Call Her Madam: Sherri L. Edelen Rules the Roost of DC Signature's Whorehouse; Previews Begin Aug. 14

By Kenneth Jones
August 14, 2012

A new DC-area revival of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas begins performances Aug. 14 at the Tony Award-winning Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA. Helen Hayes Award winner Sherri L. Edelen is Miss Mona, who runs the infamous Chicken Ranch brothel, and Thomas Simpson is her love interest, Sheriff Earl Dodd.



Signature artistic director Eric Schaeffer (Broadway's Follies) stages the 1978 musical romp by book writers Larry L. King and Peter Masterson and composer-lyricist Carol Hall. Performances of the sentimental satire continue to Oct. 7 at Signature's MAX Theatre in the Shirlington Village section of Arlington.

Edelen won Helen Hayes Awards for her work in Signature's Les Misérables and Side Show.

Also cast are DC-area favorites Christopher Bloch (as morals advocate/journalist Melvin P. Thorpe), Erin Driscoll (Angel) and Nova Y. Payton (Jewel), plus Tracy Lynn Olivera, Madeline Botteri, Matt Conner, Dan Manning, Amy McWilliams, Stephen F. Schmidt, Jamie Eacker, Tamara Young, Maria Rizzo, Nora Palka, Nadia Harika and Brianne Camp, representing the people of Gilbert, TX.

The buff Aggie boys — Texas football players blowing off steam at the Chicken Ranch — are played by Stephen Gregory Smith, Gannon O'Brien, Vincent Kempski, Davis Hasty, Benjamin Horen, David Jennings and Jay Adriel.

Schaeffer said in a statement, "It's no coincidence that Signature is opening its season with this musical gem in the middle of an election year. On top of being wildly funny and very entertaining, the musical addresses such vital ideas as censorship, moral hypocrisy, and media sensationalism. It is very clear that Whorehouse is as relevant today as it was in 1978 — and we've rounded up an amazing cast to bring this famous Texan tale to the Signature stage."

Inspired by real-life events, the country-flavored political musical satire is also infused with rueful songs about unrealized dreams, choices made, the passage of time and loves lost. "Hard Candy Christmas" is among its standout songs. The production also incorporates the song "A Friend to Me," which was added when Ann-Margret toured with the show in 2001. At that time, Carol Hall talked to Playbill.com about The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas was nominated for 1979 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Choreography (Tommy Tune), Direction (Peter Masterson and Tommy Tune), Book (King and Masterson) and the featured performances of Henderson Forsythe (who won) as Sheriff Dodd, Carlin Glynn (who won) as Mona and Joan Ellis as Shy. Hall's score was snubbed in the Tony race, but she won the Drama Desk Awards for Best Music & Lyrics. A film version was later made, interpolating new songs by Dolly Parton, who starred opposite Burt Reynolds.

The Signature creative team includes Karma Camp (choreographer), Collin Ranney (set designer), Kathleen Geldard (costume designer), Colin K. Bills (lighting designer) and Matt Rowe (sound designer). Gabriel Mangiante is the music director, and will be conducting the country band.

For more information, visit signature-theatre.org.

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The Signature is the recipient of the 2009 Regional Theatre Tony Award.