This month, Aspect Inc. gon’ bring all y’all theatre folk a show with a diff’rnce. If you got a hankering for a true story ‘bout a lil’ Texas brothel, good ole Southern drama, and singin’ and dancin’ fit for a hoedown, put yer cowboy boots on ‘coz this hayer musical ain’t to be missed!
For those unpractised in Southern slang, (and agree that the dialect should be left to the professionals), Aspect theatre company will present The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas to audiences this August.
Based on the unlawful but tolerated 1850’s ‘pleasure palace’ known as “The Chicken Ranch,” aptly named for its rates which permitted farmers to trade services for poultry, the musical follows the brothel under the proprietorship of its madam, Miss Mona Stangley (Robyn Pollock). The Ranch is a community staple, regularly visited by the men of Gilbert including their Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd (Peter Martignoles). That is until evangelical television reporter Melvin P. Thorpe (John Davidson) vows to shut the locale down by exposing its illegality to the world.
Despite its 1977 New York debut rivaling the theatrical greats of Guys and Dolls and Cabaret, most Australians would be more acquainted with the Dolly Parton cinematic adaptation than the production itself. However, it is this unfamiliarity which appealed most to the show’s director, David Higgins. “Never having seen a production of the show was one of the things that attracted me to it in the first place – that and the sexy subject matter, let’s not kid ourselves!” he admits.
But don’t be fooled by the risqué content of which Little Whorehouse boasts. Underneath the skimpy attire and occasionally raunchy choreography lies a solid piece of theatre. “I guess the thing audiences will see the most is the level of heart that’s in the production…[it’s] a production with a soul,” says Higgins.
Exposing the subtle nuances of the Chicken Ranch, especially the complex history of the institution, resides at the heart of this portrayal. In particular, a key theme for the director was depicting the ‘working girls’ as a part of a larger sisterhood. “One of the key themes that I wanted to bring out was the humanity of the girls in the house. That they were real people.”
And to balance such a sophisticated compassion with that of high-energy musical numbers calls for a troupe of triple threats. “We’ve been incredibly fortunate in managing to
snare ourselves an amazing balance of singers, dancers and actors to fill out the range of very demanding roles,” Higgins says.
He commends the immense talent of the show’s principals in leading such an impressive supporting cast. Both Martignoles and Pollock have enjoyed every moment of their involvement with Little Whorehouse and Aspect Inc.. For Martignoles, “meeting new people…and the camaraderie that develops out of new friendships,” has been the best part of his experience.
Of course, without the tireless efforts of a dedicated creative team these theatrical visions cannot become reality. “As a director, I’ve really enjoyed being able to work with the brilliant Kim Annette, our choreographer…[and] Emma McGeorge who is a gifted Musical Director. Perhaps the thing I’m most proud of is that I was a part of it all.”
Although the team is united in their passion for their show, when it comes to choosing a favourite number they are a cast and crew divided. From ‘Bus to Amarillo’ to ‘The Sidestep’ and ‘The Aggie Song,’ which Higgins describes as so great that it’s “worth the price of admission,” Aspect will obviously be providing theatregoers with more than enough entertainment to last the evening.
What else can audiences expect from Aspect’s version of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas? One point with which the entire production agrees is that they won’t be disappointed. Especially in regards to “the energy and colourful characters portrayed by the cast,” Pollock assures.
Whilst still honouring the Southern whimsy of the original, viewers should anticipate some added quirks and comedic touches that Higgins is keeping close to his chest, “no spoilers!”
So y’all best do what your mamma learned yer and buy serm tickets lickety split – before they sell out!
To purchase tickets to Aspect Inc.’s production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas performing from the 10-18 August at the Shirley Burke Theatre, Parkdale, book online at www.aspecttheatre.com, or phone 9580 8415.