THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXASMusic and Lyrics by: Carol Hall
Book by: Larry L. King and Peter Masterson
Based on a story by Larry L. King
Granbury Theatre Company
Director-Domanick Anton Hubbard
Music Director-Jamie Deel
Choreography - Domanick Anton Hubbard
Scenic Designers-Courtney Smith
Lighting Designer-Kalani Morrissette
Sound Designer - Kyle Hoffman
Costume Designer - Emily Warwick
CAST (at reviewed performance)
Miss Mona-Amanda Williams Ware
Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd-Tim Herndon
Melvin P. Thorpe-Colton Lively
Linda Lou-Rebecca Ford
Taddy Jo-Stephanie Simmons
Ruby Rae-Amanda Brooks
Miss Willa Jean-Kevin Baum
C.J. Scruggs-JD Choate
Mayor Rufus Poindexter-Jamie Deel
Edsel Mackey-Doug Long
Doatsy Mae-Brigitte Goldman
Senator Wingwoah-Micky Shearon
Texas Aggie Football Players-Aaron Brooks, Kevin Baum, Levi Casler, JD Choate, Joshua Emmanuel McRae Davis, Derien Houston, Juice Houston, Joel Sims
Dogettes-Fatima Austin, Aaron Brooks, Amanda Brooks, Nicole Carrano, Levi Casler, JD Choate, Joshua Emmanuel McRae, Rebecca Ford, Derien Houston, Juice Houston, Brittany Jenkins, Jadie Phelps, Stephanie Simmons, Mia Washington
Ensemble-Reilly Kaye Anderson, Kevin Baum, Caitlin Campbell, Levi Casler, JD Choate, Joshua Emmanuel McRae Davis, Alaina Gunter, Derien Houston, Juice Houston, Jade Reneau, Micky Shearon, Joel Sims
Reviewed Performance: 2/24/2018
Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Established by Miss Jessie Williams (the inspiration for Miss Mona), the topic of prostitution was handled as respectably as it could be for the time period. Miss Jessie kept this pleasure palace known as Chicken Ranch reputable by excluding drunkards and admitting lawmen and politicians. Although illegal, everyone knew what the Chicken Ranch was, and locals tolerated it. During the 1950's and 60's, it even became a destination for Texas A&M students (freshman in particular) as a spot for "initiation." Many of the prostitutes at the time were University of Texas students. Of course it would be a desired destination for Aggies! (insert laughter here). Hook 'em Horns.
A familiar and popular ZZ Top song, "La Grange," was about the Chicken Ranch, and in 1982, a film adaptation was made starring Dolly Parton as Miss Mona, and Burt Reynolds as Sherriff Ed Earl Dodd. The story has been a part of Texas lore since the early days of the Chicken Ranch, and it continues to entertain audiences through "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas."
Director Domanick Anton Hubbard brought together a tight ensemble cast of youth and veteran actors who worked well together, and wove a fantastic representation an eclectic company of characters at The Chicken Ranch, in the fictional Gilbert, Texas. The company was so fully charged with energy. From the moment the show began, the audience was drawn into the late 1800's as spectators of Miss Willa Jean's bordello, and into the more modern brothel run by the "classy" Miss Mona. Overall, the staging and conceptualization was pleasant, and visually pleasing. I enjoyed the appropriate doses of humor throughout the production. It is apparent to me that a lot of time and care went into the vision of this production.
Set Designer Courtney Smith successfully transformed the proscenium stage into the multiple locations in the story with very few changes. As someone who directs and does scenic design for musical theatre, I can attest that it can be quite challenging if you have a production that has multiple locations within the story. I have often found that if you just give the audience the "suggestion" of certain locations, the "new" location can be very simple, and the audience receives the information that it needs to satisfy a shift in place. There were some very eye-catching elements to the set. It was the most detailed and the largest functional set that I have seen at Granbury Theatre Company. Working with the scenic designer, Kalani Morrissette served as the lighting designer. Morrissette created some lovely stage pictures with a wide variety of color to set the theme and mood of each scene. I greatly enjoyed seeing the ladies of the brothel cast a suggestive silhouette in each window shade, giving the audience just enough of the suggestion of the illegal activity going on inside.
