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A Sizzling, Knee-Slapping, Kick Ass, Belly-Laughing Breath Of Fresh Lone Star Air

Jordan Wright
August 27, 2012
Special to The Alexandria Times

Sherri L. Edelen (as Miss Mona, center) leads the cast of "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" in the production’s toe-tapping finale. . Photo: Scott Suchman.

Sherri L. Edelen (as Miss Mona, center) leads the cast of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” in the production’s toe-tapping finale. . Photo: Scott Suchman.

Miss Mona Stangley is running a respectable house of ill repute in 1972 Gilbert, Texas and the century-old business is doing jes’ fine.  Fine is a three-syllable word you understand.  She has “A Lil’ Ole Bitty Pissant Country Place” as she describes it.  At the Chicken Ranch Miss Mona lays down the law with some  “no-no rules” for her girls.  “Call ‘em guests”, she drawls, and “no smokin’, drinkin’ or wavin’ to men in town.”  Summing it up for new hires, “We go in for mass volume and repeat business.  Just like Coca-Cola!”

Miss Mona’s got friends in high places including Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd, Mayor Rufus Poindexter, Senator Wingwoah and the Texas Governor himself, but all that doesn’t amount to a hill of beans when Melvin P. Thorpe climbs on his soapbox.  Thorpe is the local KTEX-TV’s crusading television reporter whose Watchdog group of bible-thumpin’ do-gooders, known as ‘The Dogettes’, are determined to rid Landville County of Miss Mona’s sinful activities, “Texas Has a Whorehouse In It”, is their rallying cry.

In Signature Theatre’s current production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, the popular musical inspired by a real life story with book by Texas author Larry L. King and Peter Masterson, Director Eric Schaeffer has stuffed so much talent into this show it’s hard to know when to start the music.  Highlights are DC favorite, Sherri L. Edelen as the saucy Miss Mona; Sheriff Ed Earl played by Thomas Adrian Simpson who tenderly sings the classic “Good Old Girl” in his gravelly baritone; Matt Conner as both Mayor Poindexter and Senator Wingwoah; Christopher Bloch as Melvin Thorpe who lights up the stage with fire and brimstone; and the riveting scene stealing of Dan Manning as The Governor who tears the house down in Act Two.

Dan Manning dances “The Sidestep” as the Texan governor in "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" Photo: Scott Suchman

Dan Manning dances “The Sidestep” as the Texan governor in “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” Photo: Scott Suchman

Costumes by Kathleen Geldard favor the men – and the men favor the costumes.  And how!  Tight cowboy shirts and sexy jeans on hot ripped bodies had audience members whooping, hollering and drooling to the hard driving, boot-stomping dancing and R-Rated stripping.  The female side of the equation seemed to have a distinct disadvantage as to both pulchritude and costumes. The women, on whom you might reasonably expect some spangles, corsets, frilly garters and perhaps diaphanous peignoirs, were dressed in tame black and red lingerie, daisy dukes, prairie dresses and dime store cowboy boots.  The dreary clothing and bad wigs made the women pale in comparison.  Even Miss Mona’s outfits were more appropriate for a 1970’s office manager.  But eight-time Helen Hayes Award nominee Karma Camp has created choreography to outshine any anomalies combining vaudevillian burlesque with high-kicking chorus lines to ratchet up the wow factor.

The Aggie Boys (from left to right: Davis Hasty, Benjamin Horen, Vincent Kempski, Stephen Gregory Smith) celebrate their football victory before they leave for a night at the Chicken Ranch. Photo: Scott Suchman

The Aggie Boys (from left to right: Davis Hasty, Benjamin Horen, Vincent Kempski, Stephen Gregory Smith) celebrate their football victory before they leave for a night at the Chicken Ranch. Photo: Scott Suchman

Collin Ranney has designed a stunning barn red two-tiered set hotter than a Colt 45 after a shootout at the O.K. Corral.  Punctuated with mounted steer horns and featuring rows of louvered bedroom doors that fling open to reveal steamy recreation, the stage evokes the Wild West on steroids.  Overhead chandelier fans swirl lazy shadows on the stage and a circular red velvet banquette provides a cozy setting for Miss Mona and Jewel in the number “No Lies”.

Welcome to the Chicken Ranch.  Photo: Scott Suchman.

Welcome to the Chicken Ranch. Photo: Scott Suchman.

All in all the show is a sizzling, knee-slapping, kick ass, belly-laughing breath of fresh Lone Star air.  Chockfull of high-steppin’ hoofers, country-spun one-liners, tearjerker ballads, and enough eye candy to raise your blood sugar to precipitous levels.

The girls of Miss Mona’s whorehouse. From left to right, back row: Amy McWilliams, Nadia Harika, Maria Rizzo, Brianne Camp; from left to right, middle row: Nora Palka, Tamara Young; bottom row: Jamie Eacker. Photo: Scott Suchman.

The girls of Miss Mona’s whorehouse. From left to right, back row: Amy McWilliams, Nadia Harika, Maria Rizzo, Brianne Camp; from left to right, middle row: Nora Palka, Tamara Young; bottom row: Jamie Eacker. Photo: Scott Suchman.

Through October 7th at Signature Theatre (Shirlington Village), 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, VA 22206.  For tickets and information call 703 820-9771 or visit www.signature-theatre.org.

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