Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas
Also see John's review of Footloose
The Lake Worth Playhouse presents The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. This musical features a book by Larry L. King and Peter Masterson, with music and lyrics by Carol Hall. It is based on a story by Mr. King that was inspired by the real-life Chicken Ranch in La Grange, Texas. The original Broadway production began on June 19, 1978 at the 46th Street Theatre, where it ran for 1,584 performances. It received three Drama Desk Awards, one Theatre World Award, and six Tony Award Nominations, with Henderson Forsythe winning a Tony for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical, and Carlin Glynn winning a Tony for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical. A short-lived sequel, The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public, was staged on Broadway in 1994.
In The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, set in the late 1970s, a brothel that has been in operation outside of Gilbert, Texas for more than a century is being run by Miss Mona Stangley. Miss Mona takes care of her girls, and of her long list of customers, with real style and hospitality. Miss Mona also has a close personal relationship with the local sheriff, Ed Earl Dodd. When crusading television reporter Melvin P. Thorpe (based on real-life Houston news personality Marvin Zindler) decides to make the illegal activity an issue, Ed Earl scrambles to save the Chicken Ranch, but political ramifications cause the nearly historic site to be closed down.
The Lake Worth Playhouse provides a fun production of The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas with a large cast of 30. Cindy Goldberg does nicely as Miss Mona, though she waits to establish real chemistry, or the subtext of her relationship with Ed Earl until the last scene. Michael DeGrotta is good as Ed Earl, allowing the audience to like him despite his swearing and sputtering rants. It is important that we see him as a voice of some reason in the midst of all around him. Nina Vincent is sassy as Jewel, though she struggles with the low notes in the beginning of the song "Twenty-Four Hours of Lovin'." Kari Budyk has a nice singing voice and feel for her character as Doatsey Mae.
The older men in the cast are surprisingly solid, but there is some unevenness in the ensemble in dancing and singing ability. A couple of the younger men need to go the extra mile and commit to hairstyles and facial hair that is in keeping with the time period, as it breaks the reality of the show. The production is rounded out nicely by a funny cameo by Dennis Schaber as the Governor, and strong comedic performances by Tom Cooch as Melvin P. Thorpe and Angel Wrona as Angel.
The sound and lighting for the show are good. The set design is sound, but misses the mark in execution. The staircases stained in a near-blonde finish make the steps look like unfinished plywood in most light, and cheapens the image of the upscale brothel. Some of the costumes, such as those for Melvin and Jewel, are great, while others are lacking in any character or the punch of the period. The oddly color-tinged hairpieces used for Miss Mona are out of period and character as well, and, though her outfits are attractive, the costumer missed an opportunity to make her the grand Texas fashion plate she could have been.
The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas will appear at the Lake Worth Playhouse through May 3, 2008. The theatre is located at 713 Lake Ave. in Lake Worth, FL. The Lake Worth Playhouse is a Resident Community Playhouse in it's 55th Season. Performance times are Thursdays, Fridays at 8:00 p.m. Saturdays at 2:00 and 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:00 and 7:00 p.m.. For tickets and/or more information about the theatre and its programs, you may contact them by phone at 561-586-6410 or online at www.lakeworthplayhouse.org.