Emily Warwick designed costumes that were not only period-appropriate, but had a great attention to detail. There were a lot of details that Ms. Warwick incorporated into each costume, making them visually stunning and very creative (as I have always come to expect from Ms. Warwick). From the ladies of Miss Mona's Chicken Ranch to the 1970's Aggie Football uniforms, Ms. Warwick followed through with great precision and detail. I was reminded how fun and tacky fashion from the 1970's really is-especially plaid sport coats, typical of football coaches from the era.
Another treat for me was the actual incorporation of the live country and western band. It is always a treat to attend a musical and to have live musicians set the scene, and create the ambiance and atmosphere. Of the other performances that I have seen at Granbury Theatre Company, this was the first that utilized the live band. It was a large and enjoyable highlight of the performance.
Overall, the production was enjoyable. I felt that the scenic and the costume designs collaborated well with the director's concept in establishing the time period, and stayed consistent with the style of the production. One disappointment was in the execution of the props. At one point in the story, a razor style flip phone was used! According to my research, the musical was set in the late 1970's, and cell phones were not given a second thought in the mainstream until the late 1990's, or early 2000's. It broke the allusion of the story for me, and it took me a few scenes to get drawn back into the time period of the story. I know it seems very picky, but, I am a firm believer that these little details can make or break the overall allusion that is being created for audiences. Just a little something to think about.
Amanda Williams Ware was phenomenal in role of Miss Mona, the matronly owner of The Chicken Ranch. Ware provided the audience with a great deal of humor, and had a strong set of vocals, and consistent facial expressions. Ms. Ware took control of the stage, and performed the role of Miss Mona with great care, and ease. She was most enjoyable to watch. I look forward to the possibility of seeing her on stage in other roles at the Granbury Theatre Company.
Colton Lively was absolutely fabulous in the role of Watch Dog Investigative reporter, Melvin P. Thorpe (based on the real-life Houston investigative reporter, Marvin Zindler). His facial expressions, timing, and larger-than-life reactions and movements really were the highlight of the humor of the production. Mr. Lively portrayed Thorpe as the most stereotypical Texan pushing morals and values in the Bible Belt of Texas. Mr. Lively was full of energy and enthusiasm, and he made each scene come alive and intensify the electricity of the story. Bravo, Mr. Lively on a well-done performance.
Another standout was Abi Abel in the role of Angel, a new girl to Miss Mona's establishment. From the moment Ms. Abel takes the stage, she draws audiences in with her thick Texas accent, and her fantastic facial expressions. Ms. Abel had some nice moments with Shy (played skillfully by Kristin Cox) and with Miss Mona. Ms. Abel had a large amount of energy and humor on stage, and provided a nice foil in a more dramatic scene when making a phone call to her son, whom she missed a great deal. I was touched and impressed to see the duality in her character.
This production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is definitely worth seeing. The attention to detail evident in all aspects of this production makes for a fun experience at the theatre. I do caution you, however, that this production is DEFINITELY not for children or teenagers. The content, language, and humor is best for the over eighteen crowd. As always, I enjoyed my daytrip to the historic Granbury Opera House, and I encourage you to see this production-one that has been pulled out the of the musical theatre vault. Hurry though, much like the real Chicken Ranch, it will close soon.
Granbury Theatre Company
Granbury Opera House
133 E. Pearl Street
Granbury, Texas 76048
Plays through March 18.
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm
Saturday and Sunday Matinees at 2:00 pm
Ticket prices range from $25-$30 depending on seating (Prime: Rows A, B, C, D, Standard or Balcony: Rows CR, E, F, G, H, J, Balcony)
For groups of 10 or more, please call the box office for rates & reservations.
For information and to purchase tickets, go to www.granburytheatrecompany.org or call: 817-579-0952.