Who better than a former sex kitten to play the proprietress of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas?
Ann-Margret, the 1960s heartthrob who starred in the films "Bye Bye Birdie" and "Carnal Knowledge," will play Miss Mona in a newly-conceived revival of the 1978 Broadway musical, beginning a yearlong tour in January 2001. Manny Kladitis (Hello, Dolly!, National Actors Theatre) is the sole producer.
A creative team has not yet been announced, but the concert, film and TV star will play the musical madam on the road for a year, starting in Wallingford, CT, at the Oakdale Center. Dates in St. Louis, Atlanta and Chicago are expected to be part of the tour. A complete tour list has not been announced.
Composer-lyricist Carol Hall is said to be writing at least one new number for Ann-Margret. The plaintive, rueful, roof-raising score tells the story of the legendary Chicken Ranch, run by the intelligent, responsible Miss Mona, who promises "there's nothin' dirty goin' on." Peter Masterson and Tommy Tune directed the original Broadway production, which ran 1,578 performances and is remembered for its satiric edge, bare-chested male dancers in football gear and a handful of surprisingly humane, bittersweet country numbers such as "Bus From Amarillo," "Doatsy Mae," "Girl, You're a Woman" and "Hard Candy Christmas."
Tommy Tune choreographed (memorably, "The Side Step" and "The Aggie Song"). The book is by Larry L. King and Peter Masterson based on an article by King.
The original cast included Carlin Glynn, Henderson Forsythe, Pamela Blair, Delores Hall and Jay Garner. Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds starred in the movie version, which added a few Parton songs into the mix.
A sequel to the show, The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public, was a quick flop in 1994.
Ann-Margret graduated from frivolous movies and proved herself a mature actress of depth in such pictures as "Who Will Love My Children?," a TV film in 1983. The musical, which in its original national touring company starred Alexis Smith, requires Miss Mona to be a human being rather than a trashy stereotype.
-- By Kenneth Jones