CLEARWATER — It's a little bit raunchy but a whole lot of fun.
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is now open for business at the Francis Wilson Playhouse in Clearwater. See it before they shut it down for good March 11.
The musical (book by Larry King and Peter Masterson; music and lyrics by Carol Hall) is based on a true story about a brothel called the Chicken Ranch, a nickname earned because patrons paid with poultry during the Depression.
Through spirited, boot-stompin' musical numbers, the show recounts the characters, politics, good times and final days of the bordello that existed for 58 years before a TV newsman championed its demise in the 1970s.
The original Broadway production opened in 1978 and ran for more than 1,500 performances, garnering several Tony and Drama Desk awards.
Cherie Albury plays Miss Mona, proprietor of the cathouse. She may be considered the best little actor around after accepting the part just one week before opening day. A veteran actor, board member and costumemaker for the playhouse, Albury was reupholstering a sofa when director/producer Jason Fortner recruited her to replace the original cast member who was experiencing vocal problems.
By Monday's dress rehearsal, Albury had her lines and songs down pat. "You learn a lot faster when the adrenalin kicks in," said Albury, a physical therapist by day.
Rick Kistner, 63, who has about 120 theater productions under his belt, plays Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd, who'd like their relationship to go further but can't because of his law enforcement career.
"Cherie and I first worked together 19 years ago when City Players put on Show Boat," he said. "She's doing a fantastic job. She's an old hand at this stuff and just stepped right up. She could go professional."
He's toned down his character's curse words for Francis Wilson audiences, but adult themes do persist. Fortner said the show is suitable for PG-13 audiences.
Tim Rankin sparkles — literally — in both his red, white and blue-sequined suit and his role as Melvin P. Thorpe, a flamboyant newsman intent on shining the light on the house of ill repute.
Rankin has performed at professional theaters, improv circuits and comedy clubs in New York City, Chicago and Washington.
He gravitates toward parts that are rowdy, comical and over the top.
"I never want to play the lead," he said. "I've made my living getting lots of laughs, and that's what I intend to keep doing."
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