Review by Gerry Camp
As always, the Sutter Street Theatre is great at musicals. And their newest, Larry King and Peter Masterson’s “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” is up to their highest standards.
It’s the story of a brothel in the imaginary town of Gilbert, Texas in the 1970s (based on true events) which is a delightful place to work or visit. Presided over by Miss Mona (the wonderful Connie Mockenhaupt), under the protection of the sheriff (Connie’s husband Mike Jimena, who is perfect in the part and steals the show), the brothel’s “guests” include the mayor and the local football team, who look forward to their annual orgy as they make clear in a wonderful locker room dance.
A local TV personality with a ridiculous head of hair (played way over the top by Jay Evans) decides to close down the business, causing panic among the working girls, the politicians, and the guests. Even the governor, a delightful David Valpreda, is upset, but like a typical politician, he does “The Sidestep,” which is a hilarious song and dance.
Here’s what I liked about the show:
As Jimena said when introducing the play on opening night, Sutter Street Theatre is a family. As a regular, I was especially delighted to see family members I love having a great time. In addition to Connie and Mike, I especially enjoyed a couple of my favorites.
The best moment in the show came when Hannah Hurst, who has been excellent in dozens of shows, appears to apply to work. Dressed modestly, she seems totally inappropriate, and is told so by Miss Mona. Her back story is revealed in one tiny nod, the most moving bit of acting of the evening. She is given the work name “Shy.” Though the part is small, “Shy” is the character you’ll be talking about after the show.
My second favorite is Christopher Celestin, Elly nominated actor (and playwright!) who has been working behind the scenes too much lately. In this show, he steps in and out of four parts with the ensemble of young males, but in seconds in each scene he’s in he becomes the one you watch.
Musical accompaniment is provided effectively by Cory and Kale Coppin. The songs, while not great, are often funny and pleasant. Mockenhaupt has the best, the show-closing “Bus From Amarillo.” Allison Gilbreath’s direction and the accomplished choreography by Connie Mockenhaupt and Dian Hoel ensure there is never a dull moment. The “working girls” at the Chicken Ranch are lovely and sexy, and their song and dance numbers imply they are happy in their chosen profession.