Sunday, December 10, 2017
Stage

Stage West's 'Best Little Whorehouse' has its moments

SPRING HILL — The kindest thing that can be said of the Stage West Community Playhouse production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is that it is, well, uneven — some really good, some best left unsaid.

To be sure, the musical itself is terrific. Larry L. King and Peter Masterson's book tells a good tale, filled with off-color Texanisms that would be the envy of newscaster Dan Rather. Carol Hall's music and lyrics go from gusto to serene to sad and move the story along at a nice clip.

It's based on a true story about a century-old brothel outside LaGrange, Texas, that was actually shut down in the early 1970s, mainly because of a crusading Houston television personality egged on by an attorney general who thought there was some kind of big organized crime going on. (There wasn't.)

A wonderfully bright spot in the Stage West version is Leanne Germann as the fictional madam, Miss Mona. Germann's husky voice and spot-on Texas accent is simply glorious. When she sings (oh, what a voice) Girl, You're a Woman, The Bus from Amarillo and No Lies, her mournful tone is as touching and country as something straight from Austin City Limits. Her interactions with her girls and the local sheriff seem as genuine as a patch of Texas okra.

Gary Depp, as Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd, is the very epitome of every tall, gruff, no-nonsense Texas sheriff I covered or saw. When he sings of his longtime friend Miss Mona in Good Old Girl, you know he means it, even if he has forgotten that they were once upon a time more than pals.

A highlight is Dalton Benson as the Governor, doing The Sidestep as he self-righteously talks his way around every reporter's hard-hitting questions. Benson's folksy enunciation is delightful, and his nimble footwork underscores his message.

Lizz Voorhees shows promise in the supporting role of the road-worn prostitute Angel. Misty Hornsby is a sweetly country Doatsey Mae, the waitress who wishes she could be one of Miss Mona's girls, while Tad Dejewski is a hoot as Mayor Rufus Poindexter.

That said, the rest is pretty shaky, lacking energy and verve and having sort of a thrown-together look, as though no one is really in charge. Part of the problem may be that each dance number had its own choreographer, giving a disjointed feel and proving that "choreography by committee" doesn't work. Also, director Lynda Dilts-Benson made some unfortunate casting choices — one of them downright creepy (that sweet little girl is just too young to be a hooker), a few others totally unsuited for their roles — then seemed to step back and see what happened.

To compound problems, there are sound glitches, crackles and squawks and lighting problems marring some of the best scenes.

The decision to go see the show depends on how much you're willing to put up with stretches of iffy stuff in order to enjoy the really good moments.

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