by The Theatre Gay
When rolling up to the Signature Theatre in Shirlington last night, the words ‘WHORE HOUSE’ were plastered across one of the largest buildings in the one block long open-air market. This, unfortunately, wasn’t a clever marketing ploy by the Samuel Beckett’s bar across the street, it was the advertisement for Signature Theatre’s first musical in their 2012-2013 season: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.
A musical? About whores? In Texas? With Cowboys? Pretty much has theatre gay written all over it. Within the first five minutes you get to see a boy’s butt. So stay for that. Signature has transformed its blackbox theatre into it’s very own house of ill repute, complete with sticky floors and overhead fans. You’re pretty much thrust into the Chicken Ranch (stage name for previously mentioned whore house) and trust me, pun fully intended. There’s not a lot to say about plot here, but I’ll give you a brief run down. There’s a whorehouse in Texas and everyone loves this whorehouse. Then a fundamentalist semi-evangelist with a Public Access TV show finds out about the whorehouse. Fundamentalist seeks to shut down whorehouse. Whorehouse is discovered to be running partially on government funds. Fundamentalist sneaks in, chaos ensues. Whorehouse shuts down. Mixed in with all that you have about a dozen songs or so, either about the whorehouse, the fundamentalist who wants to shut it down, or the citizens of the town in which the whorehouse is located.
So, it should be campy right? At times, yes. And when the camp is played appropriately, it soars. For instance, The Doggettes (previously mentioned Fundamentalist’s cadre of singers) exude a mid-50s sense of righteousness, and “do-goodery.” Their harmonies were tight, and their comedic timing, even tighter. The whores, however, lacked some of the energy required to sell me on their wares, as it were. I’m not sure if their lack of presence was due to the unstoppable Miss Mona (Sherri L. Edelen). Owner and operator of the whorehouse, Miss Mona is a powerhouse, and you have to admire anyone who can take a role that sings nearly every song in a show. Edelen does not dissapoint. And, of course, her chemistry with Jewel, the Chicken Ranch’s Accountant, (Nova Y. Payton) is flawless. Even the Andy Griffith-esque Sheriff Earl Dodd had some great one-liners. Hell, the Aggie Football Boys even danced their jock-strapped asses off! Then why was I still left disappointed?
The principals in this show were great, although, their talent wasn’t enough to keep me excited. The issue was where the show came together. Ultimately, it lacked cohesion. The sincere moments felt too campy, and the campy moments felt too sincere. I have a feeling this had more to do with the script than the individual performances. There were moments that felt out of place, like the scene in the Diner. Or moments that seemed overlooked, such as when Miss Mona receives a new tom-boyish prospect. I’m not sure what this play was trying to tell me. Miss Mona’s Chicken Ranch failed to inspire this theatre gay.
Although, you know what there is plenty of? Semi-nude boys. And pretty good ones at that. So if that’s your thing, line up for the Signature Theatre’s production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Hell, even if you’re a straight dude, there’s a bunch of half naked girls. This play guarantees to tantalize, although only briefly. What a cock tease.