The second show of the URI Theatre season is "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" which tells the true story of the high-profile closing of a 130 year-old brothel outside the small town of La Grange, Texas in 1973. While the real Chicken Ranch brothel was run by Edna Mae Milton, the story of this show centers on Miss Mona whose Chicken Ranch is under fire by right-wing groups led by television crusader Melvin P. Thorpe and an-anything-to-get-re-elected Governor. Ed Earl Dodd, the county sheriff who has romantic attachments to Miss Mona, tries valiantly to make the combatants leave well enough alone. Meanwhile, Miss Mona's ladies entertain customers including a Senator and the Aggie football team. Director Paula McGlasson says "At it's most basic, Whorehouse is about how putting life on TV changes it, and how the TV camera impacts that which it records. Lives are ruined by reality TV. It is also about people in glass houses throwing lots of stones, about one group of people imposing their version of morality on others, about Texas politics and America's pre-occupation with sex." Paula blends the elements of theatre and television to create this version of the show. She infuses it with high energy while music director Lila Kane and her orchestra provide the County Musical sound for the show. Angelica Cardente-Vassella choreographs the numerous dances including the show stopping football players number, "The Aggie Song". These elements combined together plus a highly talented cast produce a wonderful evening of musical entertainment.
Paula is aided in her undertaking by Cheryl deWarderner who designed the enormous two story chicken ranch set with long staircases on each side of the stage as well as four moveable rooms and a gigantic pouffe. The multitude of costumes are by David Howard while the lighting is by Christian Wittwer. The media presentation of the history of the Chicken Ranch is by Patrick Bosworth and Jamie DuFault. (They direct it like the old black and white silent movies and it is hilarious.) The huge cast is lead by Leah Kolb as Miss Mona. She plays the madam with a heart of gold wonderfully. Leah gets to show off her voice in several numbers "20 Fans", "Girl, You're a Woman" (a very pretty ballad) and "The Bus from Amarillo" which is her best number. Her maid, Jewel is played by Sarah Chaet who's booming voice is heard in "24 Hours of Lovin' " and in a duet with Leah called "No Lies". She plays this brassy role very well. Dan DaCunha is splendid as the larger-than-life Sheriff who swears up a storm with his many funny one-liners and gets a chance to show off his singing voice in the touching ballad, "Good Old Girl".
Another over-the-top performance is given by Patrick Bosworth as the reality TV star who brings down the Whorehouse with his Doggette followers. He is hilarious as he chases after his prey with TV cameras blazing and his revival meeting type song " Texas Has a Whorehouse in It" done with his followers is very funny, too. His light blue suit and white streak on his hair so he looks like a skunk add to the hilarity of his character. Patrick Cullen is a hoot as the clueless, wishy-washy Governor who loves to do "The Sidestep" to avoid taking a position on any issue. ( He sounds like the Governor of Texas who is now the President.) Elyssa Baldassarri plays the waitress, Doatsey Mae who sings a lovely ballad about herself, wishing she had broken out of her shell. Other funny roles include James Joseph as CJ, Jamie DuFault as the Mayor and Josh Short as Edsel, the newspaper editor, Dana Merson as Angel who has a five year old son to support and Virginia Rexroad as Shy, the new girl in the brothel. Dana gets to lead the girls in the prettiest song called "Hard Candy Christmas". (The girls do a great job as the prostitutes and the cheerleaders in their songs and dances, too.) A word of praise to the dancing and singing chorus for all their hard work especially the guys in the "Aggie Song" whose dance moves are astounding. (Andrew Holder sings a solo, showing off his high tenor voice in this number while Joe Kidawski is a hoot as the football player with a foreign accent and Kyle Blanchette shows his tightie whities to the cheering audience.) So for a trip back to 1973 to see how reality TV was a nuisance even back then, be sure to catch "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas".