The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas
Book by Larry King and Peter Masterson; Music and
Lyrics by Carol Hall
Based on: The life and times of the real "Chicken Ranch"
46th Street Theatre, Broadway - April 17, 1978 (1669 perfs)
The best bordello in Texas dated back to 1915, when Jessie Williams purchased an old farmhouse on 12 acres on the border of La Grange, where it existed in harmony with the law and local citizens for nearly 50 years. During the Depression, the girls traded services for farm goods and livestock. So many chickens were received that hen houses were set up for poultry and egg production - hence the name Chicken Ranch. In 1960 Edna Milton purchased the property from Miss Jessie's estate and did a first-class remodelling job. It was under Miss Edna's direction that the house of prostitution reached its greatest fame. In 1973 Marvin Zindler, a Houston TV newsman, mounted a campaign to close the Chicken Ranch. Jim Flournoy, former Texas Ranger and country sheriff since 1946, cited charitable work, saved marriages, and local acceptance and refused to close it. Zindler directed his TV attack on the Governor, who called Sheriff Jim. He in turn placed the call that quietly ended the Chicken Ranch's 58-year history.
This happy-go-lucky view of small-town vice and state-wide political side-stepping recounts the good times and the demise of the Chicken Ranch, known since the 1850s as one of the better pleasure palaces in all of Texas. The rural community of Gilbert has long tolerated, secretly relished, and certainly patronised Miss Mona's cosy homelike bordello. Governors, senators, mayors, and even victorious college football teams-sponsored by an alumnus-frequented the Chicken Ranch until that puritan nemesis Watchdog focused his television cameras and righteous indignation on the institution.
Shy and Amber arrive at Chicken Ranch knowing full well what goes on there. They've been used, had hard luck, and are lonely. They confide to Miss Mona that they have never done anything professional but plead for the chance to get some money together for a fresh start. Mona is taken with their honesty, hires them on, and sees to their training. She can use the extra help for the upcoming Texas Aggies/ Longhorn football-game party. The alumni associates of each school traditionally treat the winners of the annual rivalry to a night of frolicking at the Ranch. Some important political and business leaders are involved, too. (Miss Mona always has the right people to call on for advice). Things are pretty much as they have been for 58 years-until Melvin P. Thorpe, a Houston TV reporter and do-gooder, sets out to spoil everybody's fun. His Watchdog exposés do little to prompt Sheriff Dodd to close the Chicken Ranch. In fact, when Melvin visits the Ranch, Sheriff Dodd runs him off. It seems there is a romantic interest between the sheriff and Mona. In retaliation, Melvin raids the Ranch with his camera crew. The surprise visit proves embarrassing for all the above. Chicken Ranch is now too public to remain open in face of the state law against prostitution. Melvin P. Thorpe wins again. The girls ponder their futures as they await the bus from Amarillo. Mona and Sheriff Dodd pause for a moment of nostalgia before locking up after the girls have gone.
- "I enjoyed it very much indeed" Michael Coveney, Financial
- "A fun new musical ... Its pleasures are surprisingly innocent
and despite a certain amount of raunchy language ... the humour and
good nature of the piece make it cheerfully inoffensive.... The story
is told with a good deal of gusto and a wealth of comic detail, chiefly
concerned with Texas politics." New York Post
- "A whale of a good time ... A lively, genial and unassuming
musical comedy ... Carol Hall ~ songs, mostly country-western, are
lively and engaging ... The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is very
much on the sunny side of the street ... The talk is racy and unrestrained,
but all in fun ... Both sunny and funny with its cheerful disregard
for reality." Daily News
- "A cheerful, tuneful, deeply sentimental American musical." Michael Billington, Guardian
M 13 F 14 Extras (27 parts, 8 principals, reporters and photographers, 9 singers.)
- Edsel Mockey, storyteller (can be the bandleader).
- Mona Stangley, 40-ish, attractive madam, hard but with a heart, sings.
- Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd, towering actor, joins in one song.
- Shy, Angel, Doatsey Mae, and Imogene Charlene, featured roles for attractive girls who sing and dance.
- Jewel, black torch singer has lines, dances.
- Melvin P. Thorpe, fanatical character man.
Large sing/dance chorus. Total cast 45-60.
Piano/Conductor, Reed*, Trumpet*, Trombone*, Violin (doubles Viola), Guitar I, Guitar II, Bass, Drums.
* = optional
Period and Costumes:
Texas, the fall of 1973. Bright coloured, loose gowns for Mona's girls, assorted casual clothes, lots of Western boots and 10-gallon hats, Mona's day dresses and nightclub-type evening gowns, sheriffs uniform jacket and gun belt, stereotyped bright-coloured Western suits for mayor, governor, and other Texas businessmen, matching satin shirts and jeans for the band members, outrageous jewelled suits and white wig for Melvin P. Thorpe, good-looking off-duty sports outfits for all girls, football uniforms.
- Prologue - Solo Girl Singer, The Rio Grande Band
- 20 Fans - Mona Stangley, the Girls, the Cowboys, Farmer, Shy Kid, Miss Wulla Jean, Travelling Salesman, Slick Dude, Choir
- A Lil Ole Bitty Pissant Country Place - Mona Stangley, the Girls
- Girl You're a Woman - Mona Stangley, Shy, Jewel, the Girls
- Watch Dog Theme - Melvin P. Thorpe, the Dogettes
- Texas Has a Whorehouse in It - Melvin P. Thorpe, the Thorpe Singers, the Dogettes
- Twenty-Four Hours of Lovin' - Jewel, the Girls
- Watchdog Theme (reprise) - The Dogettes
- Texas Has a Whorehouse in It (reprise) - Melvin P. Thorpe, the Dogettes, Mayor Rufus Pointdexter, Scruggs, Edsel McKey, Doatsy Mae, Townspeople
- Doatsey Mae - Doatsy Mae
- Angelette March - Imogene Charlene, the Angelettes
- The Aggie Song - The Aggies
- Bus from Amarillo - Mona Stangley
- The Sidestep - Scruggs, Photographer, Mayor Rufus Pointdexter, Melvin P. Thorpe, the Dogettes, Melvin Thorpe Singers
- No Lies - Mona Stangley, Jewel, the Girls
- Good Ole Girl - Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd, the Aggies
- Hard Candy Christmas - Amber, Linda Lou, Ginger, Imogene Charlene, Ruby Rae, Beatrice
- Hard Candy Christmas (reprise) - The Girls
- Finale - The Company
Scenes and Settings
2 acts, multi-level unit set, orchestra on stage under the raised centre platform. Insert sets of Thorpe's TV studio and governor's office. One front and one back drop.
The action takes place in the state of Texas
- Scene 1: The Chicken Ranch, 1930s.
- Scene 2: The Chicken Ranch, early 1970s.
- Scene 3: Same.
- Scene 4: Melvin P. Thorpe's TV Show.
- Scene 5: Back at the Chicken Ranch.
- Scene 6: Same.
- Scene 7: Courthouse Steps, Gilbert, Texas.
- Scene 8: Texas Twinkle Cafe.
- Scene 9: The Texas Aggie Angelettes at the Football Game.
- Scene 10: After the Ganse and on the way to the Chicken Ranch.
- Scene 11: The Chicken Ranch.
- Scene 12: The Chicken Ranch, later that night.
- Scene 1: Same as Act 1
- Scene 2; at the State Capitol (Austin).
- Scene 3: The Chicken Ranch.
- Scene 4: Sheriff's Office.
- Scene 5: The Chicken Ranch.
- Scene 6: Same.
Jazz, rock, disco, precision drill, cheer-leading, and a trick rope spinner.