The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas [Union Theatre]

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
A musical with book by Larry L. King & Peter Masterson and music and lyrics by Carol Hall

Miss Mona – Sarah Lark
Mayor Rufus Poindexter – Luke Barron
Ruby Rae – Aimee Buchanan
Melvin P. Thorpe – Leon Craig
Shy Kid / Reporter – Patrick George
Farmer / Reporter – Dayle Hodge
Angel – Franki Jenns
Dawn / Dance Captain – Jodie Lee Wilde
Senator Wingwoah – Tony Longhurst
Customer / Governor’s Aide – Stephen Oliver Webb
Customer / TV Announcer – Jarred Page
Salesman / Reporter – Jamie Papanicolaou
Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd – James Parkes
Beatrice – Kimberley Powell
Shy – Nancy Sullivan
Doatsey Mae – Lindsay Scigliano
Ginger – Sasi Strallen
Durla – Katy Stredder
Jewel – Stephanie Tavernier
Linda Lou – Kelle Walters
Customer / Edsel Mackey – Scott Wheeler
Governor – Anthony Williamson

Aggie / Angelette / Dogette / Melvin P. Thorpe Singers – Played by multi members of the cast

Tom Turner (musical director & keyboards); Richard Craig (percussion & drums), Carl Rennie (guitar) & Sammuele Matteucci (bass guitar)

Paul Taylor-Mills – Director & Producer
Richard Jones – Choreographer & Musical Staging
Kingsley Hall – Production Designer
Howard Hudson – Lighting Designer


Reviewed by: Michael Darvell

Reviewed: 23 October, 2011
Venue: Union Theatre, London

The story behind The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is a true one. There was such a brothel in La Grange, Texas that offered good clean fun for its clientele, despite the local opposition of a do-good minority. It provided the inspiration for the music and lyrics of Carol Hall and a book by Larry L. King and Peter Masterson, and the results were a big hit from 1978 on Broadway where the show ran for over 1,500 performances. It was nominated for seven Tonys, winning Awards for Carlin Glynn as Miss Mona, the brothel’s madam, and Henderson Forsythe as the local sheriff with whom Mona had a romantic involvement. Glynn also won a Theatre World Award and the show was nominated for eight Drama Desk Awards, winning for music, lyrics and direction. Both stars came to London in 1981 for the Drury Lane production for which Glynn received a Laurence Olivier Award. The film with Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds was released in 1982.

It is an intriguing story but, being a Broadway show, it had to cater for its regular audience unprepared to pay good money to be shocked. The resulting show was, considering its subject matter, cleaned up to avoid any embarrassment, so that the level of humour is about the same as a Carry On film. Having introduced us to the working girls and their clients, the brothel is then closed down by the antics of an overenthusiastic television evangelist, Melvin P. Thorpe, and his group of religious acolytes. In the production at the Union Thorpe is played as a larger-than-life, over-the-top number by Leon Craig. No doubt Dom DeLuise who played the part in the film was similarly camp but he had a certain element of style about him.

The two leads, Sarah Lark and James Parkes (the latter a cross between Burt Reynolds and Dennis Weaver) do well with the available material, making it for the most part passably credible. Far from doing a Dolly Parton, Lark has a touch of Mae West about her as she parades around sedately, keeping her cool. It is a large company of two-dozen players who double up in various ensemble parts with eminent versatility in the Union Theatre’s tiny playing space. Not much is left to the imagination in the sexual antics played against Kingsley Hall’s simple production designs but the space is filled with energetic dancing that raises the temperature to an excitingly high degree.

The music is country-style and played by the band of four with requisite relish. It’s a good, hardworking company that is enjoying itself with a great deal of exuberance. It’s perhaps a pity that the book is not as strong now as it may have seemed thirty years ago. One of the songs claims that there’s “nothing dirty going on”. It could benefit from more bump and grind to keep our interest going but, apart from that, it is still a spirited little show that flashes its innocent charms in a likeable and rather affectionate way.

  • The Best Little Whorehouse is at the Union Theatre, 204 Union Street, Southwark, London SE1 until Saturday 12 November 2011
  • Tuesday to Saturday 7.30 p.m., Sundays 2 p.m. & 6 p.m. [no 2 p.m. matinee on 30 October]
    Tickets 020 7261 9876
  • Union Theatre

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