Ocala Civic Theatre's 2012-2013 season will open with The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, which runs from September 6 through September 30.
The show opened on Broadway in 1978 and ran for almost 1,600 performances. This rollicking country-western musical, with a book by Larry L. King and Peter Masterson and music and lyrics by Carol Hall, proves that everything really is bigger in Texas. The colorful characters, rousing song-and-dance numbers, the humor and heart… all are larger than life.
Based on real-life events, the show tells the story of the legendary Chicken Ranch, a cozy bordello in fictional Gilbert, Texas. When times were hard during the Depression, the girls traded services for livestock... and were paid in so much poultry that the house earned its title. Over the years, The Chicken Ranch became a treasured institution, frequented by Texas politicians, law enforcement, and even victorious college football teams sponsored by their alumni associations.
The Chicken Ranch's success is largely due to its madam, Miss Mona Stangley (played by Melody Murphy), a good-hearted yet no-nonsense businesswoman who runs her establishment by a strict code of conduct "just a shade less rigid than the Ten Commandments." Her ladies aren't allowed to drink, use bad language, chew gum, get tattoos, use drugs or engage in any illegal behavior (other than prostitution), or do anything else "downright tacky." The girls are to demonstrate ladylike behavior at all times and make the guests feel at home. All in all, they serve a "nice quiet crowd… plain as it can be."
The Chicken Ranch may be just an "old-time country place," but for a house of ill repute, it certainly has a great reputation as one of the better pleasure palaces in all of Texas. Due to its exemplary conduct, The Chicken Ranch has existed in harmony with the law and local citizens for many years, under the protection of Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd (John LaPaille), a gruff good ol' boy with a soft spot for Miss Mona.
However, The Chicken Ranch soon comes under fire from "Watchdog" Melvin P. Thorpe (B. Thomas Fuson), a TV reporter infamous for his flashy show-biz style. As the self-righteous nemesis of Miss Mona and her girls, he whips his followers into a fanatical frenzy and leads the crusade to close The Chicken Ranch on moral grounds. The hot-tempered sheriff, who tends to shoot off his mouth (and gun) without thinking, finds himself struggling with his loyalty to both the law and Miss Mona.
The show is full of memorable supporting characters. At The Chicken Ranch, there's Miss Mona's assortment of "ladies" – Maureen Degen, Amanda Franz, Michelle Geering, Savannah Hirst, Jessica Morin, Danielle Posner, and Melanie Tarter – including the two newest arrivals: hard-edged Angel (Miranda Morris), a working girl from the city, and awkward young Shy (Rebekah Leppert), a runaway fresh off the farm. Jewel (Jessica Mongerio), the sassy housekeeper, helps Miss Mona keep the girls in line and delivers a soulful showstopper.
Senator Wingwoah (Daniel Link), longtime client of the Ranch, puts his own spin on "public service" as he escorts a team of Aggie football players eager to celebrate their victory with Miss Mona's girls. In town, wisecracking waitress Doatsy Mae (Gina England) dispenses bad coffee and good advice to the patrons of the local café. And over at the state capitol, the scene-stealing, double-talking Governor of Texas (Jeff Cole) will sidestep all potential controversy to keep the people happy (or at least confused).
Other supporting characters – townspeople, cowboys, politicians, guests of the Chicken Ranch, Aggie football players, the Angelette drill team, Melvin P. Thorpe's backup singers, and an entire media circus of reporters, announcers, and photographers – include Gail Baumann, Cookie Burke, Zack Calder, Jake Cross, Tom Ferreira, Ken Noble, Bill Roughton, Caleb Velez, John Wasion, and Jonathan Williams.
The delightfully down-home score, brought to life by music director Ryan Pagels, is by turns cheerful, poignant, and laugh-out-loud funny. Some of the better-known songs include "Twenty Fans," "A Little Bitty Pissant Country Place," "Texas Has a Whorehouse In It," "The Sidestep," and "Hard Candy Christmas."
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is directed and choreographed by SuSu Sparkman, whose list of Ocala Civic Theatre musical credits includes Nunsense II, The Marvelous Wonderettes, Curtains, 42nd Street, and Thoroughly Modern Millie, among many others.
The show runs from September 6 through September 30, 2012. Tickets go on sale August 13 and are $22 for adults and $10 for full-time students with ID. For more information, call the box office at 236-2274 or go to www.ocalacivictheatre.com.
The Ocala Civic Theatre is located at 4337 East Silver Springs Boulevard (East State Road 40) in the Appleton Cultural Center. The theatre produces more than 12 fully staged, professional-quality live performances each season and also hosts touring companies. The Ocala Civic Theatre is volunteer-based and is one of the largest community theatres in the state, serving almost 70,000 Marion, Citrus and Lake County residents each season.