Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas—Broadway Rose—Tigard, OR

“House of the Rising Sun”

This musical, written by Carol Hall, Larry King and Peter Masterson, is playing at the Deb Fennell Auditorium at Tigard, High School, 9000 SW Durham Road.  It is directed by Peggy Taphorn, choreography by Jacob Toth and musical direction by Eric Little.  It will be performed through August 17th.  For more information, go to their site at www.broadwayrose.org or call 503-620-5262.

This so-so play was also made into a so-so film with Dolly Parton, Burt Reynolds and Charles Durning.  Although the play has some good song & dance numbers, the script/characters are never really fully developed.  You fall in love with Shy at the beginning, but then she just disappears into the background.  Another interesting character, Doatsey, the waitress, has one wonderful song then she, too, fades in the sunset.  In short, the story is like a beautiful yellow rose (of Texas) in its budding stage, which never blossoms.  Mind you, this is not a criticism of the production, which is very good, but of a script that is under-developed.  The talented troupe deserves a better script than this to let their talents shine.  Their Music Man in July was amazing (see my review elsewhere on this site).

The story is loosely based on true happenings.  A chicken (because customers sometimes paid with fowl) or mustang ranch was a house of ill-repute.  This one happens to be in Gilbert, Texas.  Mona (Sharon Maroney) is the matriarch of the family of ladies.  At the outset of the story, two newbies, Angel (Claire Rigsby) and Shy (Jennifer Davies) have arrived in town and are seeking employment with her.  But Mona and her co-manager, Jewel (Carmen N. Brantley-Payne), need to outline the strict rules of the establishment, among them:  no swearing, the men are considered guests, get the money up front, etc.

This ranch is tolerated by the town because it is outside of the city limits and the town, being run by men…will you can guess the rest of the “logic” as to why it’s was allowed to survive.  Also, Sheriff Earl (Colin Wood) is sweet on Mona, as they had a fling some years before.  But with TV becoming the prominent media exposure now and this being election year, things are about to change.  Also the big backers to the politicians are a group called, the Watchdog, a “Jesus bunch,” headed by Melvin P. Thrope (Dan Murphy), who wants the chicken ranch gone.

So, the Governor (Jim Peerenboom) and Senator (Brian Tennison) need to persuade the town and its Sheriff to close Mona down.  But their star football team, the Aggies, are frequent “guests” of the house after winning a big game.  And even the diner’s waitress, Doatsey Mae (Emily Sahler), has dreams of one day becoming one of Mona’s girls.  But, as the saying goes, you can’t fight City Hall, and so…but I won’t want to be a spoiler, you’ll have to see for yourselves as to what happens.  Suffice to say, the ending is bittersweet.

The main strength of this production lies in the chorus and their numbers, and the solos by some of the central characters.  Maroney is very good in her main numbers, especially “A Little Ole Bitty Pissant Country Place,” and the heartfelt, beautifully sung, “The Bus From Amarillo.”  Wood was effective in his solo with “Good Ole Girl,” and Murphy appropriately animated in his numbers.  Also Peerenboom’s, “Sidestep,” was a standout.  Unfortunately the spoken script left these talented actors with little more than stereotypic dialogue to rely on.

Brantley-Payne wowed the audience with the scene-stealing number, “24 Hours of Lovin’” and Sahler lovingly sang her signature solo, “Doatsey Mae.”  Both numbers were highlights of the show.  But, again, these fine talents were under-used in the spoken part of the story.  But Toth’s dance sequences were astounding and worth one’s attendance at the show!  He had an amazing group of young men and women to work with as the chorus and it shows with the play’s most rousing scenes.  Bravo, chorus!

Taphorn is a very good director of musicals, as she assembled an amazing cast for this production.  She keeps the play/scenes moving at a quick pace and her staging works well.  The scenery, especially the interior of the house (Sean O’Skea), terrific costumes (Shana Targosz) and those eccentric wigs (Dana Rosendahl) added spice to the show.  And Little had a great band (Justin Jude Carroll, band leader) who did not overpower the singers, which often happens in musicals.

I would recommend the show, mainly because of the musical numbers and the talent of the whole cast.  But keep in mind the subject matter when it comes to the young.  This story makes light of a rather delicate and serious matter when it comes to families and relationships, so be advised.  It is interesting to note that the script does not depict the wives of the men in this story, as they might have a much harsher view of this subject.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.