A Recent Visit to the "Whorehouse"

Is it the right show for your Society?

Ok. So every year our local Musical Society has that dreaded meeting to select a musical to present in the forthcoming season. The committee will have a representative from the dancers, someone from the 'we-prefer-a-good-sing' chorus, and an actor or two who'll try to steer the proceedings away from the fluffy, light-weight dance extravaganzas. "We need some real drama!" (So go join a Drama group!!)

The Chairman will always attempt to remain neutral, and the Treasurer doesn't really care what show we do, as long as it won't cost too much, and it has the potential to bring in the big bucks. There'll always be someone 'old' there, pushing for Gilbert and Sullivan or an old Ivor Novello (They don't write them like that anymore!) More often than not, Maureen or Phyllis will be thinking about what role will be available for their wonderfully talented daughter, who just hasn't had the right vehicle yet to demonstrate the breadth of her versatility. And sitting quietly at the opposite end of the table to the Chairman, will be the Director and Musical Director, who ultimately will guide the assembly in the wisest direction.

On this particular occasion, I am said Director, and having watched the society trudge sluggishly through last years uninspired production of "Carousel", I'm adamant that a change of direction is drastically needed. Not that there's anything wrong with "Carousel"! Some of Rodgers and Hammersteins finest songs are contained therein, but this society has presented the show several times in the past few decades, and there just wasn't enough enthusiasm to make the production unique....or even exciting!

The Treasurer suggested Annie, Oliver, The Sound of Music... anything with kids. Kids put bums on seats! The dancer cringed. "There's nothing in them for the dancers!" She then suggested 42nd Street, Crazy For You or Le Cage Aux Folles, at which the treasurer almost had a seizure. "The costume bill alone would break the bank!"

"Zorba has meat!" exclaimed the Actor, "And so does Sweeney Todd. We need some real drama after that airy-fairy nonsense last year!" Maureen's face lit up. Her precious Lydia had sung a solo from Sweeney Todd in the Christmas concert. Maybe this would be her big break! (Her voice had been more painful than a slash from Mr. Todd's cut-throat razor!)

I listened in silence, taking it all in but not really concerned about the diversity of the suggestions. I had a plan in mind already, and I was almost drooling at the prospect of the reaction that it would generate within the meeting.

After half an hour or more of waffle, the Chairman's eyes settled on me. "Well, Mr Director? You're unusually silent."

"The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas!" I beamed, and awaited the response. I was met with a stunned silence. After a few seconds, Maureen blessed herself. This was Catholic Ireland.

"It ticks all the boxes," I assured them, then launched into my promotional pitch for the show.

Now to be fair, the title alone is enough to raise eyebrows, despite the fact that Ireland has undergone something of a religious revolution in recent years. It kind of suggests that a whorehouse can be 'good', which many will see as immediately offensive and immoral, but even within the script, that point is argued pretty effectively within the first few pages. In another era, wives felt more secure knowing their husbands were getting rid of their urges in a safe, and healthy (for the girls were all regularly checked for unfortunate diseases) environment, than out getting up to God knows what on the streets or in the Pubs. There are many who would still argue that legalised prostitution is a far better alternative to having disease and pimping occurring on seedy street corners, and that it helps to reduce sexual crime rates.

But that's all a matter of opinion, and really pretty irrelevant to the decision making process regarding the show. The truth is that, in the end, the moralists win the day, and the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is closed down, which at least should win favour with the sanctimonious.

What the show has to offer is an array of colourful characters, from the 'Madame' Miss Mona, who sees herself as a vital contributing member of the business community, and the hostesses, who for a variety of reasons have found themselves in the employment of the establishment, to the Sherriff who struggles between his sense of moral duty and his sense of humanity, and the variety of customers who frequent the establishment. Throw in a pseudo-sanctimonious Bible-thumpin' TV Evangelist, and a few seedy political figures, and you have the recipe for a fun-filled, and yet touchingly human, musical delight.

And talking of music, the score by Carol Hall is a delightful combination of country and musical theatre. The dancers will have a ball cavorting to L'il Bitty Pissant Country Place, 24 Hours of Lovin' and The Sidestep, and the singers have a good smattering of Gospel harmonies to keep them warbling.

It would be my opinion that the Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds movie version of the show is more sugary and romanticised that the stage version, making the stage version all the stronger, and any director with an ounce of imagination can create a cost effective set to keep the treasurer from having a fit. It's not that difficult to costume either, and indeed your company members will doubtless enjoy finding their own suitable attire. Of course, your ladies of the night will need to be anything but modest if they are to create the right atmosphere, but it's easy enough to give the production a little sauce without making it too hot for the average Musical Theatre audience.

Should kids be allowed to see this show? Well, they'll see a helluva lot worse on Television and on their laptops, but I suppose parental judgement is the best yard-stick. The show is mighty entertainment, and relatively inoffensive.

Rights to perform the show are controlled by Samuel French Ltd.

"Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" Publicity night.
"Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" Publicity night.

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