The Chicken Ranch is once again open for business.
Temple Civic Theatre will present its summer musical, “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” beginning this weekend. Performances will begin 7:30 p.m. Aug. 1-3 and 8-10. Matinee performances will take place 2:30 p.m. Aug. 3-4 and 10-11.
Advance tickets are available online at TempleCivicTheatre.com. Tickets will also be available at the box office one hour before each performance.
“The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” is set in the late 1970s outside the fictional town of Gilbert where Miss Mona runs the Chicken Ranch – a brothel with a long history in the small Texas town. The locals have a good relationship with the institution, and Mona is respected in the community. Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd, also looks out for the Chicken Ranch due to his past with Mona. When pious reporter Melvin P. Thorpe exposes the brothel, the outside interests want it shut down, putting the state governor in a tough spot.
The musical was inspired by the story of the real-life Chicken Ranch in La Grange.
Director Michael J. Fox said the musical is a fictionalized accounting of that particular piece of Texas history told from the point of the town and the effect the incident had on the community.
“So it just changed the course of the town,” he said. “It was a small town to begin with. It’s still there, but the Chicken Ranch isn’t of course.”
Fox said roles for the play were cast the first part of June, and rehearsals started shortly after.
“So by the middle of June we were already working on it,” he said.
The director said it takes a big commitment from a lot of people to make a musical happen.
“Not just the people that are onstage, but there’s folks backstage – lighting, costuming, building the set – so what the people see is the end product of a lot of folks that are involved in making it look the way that it does, sound the way that it does,” Fox said. “And we just hope that everybody comes out and enjoys it.”
Dr. Gary Gosney will reprise the role of Melvin P. Thorpe, a character he also portrayed in TCT’s 1986 production. Thorpe is based on Marvin Zindler, real-life Houston news personality, who was responsible for exposing the Chicken Ranch and having it shut down.
“So I play him kind of over-the-top,” Gosney said. “I’ve done it twice before.”
He said he always tries to make the role fresh and fun and put a little life into it.
“You can approach a play just based on the words that are written, or you can make the words come alive, and that’s what I try to do is make it come alive,” he said.
Gosney said he also adds a touch of adlibbing, which is “notorious” for him.
He said the play has an adult side to it, as the name implies, but it’s still a good, fun experience for all.
Prescott Hersey, president of the TCT Board of Governors, said they selected “Best Little Whorehouse” because it’s a well-known musical that a lot of people love.
“And also Aug. 1, the day that our show opens, is the 46th anniversary of the actual closure of the Chicken Ranch,” he said.
Hersey said audiences will enjoy the musical’s fun, catchy songs and interesting story.
“We have a really amazingly talented cast, a great music director who is leading the band and has gotten all of our vocal stylings on point, and the costumers work really hard to give us some really fun costumes that people will enjoy in several of our scenes,” he said. “And also kind of poking fun at a bit of Texas history that a lot of us in the area, I believe, kind of know, but it’s always fun to relive.”