Why I Fell for "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" and Why You Will Too
It’s only one week until auditions for our latest production, The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas - and if you still haven’t decided whether or not to give it a go, why not read Director Alasdair MacRae’s reasons he became excited about putting on this show?
Howdy y’all! (There’s been a lot of that going around the production team, I’m afraid.)
When I first heard about The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, I liked it, but I didn’t know if it was for me; I mean, I’m hardly the biggest country music fan, and it did sort of seem to be a ‘girly show’... But after reading the book and listening to the soundtrack, I realised just how wrong I was!
Here’s a few of the things that made me fall for ‘The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas’…
1 - IT’S NOT YOUR TRADITIONAL MUSICAL
I always think it’s interesting to get away from the safe, predictable old Hollywood formula once in a while, and this show is definitely one of mature content and adult themes. “Whorehouse” is based on the true story of The Chicken Ranch, an illegal brothel in a small Texan town called La Grange that was allowed by the local authorities to operate for decades, until finally being forced to shut down in 1973 after a high-profile media crusade. While the famous 1982 movie starring Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds took liberties with the plot, cutting some elements and forcing it to become a cheesy love story, the original musical remains a lot more bittersweet. Just as in real life-events, sometimes love doesn’t work out, and sometimes the good guys don’t always win - but the feeling the audience leaves with is very powerful.
2 - THE CHARACTERS ARE FUN, YET DEEP
Where else are a group of prostitutes going to be the heroes of a piece of musical theatre? The girls of the brothel are clearly there because they have nowhere else to turn, yet they treat each other like a family and remain incredibly positive throughout. Miss Mona, the lead character, is impossible not to love - she’s a strong woman stuck in a man’s world, and combines no-nonsense business acumen with a fierce motherly love for her girls. And I found the male lead, Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd to be great fun - he seems to think any problem can be resolved with enough guns and cussin’, and his colourful metaphors disgust and please me in equal measure:
“The public don’t unnerstand how politics works, no better than pigs unnerstands kissin’!”
Yet, as big and brash as he is, he’s quite a tragic figure, confused by a modern world which has no room for old cowboys like him, and finding himself consumed with love for Miss Mona but unable to find the courage to tell her how he feels.
3 - THE MUSIC IS SIMPLE, BUT SMART
GMT’s spring slot has been dominated by Stephen Sondheim for the last few years, and while I’m a HUGE Sondheim fan, I’m aware that his music is challenging for many people who aren’t as experienced singers (and pretty challenging even if you are!). The great thing about Whorehouse is that the songs are based on country and gospel music, and is therefore a lot easier to pick up - so we’re hoping it will attract many new faces!
However, easy doesn’t mean boring; there’s a lyrically-clever song in which a politician squeaks his way out of any responsibility (The Sidestep), there’s the energetic, cheeky number about Miss Mona’s rules of the brothel (Lil Ole Bitty Pissant Country Place), and in the grand musical tradition of guys singing about their erections, there’s The Aggie Song, featuring the men of the cast having a thumping hoedown about getting laid! What more could you want?
4 - IT’S NOT JUST FOR THE LADIES
“I was in Theatre Guild's production of Whorehouse way back in 2007 and I remember it very fondly,” recalls Nicola Coffield, GMT regular and director of 2012’s How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. Her enthusiasm for the show really helped me decide that it was the one for me.
“There’s obviously loads of great roles for the girls, but I remember being surprised at just how much there was for the guys to do in a show set mainly in a brothel. There were football players, roving reporters, sheriffs, mayors, governors and of course numerous ‘guests’ of Miss Mona everywhere, and having plenty of men in the cast certainly made the show come alive (and it’s fair to say they quite enjoyed themselves!).”
And that’s not to mention some of the brilliant songs for the guys, from Melvin’s “Texas Has A Whorehouse In It”, a bombastic evangelical romp, to the beautiful harmonies of “Good Old Girl” performed by the Sheriff and male company, in which the young men of the town clumsily express their sorrow at losing Miss Mona and her girls.
5 - IT’S ABOUT BIG THEMES...
As Melvin P. Thorpe’s crusade against the Chicken Ranch goes on, it struck a chord with me, reminding me of our society’s (and particularly America’s) clash between conservative and liberal values. Yes, the Chicken Ranch is illegal, but Miss Mona ensures that her girls are safe, and free to leave whenever they want - so is what they’re doing really hurting anyone? And why is it wrong for these women to choose to earn a living by selling sex, but it’s acceptable for the local sports commentators to lust over the skantily-dressed cheerleaders? I liked that these complex social issues are rooted throughout what appears to be a fairly straightforward story.
Whorehouse also reaches its satirical peak with The Governor Of Texas, a slimy politician who talks a lot but says very little, and will happily make a scapegoat out of anyone if it allows him to ride the wave of public approval. I already mentioned his song ‘The Sidestep’ - I swear I recognise most of our elected officials during this song!
6 - ...BUT IT’S ALSO ABOUT BIG FUN
Despite all this depth and bittersweet drama, Whorehouse just seems damn good fun to watch - and be in. Here’s Nicola Coffield again:
“I love a bit of country & western music, but people not familiar with C&W shouldn't be put off - the tunes in “...Whorehouse" are more rockabilly country style. Certainly up-tempo enough to get some barn dances going! And one of the other bonuses of being in the show is getting to say the word “whorehouse” a lot.
Although the show was written in the 70s, it manages to be both contemporary AND funny. It doesn’t shy away from some of the realities of being a working girl, but a lot of the interactions between the characters (both inside and outside of Miss Mona’s house) are wonderfully sassy and humorous. It’s like all the best bits of the Smokey and the Bandits movies - lots of romp-style comedy, snappy comebacks and just the right amount of mild peril. I’d definitely say it was a show I’d want to be in again, which is just as well, because I’ve got my audition pack already!”
If, like me, Nicola, and dozens of others who have already applied you want to be a part of this exciting production, auditions will be held on 13th-15th February at Dance Glasgow on Jamaica Street - email firstname.lastname@example.org for your audition pack, which contains all the information, music, and dialogue pieces you’ll need.
I can’t wait to see y’all there!