“The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” walks a tight rope between being a fun but impactful musical that uses humor to guide the audience along the somber journey of Miss Mona, owner of the Chicken Ranch brothel.
If you’ve ever seen the film “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” starring Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds, you might have an idea of what the musical has to offer, but Christian Elser, executive director and musical director of Glow Lyric Theatre, says you also might be surprised by their differences.
“The people that know the movie — it’s kind of a feel-good movie, and it’s kind of fluffy. The Broadway production is actually more substantive,” Elser said. “It speaks more to the lives of the girls that work there. It speaks more to the hypocrisy of the men who ran that state/county, and how the men were happy to use her for her services, but when it came down to it, they’ll turn their backs on her.”
Glow Lyric Festival hosted at the Warehouse Theatre
The musical is part of a larger theme centered on strong women — it’s one of three musicals in the Glow Lyric Festival hosted at the Warehouse Theatre.
The production is based on a true story out of La Grange, Texas, in the 1970s. It follows Miss Mona and her “girls” at the Chicken Ranch — a well-regarded brothel that becomes the center of attention in Texas politics when news of the establishment starts circulating beyond the fictional town of Gibson.
Nikki Yarnell, who plays Miss Mona, said this is her first time as the lead actress in a performance. Yarnell said Miss Mona is not the typical brothel-owner — her role is more of a surrogate mother to the girls at the Chicken Ranch.
“I think that she is a female role model because her life didn’t take the turn that she wanted it to take in her earlier years,” Yarnell said. “She was lured into a life of sex work, and I think she takes her role very seriously as a strong female role model for all of the women that come in. And she sees an opportunity to help them in a way that I don’t think she was helped.”
Victims of sex trafficking talk with actors about their experiences
Jenna Tamisiea Elser, artistic director for Glow, said the theater brought in women with Jasmine Road, an organization that helps women who have been victims of sex trafficking, to talk with the actors about their experiences.
“It’s a responsibility that you take on when you’re choosing to tell stories that are different than yours,” Jenna Elser said. “It’s a responsibility that we have to take on to make sure that we’re doing that in a way that feels authentic and doesn’t take advantage.”
Christian Elser said the show flips the preconceived notions the audience might have about who the protagonists and antagonists are — both in the show and in life — but it doesn’t tell the audience what opinions to have about the brothel or the events that followed.
“We’re not saying either way — this is just showing what happened and this is how ridiculous it went down,” Christian Elser said.
Christian Elser said the musical is rated R for its adult themes and language — so parents should grab a babysitter for the night.
‘The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas’
When: July 18 – Aug. 3
Where: Warehouse Theatre, 37 Augusta St., Greenville