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THEATER REVIEW: “The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas” runs wild in Coronado

“There’s lots of good will, maybe one small thrill, but there’s nothin’ dirty goin’ on,” sing the girls at Miss Mona’s Chicken Ranch, the “Best Little Whorehouse” in the fictional town of Gilbert, Texas.

And though nobody in town wants the joint shut down, wouldn’t you know that some nosy, self-righteous, crusading TV “journalist” from Houston would mount a campaign to put Miss Mona and her girls out of business?

That’s the plot of the fact-based 1978 musical that ran nearly four years and took two Tonys. The Larry L. King/Peter Masterson book offers a collection of colorful local characters whose personalities are revealed in the mostly bouncy, c/w twang of Carol Hall’s often clever songs. If the characters are a tad stereotypical, well, let’s face it – so is much of life.

“The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas” plays through Dec. 2 at Coronado Playhouse. Thomas Fitzpatrick directs.

Miss Mona (Debbie David) runs the Chicken Ranch with an iron fist in a velvet glove, using her considerable vocal talents to describe her “Li’l Ole Bitty Pissant Country Place.”

Mona not only has rules – which her girls memorize – but also a soft heart, shown here when she comforts a brand new applicant to whom she gives the professional (and accurately descriptive) name Shy (Lauren Clough).

Shy arrives with the newly christened Angel (Jennie Gray Connard), who has been around the block a few times with a few gents. Angel’s a single mom who just wants to make enough to support her young son.

Then there’s Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd (David Guthrie), tall and rangy; he and Mona have a history, and he has one of the loveliest songs in the show, “Good Old Girl.”

Heather Barton plays Jewel, Mona’s housekeeper, who sings the heck out of the barn burner “Twenty-Four Hours of Lovin.’”

Meredith Russo plays waitress Doatsey Mae, another character stuck in a dead-end job. She brings a tear with the saddest song, an eponymous paean to courage lacked in which she enumerates all the things she would like to have done, ending each with “I wanted to. I wanted to. But I never could.”

The villain of the piece is Melvin P. Thorpe (played with exquisite awfulness by Michael Van Allen), a tightassed s.o.b. with a godawful blond wig (today I guess we’d call him an investigative reporter), hell-bent on closing the Ranch down.

Politicians (fittingly enough) come in for some heavy-duty skewering. Senator Wingwoah (Steven J. Jensen), a regular at the Ranch, proudly tells Mona about his TV spot screaming for its closing.

The Governor (Starlight icon Ole Kittleson) caves to the pressure, and reveals his secret of political success in “The Sidestep”:

“Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep.
Now they see me, now they don't – and
Ooh I love to sweep around the wide step, cut a little swath and
lead the people on.”

Kudos to the six members of “The Chicken Ranch Wranglers,” who keep the beat going with flair.

Director Fitzpatrick keeps the show moving as well as he can – no small challenge, as the show has many scene shifts necessitating at least rudimentary set changes. Still, the show runs two and a half hours, including some choreography that could easily be left out.

Leave the little ones home: this is a raunchy show, with the girls in barely-there clothes and talk you might not want to explain.

I’d like to say this show is dated. But given today’s regressive political climate, I can’t. I suppose hypocrisy and censorship have always gone hand in hand.

“The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas” points that up in amusing fashion, also suggesting that it’s better to be an honest hooker than a two-faced politician.

The details

“The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas” plays through Dec. 2 at Coronado Playhouse, 1835 Strand Way, Coronado.

Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm.

For tickets, call 619-435-4856 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.