Theater Review: “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” at Signature Theatre

Signature’s latest is a racy romp of a musical with brilliant performances and sizzling choreography.
Nova Y. Payton and cast members in Signature’s Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.
Nova Y. Payton and cast members in Signature’s Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

Rarely has a revival of a show felt more timely than Signature Theatre’s current production.

Whorehouse was a Broadway hit in the ’70s, but this tale based on the true story of a “crusading”
TV personality who launched a campaign to close a Texas brothel could be, as they
say on TV, “ripped from the headlines.”

Playwright Larry L. King was a native Texan, and he captures the syrupy slowness of
small-town life and the impact the new medium of television news can have on the town’s
unsuspecting occupants. Suddenly, a community comfortable with their good neighborly
business, one that has provided friendly service to politicians as well as other upstanding
citizens for decades, is forced to take action against the place.

King’s story has a slew of delightful if stereotypical characters—prostitutes with
hearts of gold, a bumbling sheriff, a smarmy senator, a shifty governor, and an ambitious
TV host who loves his own spotlight. But what makes this musical is the music.
Whorehouse has a rousing score and a star who brings the house down.

Sherri L. Edelen is Miss Mona, the proprietor of the house of ill repute, and she is nothing short
of dazzling. She can sing it slow, sing it sassy, sing with enthusiasm enough to make
even the most inhibited in the audience want to enlist in her unclad army.

Edelen does not excel alone. There are star turns galore in this production, including
Thomas Adrian Simpson as Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd and
Nova Y. Payton heating up the joint as Jewel.

Choreographer
Karma Camp channels her inner Bob Fosse with sizzling, sexy numbers and an ensemble of athletic,
incredibly attractive dancers. Given the nature of the enterprise, we get to see quite
a lot of them—women in their skivvies and men in their altogether with strategic props
(thank heaven for cowboy hats). Make no mistake: We may be in the same neighborhood
geographically, but this is no
Oklahoma!.

Signature artistic director
Eric Schaeffer has an international reputation as a master of musicals, and it shows with this production.
Every detail—right down to the period ceiling fans spinning over the audience—has
been lovingly created to give honor to that fine institution, the Chicken Ranch. The
real Miss Mona would be proud.

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is at Signature
Theatre through October 7. Tickets
($72 to $77) are available through Ticketmaster.

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