Reviewer: David Allen
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas was written by Larry L. King and Peter Masterson and has music and lyrics by Carol Hall. It is based on a story by King that was inspired by the real-life Chicken Ranch in La Grange, Texas.
The whorehouse ranch was known as ‘the chicken ranch’, because they often accepted chickens in lieu of payment. It was sort of accepted by the local community until 1973 when it was forced to close due to the actions of sensationalist journalist Marvin Zindler.
The show has a number of adult themes, but deals with them in a sensitive way, making them acceptable in the context of a comedy musical. There is some crude language, but this is in the context of the story.
The show is full of great one liners, is well written and full of energy and excitement. It was very successful on Broadway and was made into a film starring Dolly Parton & Burt Reynolds. It has some good musical numbers which I was unfamiliar with, but they are easy to listen to and very appropriate for the action. I particularly liked “Hard Candy Christmas” sung beautifully by the girls and the “Aggie Song” sung with considerable power by the football boys. The final song “The Bus from Amarillo” sung by Miss Mona is very poignant and the way Julie sang it was beautiful and moving.
Miss Mona manages the ranch and is played brilliantly by Julie Easter. She is an accomplished actor and singer and is totally believable in the part. She sang her songs in a way that is very entertaining and easy on the ear. Mona’s right hand lady, Jewel, is played delightfully by Gemma Farnell; I particularly enjoyed her rendition of ’24 hours of loving.”
The two outsiders, Angel and Shy, were both well cast and played with great charm and confidence by Holly Easter and Sophie Draycott respectively. I thought that Sophie’s transformation from the innocent ingenue to one of the working girls was particularly well done.
Jeremy Malpas as the Sheriff is outstanding, showing the depth and feeling of the character who was caught between his interest in keeping the whorehouse going and his duty to obey the State Governor.
David Perkin’s excellent characterisation of the over -zealous investigative reporter Melvin P Thorpe was a joy to watch. He combined humour with an implied and subtly contained nastiness. He sings and moves wholly in character and his costumes are very appropriate.
Anita Benson plays Doatsey Mae Grimes, the seemingly quiet innocent waitress of the local diner, who gave an excellent rendition of her song of “Missed Opportunities.”
The other principals, Duncan Gadsby (Governor), Carl Unwin (Bandleader) and Guy Benson (Senator Wingworth + others) were all well understood and delivered.
They were very well supported by a strong cast of minor characters and a very hardworking and talented ensemble.
Ian Lee-Bennett (C J Scuggs), Laurie Trott (Miss Wulla Jean), Hannah Osgood (Linda-Lou), Anja Palmer (Ginger), Vicky Mee (Dawn), Lucy Maden (Ruby Rae), Hannah Parker (Eloise), Bobbie Da’Bell (Beatrice), Hayley Farnell (Taddy Jo), Frankie Johnson (Durla), Lucy Banks, Ash Bright, Craig Butterworth, Jordan Cope, Helen Donnelly, Carl Edwards, Jeremiah Gaillard, Jack Hardy, Alex Hudson, Alix Johnston, Sarah Lorimer, Amy McMurray, Julie Robinson, Jayne Sanderson, Mel Swift, Harry Walford.
I thought that the costumes and wigs supplied by a number of organisations and individuals were first class, as was the set supplied by Scenic Projects.
The excellent lighting plot really helped with establishing scene locations and atmosphere. Well done to the lighting designer, Robert Bridges. The sound was just right for the production. I’m sure that the technical challenges of the show are considerable but, both the sound and lighting crews made it all look easy. The stage crew managed the scene changes quickly and invisibly. The Stage Manager Adrian Wray and his crew were very professional indeed and must have worked very hard.
The band sounded terrific, giving exactly the right support and volume for the show. There was a high level of musicality and some impressive harmonies. Well done Musical Director, Vicki Hing. She obviously has worked very hard with the cast enabling them to achieve the very high standards.
Director and choreographer Michael Gamble, assisted by Ashley Bright, delivered a really entertaining and high-quality show. They make good use of the stage and all the available entrances and exits. The performers all give of their all with their characterisations, accents and importantly, ensuring that the fast pace of the show is maintained throughout. The dance routines are lovely to watch and of a very good standard.
This is yet another excellent production from CTC presents which I enjoyed very much. Yes, at times the show is a little crude, but it is all done “in the best possible taste,” to quote the late Kenny Everett. I can certainly recommend the show, but would suggest that it may not be suitable for the youngest theatre goers. The Company have in my view, correctly put an advisory age of 16+
The Best Whore House in Texas continues at Loughborough Town Hall until Saturday.