Rachel Stalker, ‘Doah Staff Writer
March 4, 2015
Shenandoah Conservatory brought “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” to Winchester from Feb. 20 through 22. Shenandoah Conservatory’s performance of “Whorehouse” featured Kelsee Sweigard, Matthew Edwards, Dan Morton and Danielle Grays. The Friday show went on, while the two Saturday shows had to be cancelled due to snow. Instead, there were two Sunday showings.
In “Whorehouse,” a Texan brothel dubbed “The Chicken Ranch,” because their customers paid with chickens during the depression, is under the spotlight of the media in Texas. Miss Mona Stangley, played by Sweigard, is the head of the Chicken Ranch, and a television show host, Melvin P. Thorpe, played by Morton, discovers that the community around the Chicken Ranch has allowed Miss Mona to operate for a long time. His goal is to expose her and her girls and to shut down the Chicken Ranch. Much to the chagrin of many government officials in Texas, and to the local Sheriff, played by Edwards, there is a lot of scandal surrounding the pursuit of the Chicken House by Melvin P. Thorpe. Though the local sheriff, Ed Earl Dodd, didn’t want to close the Chicken Ranch, he had to do what was best for his job, even though it hurt Miss Mona.
Although it was not the most well-known musical to many members of the audience, “Whorehouse” features a few great songs, dance numbers and laughable moments. The audience chuckled at the obvious and not-so-obvious sexual innuendos and the exaggerated enthusiasm of the Melvin P. Thorpe singers.
The ending song, “The Bus from Amarillo,” was definitely the show stopper. Sung by Kelsee Sweigard, this ending number left the audience empathizing with these women who lost their work and lost their home, though their work and their home may be neither socially nor morally acceptable to most. The song says, “I had a one way ticket to nowhere/I was finally travelin’ free/I had a one way ticket to go where/Anything was possible for me,” leaving the audience hopeful for these characters to find something new.
It might have seemed that this show lacked depth and real, gritty character stories, but it truly did have an underlying commentary that “is rooted in our absolute trust for what we see broadcast on television,” stated Director Jonathan Flom.
Flom continued, in his director’s notes, “I have found that contrary to its cute and catchy title, this is not a musical about prostitutes or morality… Rather, it pits prostitution against a town that for many years supported its existence, and then suddenly turns against it; it is a play about how society is swayed by the media in fast and dramatic fashion.”