Never shy of housing resurrections of long forgotten shows and ever committed to bringing large cast numbers into the small intimate space under the arches, the Union Theatre is now home to a whore house.
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is a peculiar musical. It was a hit movie in the 1980s, starring Dolly Parton as the whorehouse mother-figure, Miss Mona. The show hangs round a theme of women helping men out in numerous ways. The plot sets up several directions, yet does not go any further in allowing the audience to actually make any connection to the characters. Angel and Shy begin the show by making the grave decision to join Miss Mona and the girls. There is a song, but then we gain nothing more from this storyline till a few short lines of reflection at the very end of the performance. Loosely, the plot delves into a community which is aware of the establishment but keeps it quiet, until do-gooder Melvin P Thorpe and his lively television supporters preach to expose the house and get it shut down. This creates a difficult situation for the Sheriff as, having once had a fling with Miss Mona, he tries everything to keep it open until words from above put the last nail in the coffin.
This production at the Union, which has some 24 performers, has an energetic young cast who perform ambitious choreography by Richard Jones in this tight space. Credit has to be given to the ensemble of boys who really raise the bar in their routine, pushing themselves and showcasing the fast-aced tap of Dayle Hodge in a rousing number just before the interval.
Leon Craig takes on the role of Melvin P Thorpe, hellbent on ousting the whorehouse from the community. Clad in a silver and purple frilled cowboy uniform, Craig fully commits to this alternative interpretation of the role. Shrieking his lines and greeting audience members, you cannot deny that he has a boundless energy, but I feel that for this role it is all pushed a little too far.
The star is Sarah Lark, taking the role played by Dolly Parton. She steps out on to the stage to round up her “chickens”, and you cannot help but be drawn to her. With a fantastic array of costumes Lark entices the audience with a wonderfully clear vocal talent that is a treat to listen to with the trains rattling above the theatre. She also oozes maternal instinct and was one of the few to master the Texan accent while allowing every word to be clear and understood. Lark is playing a role much older than her years, but she proves that it can be interpreted at a younger age, so much so that I would suggest the wig is not required to make her look older.
Whorehouse is a bizarre show which doesn’t give any time to developing relationships with any characters but does present some rousing numbers with an attractive cast… it has something for everyone.