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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    The best little play on campus

    Miss Mona Stangley (Angela Bray) and Sheriff Ed Earl (Brad Kula) perform a scene from the UA?s production of ?The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas? on the couch
    Miss Mona Stangley (Angela Bray) and Sheriff Ed Earl (Brad Kula) perform a scene from the UA?s production of ?The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas? on the couch

    Stilettos, lingerie, music, a few nice spring beds, not to mention several scantily-clad men and women. Yes, it was a fun Friday night. I must admit, I never thought I would ever find myself at a brothel. But hey! There’s a first time for everything, right?

    Before you dive into that gutter in your mind, maybe I should clarify. Yes, I did indeed visit a brothel this past Friday night, but this house of lust was not what you might expect. Far from some back-alley dive, this pleasure palace was the UA’s Marroney Theatre. Better known as the Chicken Ranch, it was the setting for the Arizona Repertory Theatre’s production of the rowdy musical “”The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.””

    I am an avid fan of musicals, but I had never seen this rambunctious show. Although I had heard it described as “”risqué”” and “”bawdy,”” I was unsure of what to expect as I took my seat.

    Before the show even began, the elaborate set established a sultry and tantalizing tone. Designed by graduate student Ashley Stephenson, the two-level structure depicted the interior of the brothel, the Chicken Ranch. With smoky pink walls and a second-level banister, the stage was set for sexual innuendo. As soon as the cast burst onto the stage with its first song, “”20 Fans,”” I knew for sure that I was in for an interesting night.

    As the balladeer, played by musical theater senior Travis Brown, recounted the history of the Chicken Ranch, I knew that hardly anything was going to be left to the imagination. When one of the women takes an excited cowboy upstairs, the lights dim and the wall becomes almost transparent, revealing their silhouettes, thrusting and grinding to the outstanding vocals of Brown and company.

    But the jaw-dropping sensationalism does not end there. The ladies of the Ranch bare more than just a little leg, cleavage and cheek. And although I expected to see the ladies flaunting a little skin, I have to admit my own eyes widened with disbelief as a few of the cowboys stripped down to their skivvies as well. Subtlety was as foreign to this stage as to any whorehouse. But that is exactly what makes this play so entertaining. While I was initially bug-eyed with disbelief, I could not keep from laughing at the outlandish spectacle onstage.

    More than just a portrayal of the goings-on inside a house of passion and lust, “”The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”” depicts a time of transition in 1970s America. The small Texas town of Gilbert, a close-knit rural community of cowboys and crooning diner girls, has long been ignored by the rest of the nation. However, when Melvin P. Thorpe, an oddball, self-obsessed news reporter, comes to Gilbert to expose the immoral “”house of ill-repute””, the town must decide whether to stand behind the institution, seen as a fairly reputable establishment and a symbol of good ol’ southern tradition, or to shut down the Ranch for good.

    Junior Angela Bray delivers an exceptional performance as Miss Mona, the proprietor of the Chicken Ranch. With an impeccable southern drawl, a clear, resounding voice and an energetic personality, she commands attention whenever she takes the stage. Refusing to let her girls curse or talk explicitly of their dealings, Miss Mona is extremely convincing in leading you to believe that there’s “”nothin’ dirty goin’ on”” at the Ranch.

    Brad Kula, a musical theatre junior, gives a highly entertaining performance as Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd, embodying the essence of the archetypical Texas sheriff.

    However, Tamika Lawrence, who plays Miss Mona’s right-hand gal, Jewel, was the star of the night. From her first appearance onstage, Lawrence exuded such attitude and spunk that even the last rows of the theatre were immediately drawn to her presence. Though she is an exceptional actress, it was Lawrence’s phenomenal voice that truly stole the show. When she burst into her vocal solo “”Twenty-Four Hours of Lovin’,”” I half-expected someone to jump from the audience and sign her to a record label.

    One cannot leave out Chris Hixson’s portrayal of Melvin P. Thorpe, delivering non-stop humor and witty one-liners as he attempts to expose the Chicken Ranch.

    Director Samantha K. Wyer provides an excellent interpretation of Larry L. King and Peter Masterson’s book and Carol Hall’s music and lyrics. Great music, excellent choreography and a stellar cast made this the best little show I have seen in years.

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