

Now under the ownership of Miss Mona Stangley the Chicken Ranch has been operating for more than a century.

However crusading television reporter Melvin P Thorpe decides to make the illegal activity the latest issue to come under his ‘spotlight’ and the future looks bleak for the chicken ranch, Miss Mona and its girls….


 

Production Team

  • Artistic Director: Janice Bruce
  • Choreographer: Alison Scott
  • Musical Director: Angus Tully

Principals

  • Angel: Gina Muego
  • Beatrice: Linsey Brack
  • Dawn: Rachel Aedy
  • Doatsey Mae: Fiona Brownlee
  • Durla: Alison Wood
  • Edsel: Dougal Affleck
  • Eloise: Yvonne Dalman
  • Ginger: Kathryn Samson
  • Governor: David Grimes
  • Imogen Charlene: Jenna Lee
  • Jewel: Alexandra Junginger
  • Linda Lou: Sam Bower
  • Melvin P. Thorpe: Lech Boron
  • Miss Mona: Melanie Sherwood
  • Ruby Rae: Carmel Downey
  • Rufus: Stephen Miller
  • Scruggs: Greg Lamb
  • Senator: Alistair Thomas
  • Sheriff: Peter Tomassi
  • Shy: Nicole Watt
  • Taddy Jo: Jenny O’Neill

Chorus

Alex Arnott, Bette Boyle, Donald Randall, Eilidh Donald, Erin Hickey, Gillian Reilly, Graeme Liston, Helen Goldie, Johnny Ferguson, Johnny Muir, Joni Smith, Jonny Farley, Julia More, Kelly Brooks, Kizzy Jackson, Lindsey Affleck, Mary O’Gorman, Maxine Fallon, Meredith Maughan-Newby, Paul Inglis, Simon Cameron, Stuart Lord


 

Reviews

The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas
Thom Dibdin – thomdibdin.co.uk 27/10/2010

Great musicality and strong staging mark out the production of the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas from local amateur company Allegro, running at the Church Hill Theatre all week.

As you might expect from the title, a certain amount of raunchiness occurs on stage. The working girls of Miss Mona’s establishment, which gives the musical its name, spending much of the production in their scanty particulars.

They are rather more particular than they are scanty, it must be said. It looks like the fashion show for an upmarket lingerie shop: all suggestion, emphasis and lacy bits, rather than revelation and removal. If Katy Perry had been sporting such an outfit on Sesame Street, she would have had no problem with the moral outrage.

Of course moral outrage is what the musical is all about. Real life outrage that a ranch in Texas could have been operating as a brothel for some 150 years, with the local law enforcement turning a blind eye. Pious outrage whipped up by crusading Houston radio reporter Marvin Zindler which forced the so-called Chicken Ranch to close in 1973.

The show transfers the ranch to the fictional town of Gilbert and transforms Zindler into Melvin P. Thorpe, a TV reporter on crusading programme Watchdog. Stepping quickly over the whys and wherefores of prostitution, the show’s own morality falls in with those who believe that if it is going to happen, then it should happen in a place that is as non-exploitative as possible.

So it is that hardened street-girl Angel (Gina Muego) and young girl Shy (Nicole Watt) who has been sexually abused by her father, turn up at Miss Mona’s establishment just before Thanksgiving. They are taken in, and Miss Mona informs them of her big no-nos – kissing, alcohol, drugs and pimps.

The full cast in the finale of Allegro’s production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas – Church Hill Theatre October 2010

All this is detailed in a performance of A Lil Ole Bitty Pissant Country Place which needs rather more lead in its pencil. It’s pleasing to look at in terms of Alison Scott’s choreography and it sounds nice enough, but there’s no real attack there, none of the bite which the song asks for.

Even when the excellent Alexandra Junginger as Jewel, the maid at the Chicken Ranch, launches into 24 Hours of Loving – telling the working girls in no uncertain terms what she will be doing on her day off, it is all rather sedate.

When the call is for characterisation, a poignant moment, a big ballad or a well-balanced tableaux, however, the production come up trumps.

Both Muego and Watt create real characters in the opening scenes, and as Mel Sherwood as Miss Mona launches into into Girl, Your A Woman, the full depth of her voice – missing in A Lil Ole Bitty – suddenly becomes apparent. Here, with a big dollop of sentimentality, is its breadth and warmth.

Lech Boron is hugely camp as Melvin P Thorpe, sporting a quite hideous Jimmy Savile wig. There is some imaginative yet simple choreography for his Dogettes and singers, that all works up into strong tableaux and an easy telling of the plot.

It takes the arrival of Peter Tomassi as Sheriff Ed Earl, however, to kick the whole production into gear. His breaking up of a rally on the Gilbert Town Hall steps, live on TV, is a real explosion of emotion of a kind that is missing elsewhere in the first half – even in the Texas Aggies.

The tone of the second half converges much more easily with the performances on stage. David Grimes as the Governor of Texas puts in an excellent and smooth performance of The Side Step, as he glosses over hard political questions with the glib tongue of a seasoned politician.

Tomassi and Sherwood work up some big poignant moments towards the end, while the show’s moral points on the reality of prostitution are slipped quietly in.

If this ends up feeling slightly more like the Nicest Wee Massage Parlour in Morningside than the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, it is a big and compelling production which knows full well that just because design or choreography is simple, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t very effective. Great stuff.

Wholesome Show Full of Ol’ Western Charm
Sarah Nisbet – Evening News 29/10/2010

American football, TV evangelism, hookers and their loutish clients are not characteristics you would usually assume to find in a hit Broadway musical, but with a provocative title like The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas it would be foolish to expect anything less.

Based on the escapades of Texan bordello The Chicken Ranch, the show follows proprietor Miss Mona and her girls as they struggle to keep their establishment afloat despite TV reporter Melvin P Thorpe’s best attempts to shut it down. Primarily, Little Whorehouse is a raunchy comedy that simultaneously explores the moral hypocrisy of 1970s America.

This duality of adult humour and social commentry may seem like a challenge for some, but not for seasoned performers, Allegro. The amateur troupe delivers the right measure of laughs without coming across as too insincere or crass.

The show boasts a tremendous cast who pull off Alison Scott’s choreography with ease, highlights including The Aggies March and A Lil’ Ole Bitty Pissant Country Place.
Heading the ensemble is the effervescent Mel Sherwood as Miss Mona, who portrays the central character’s warmth and brazenness. Her voice is versatile, demonstrating her wide range on Girl You’re a Woman. Mona’s girls also provide strong performances, with Gina Muego exposing her character Angel’s vulnerability on Hard Candy Christmas.

Alexandra Junginger equally shines as Jewel on 24 Hours of Lovin’. However some of the songs more lurid innuendos are lost under Junginger’s vocals, making her performance demure.

Miss Mona’s male counterpart, the gun-slinging Sheriff Earl, is exquisitely played by Peter Tomassi, delivering his foul-mouther remarks with vigour. In contrast, the role of rival Thorpe requires a more exaggerated approach, with Lech Boron wondrously camping it up as the TV host. David Grimes as the governor also provides the show with its lighter moments.

With its strong language and storyline, this may not seem like a musical for the faint-hearted. Yet, underneath it all, it is as wholesome as they come, instilled with hilarious songs, memorable characters and good ol’ Southern charm.