Teutons of Fun

Uptown Players romp through uber-gay Valhalla; CTD stages laid-back Whorehouse

CTD seats patrons at round tables, and as the size of the audience has increased, the diameter of the tables and the space between chairs has shrunk. What used to be comfy ambiance now feels like a fire hazard.

Claustrophobia might also be a factor in Whorehouse, where a huge cast is forced to do the hoedowns between hos and horny Aggies on a stage just a spit and a lick bigger than a legal-sized envelope. If the performances seem a bit laid-back, it might be because director James Paul Lemons was trying to limit unnecessary movement. One wrong step and a pretty whore could end up sprawled across the front row's laps.

Big musicals lose some of their spectacle when wedged onto a small stage (a problem that also hampered Flower Mound Performing Arts Theatre's recent City of Angels). Scenic designer Rodney Dobbs added a second-floor balcony to Miss Mona's Chicken Ranch headquarters for Whorehouse, but that just means the girls slinking around up there in the dance numbers risk decapitation by three whirling ceiling fans.

B.J. Cleveland plays Ludwig as if his ability to draw breath depended on every laugh.
B.J. Cleveland plays Ludwig as if his ability to draw breath depended on every laugh.

Details

Valhalla continues through October 22 at the Trinity River Arts Center, 214-219-2718.

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas continues through October 29 at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, 214-828-0094.

Whorehouse is what it is, a corny piece of faux country-western fluff about a silly episode in Texas history. In the 1970s a crusading Houston TV reporter campaigned to get a decades-old South Texas brothel closed down. Writers Larry L. King and Peter Masterson turned a magazine article into a musical (tunes and lyrics by Carol Hall) that enjoyed four years on Broadway and was blown up into a really awful 1982 movie starring Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds.

CTD's production features a smooth if colorless performance by Jenny Thurman as Miss Mona, though she's about 20 years too young for the part. Ted Wold wears a ziggurat of fake white hair as Melvin P. Thorpe, the sin-busting TV guy, and acts with all the subtlety of Mad King Ludwig. Charles Ryan Roach galumphs his way through the role of Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd.

Brian Loncar, the "strong arm" lawyer from TV commercials and the money man behind this theater, enjoys some sweaty moments in the spotlight as a Texas governor trying to sidestep the issue of prostitution. Up on that cathouse catwalk, Loncar's not too bad singing a comic patter-song and pussyfooting through easy choreography by Paula Morelan. The effect of his performance is like watching one of those swimming pigs at San Marcos' Aquarena Springs. You're amazed that the creature is making the effort, so you don't fault it for not doing the breaststroke.

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