House of skill, repute

There’s gonna be some whoopin’ and hollerin’ down to The Arlene Theater when the Mouse River Players Community Theater group presents “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” tonight through Sunday. Showtimes through Saturday night begin at 7:30 p.m., with Sunday’s matinee show at 2 p.m.

Nineteen actors will be portraying 88 characters in one of the classics of musical theater.

“The story centers around the last days of a very small-town, quaint, rustic cathouse operated in Texas,” said director Chris Stroschein. “It also has all the elements of a good play, with interesting characters, conflict and people trying to adjust to a changing world.”

The show opens on the final days of the “Chicken Ranch” in the early 1970s when it was known as one of the better pleasure palaces in all of Texas. Governors, judges, mayors and even victorious college football teams frequent Miss Mona’s cozy bordello. The story is based on the true story of the brothel, which got its name during the Great Depression when the proprietors accepted poultry in exchange for the ladies’ favors.

The current madame, Miss Mona, played by Kelly Thom, is respected in the community, but when a puritanical reporter with a television show (Jason Gaarder as Melvin P. Thorpe) turns the spotlight on, outside interests want it shut down. He goes to the governor, played by Don Waage, who in turn puts pressure on the local sheriff, Ed Earl Dodd, played by Damien Walsh, to do something.

The ladies are played by Emily Taylor, Breanna Heupel, Penny Lipsey, Claire Green, Sarah Thom, Heidi Eidem, Haley Crider, Tiffany Evans and Ashley Nilsen. Peg Morris plays Miss Mona’s assistant Doatsey Mae, and Brandon Schafer plays Senator Wingwoah.

One of the more rousing numbers is “The Aggie Song,” which takes place in a college locker room and features Will Smith, Thomas Burke, Josh Snyder and Cody Blotter.

Lucas Brown is the musical director, leading a live combo to accompany numbers made famous by Dolly Parton in the film version such as “A Lil’ Ole Bitty Pissant Country Place” and “Hard Candy Christmas.” The music and lyrics are by Carol Hall, with a book by Larry L. King and Peter Masterson.

As rarely as we find a moral in real-life situations, the untimely closing of the Chicken Ranch sends a definite message about hypocrisy that resonates even today, especially when Thorpe is rewarded while the ladies pack up and leave. There is no nudity, but the show is for adults only due to situations and extreme language. Admission is $12 at the door or by season ticket. Reservations may be made by calling 866-667-1977 or by email at tickets Include your name, contact phone number, performance date and number of reservations required.

This is the first MRP production directed by Stroschein, although he has been working both in front of the curtain and in technical aspects of many productions throughout Minot for many years.

“I was born in Stanley, raised in Burlington and have a BA in theater arts from Minot State University. You know,” he said, musing, “I always wondered about Paula (Lindekugel-Willis, former MSU faculty member) when she directed, but she really had a way of realizing what was important. I understand the choices she made a lot better now.”

Stroschein’s next project is directing “The Nerd” for the MSU Summer Theatre.