Deer Park show covers goings-on at a certain ‘Chicken Ranch’
There’s nothing dirty going on in Art Park Players’ production of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” cast members promise.
“The title is the raunchiest thing about the show,” says Chad Ryan McCallon, who portrays Melvin P. Thorpe, a flamboyant, crusading TV news reporter, in the 1978 Broadway musical. The character is based on the late Marvin Zindler, the Channel 13 News watchdog whose TV cameras ambushed a long-standing La Grange brothel known as the “Chicken Ranch,” causing in a firestorm that led authorities to shut down the illegal business in the late 1970s.
Director David Eck and artistic director Susan Mele also vouched for the relative tameness of the musical, which runs through Feb. 25 at the Theatre/Courts Building, 1302 Center St. Deer Park,.
“It’s wholesome entertainment,” Eck said. “It’s been one of the No. 1-requested titles for many, many, many years” at Art Park Players.
Mele also plays Miss Mona.
The 1980 graduate of Deer Park High School remembers when Zindler’s outing of the brothel was followed by local TV viewers.
“It was big news,” she said, recalling how Hollywood jumped on the bandwagon with a popular 1982 movie version of the musical that starred Dolly Parton as Miss Mona and Burt Reynolds as Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd.
“I’ve always been a big fan of Dolly Parton,” said Mele, who has performed in more than 200 stage productions, hosted the 1990s TV show “Star Showcase” on Channel 20 and appeared in TV commercials.
The theater, which is owned by the city of Deer Park, decided that Super Bowl LI would make a good lead-in to performing the musical since a highlight of the show is a boot-scootin’ celebration in the locker room of the Texas Aggies, who score a trip to the Chicken Ranch by winning their annual football game against the University of Texas.
“I have a special fondness for that number,” said Eck, who played an Aggie football player in a college production of the musical.
“It’s definitely difficult, dancing in boots,” he said.
Another showstopper is “Twenty-Four Hours of Lovin’,’” which Christina Edwards Wells of Pasadena sings as Jewel, one of “the girls” at the brothel.
“She sang at a Super Bowl event, too,” boasted Eck. “She is blowing up all over Houston.”
Rusty Groos of Deer Park plays Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd, appearing for the umpteenth time onstage opposite Mele.
“He is my favorite,” said Mele. “We play off of each other.”
“They have a chemistry that is magical,” agreed Eck.
The hootenanny of a show was choreographed by Heather Steele of Friendswood, with musical direction by Chad Fontenot of La Porte.
Technical direction is by Joe Piper of Deer Park, with stage management by Ashley Whiting.
Arnold Adair, a former superintendent of Deer Park Independent School District, portrays “The Governor of Texas” in the musical, with book by Larry L. King and Peter Masterson and music and lyrics by Carol Hall.
Rounding out the cast are Jana Ellsworth of Katy (Doatsey Mae), Krista M. Hayes (Angel), Lacey Myers (Shy), Margo Staley (Linda Lou), Amanda Hart Bassett (Dawn, Imogene), Victoria Jayne Bryan (Ginger), Randa Peairson (Beatrice), Brianna Caldera (Taddy Jo), Nadia StarKid Hartley (Ruby Rae), Jordan Alexa Lucas (Eloise), Avery Ballard (Durla), Mitchell Craft (Senator Wingwoah), Larry Mitchell (Scruggs), Stephen Walker (Mayor Poindexter), Chad Fontenot (Edsel Mackey), Leah Moreno (Dogette), Mary Arrigo (Dogette), Tea Reyes (Dogette), Kendall Hickerson (Dogette), Alec White (Dogette, Aggie), Chris Zacharie (Dogette, Aggie), Cody Ray Strimple (Dogette, Equipment Manager), Anthony August (Aggie), Mason Messina (Aggie), Mitchell Denno (Aggie, Shy Kid), Nick Trevino (Aggie) and Andrew Greene (Aggie).
The costume designer is Nadia Hartley, with Miss Mona’s gowns created by the director’s mother, Gail Eck of Pearland.
Costumers and seamstresses include Mary Mezza, Arlene Preston, Penny Wilkerson, Rusty Groos and Christina Wells.
Hair and makeup is styled by Cody Ray Strimple The backstage crew includes Joe Piper, Bri’Ana Savage, Mitchell Denno, Anthony August, Larry Mitchell, Alec White and Andrew Green. For ticket information, call 281-794-2448 or visit www.artparkplayers.com.
Don Maines is a freelance writer who can be reached at email@example.com