book by Lally L King and Peter Masterson music and lyrics by Carol Hall.

Union Theatre 204 Union Street SE1 0LK To 12 November 2011.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Sun 6pm Mat 6 Nov 2pm.

TICKETS: 0207 261 9876.
Review: William Russell 18 October.

Big, Brash, Bouncy – but not terribly convincing.

This Tony Award-winning Broadway show directed slickly by Paul Taylor-Mills is set in the famous Chicken Ranch, the Texas brothel where the girls were sometimes paid in kind – the ranch hands would bring a fowl along – and the madam was benevolent. It has a good Country and Western score by Carol Hall, but the book is slight – and has a dying fall at the end wisely abandoned when it was turned in to a film vehicle for Dolly Parton.

The best moment comes when the male chorus, pretending, not very convincingly it has to be said (they are all a bit too skinny), to be the winning football team to get their reward. They do a splendidly choreographed dance. As the whores the girls look delectable in assorted underwear, have the right legs for nylon, and mostly opulent embonpoints, while Nancy Sullivan as Shy, the one turning to a life of shame after leaving home because Daddy was getting difficult, is touching.

As the madam, Miss Mona, Sarah Lark sings well and looks lovely, but she is no slapper and the plot – she has an unrequited love for the local sheriff (James Parker) with whom she had a one night stand – requires her to be world weary and disappointed in love. The sheriff has forgotten all about it.

For some reason Miss Mona’s nemesis, Melvyn P Thorpe, a crusading television reporter, is played by Leon Craig as a raging queen in a blond wig which doesn’t make sense. If the Bible Belt biggots, who had tolerated and used the brothel, decided to get outraged and have it closed down when it was shown on TV, the last person to lead the crusade would be a madly camp African American. Mr Craig, who storms about to great effect, but it is the wrong performance in the wrong role.

Miss Mona: Sarah Lark.
Melvin P Thorpe: Leon Craig.
Angel:Franki Jenna.
Dance Captain: Jodie Lee Wilde.
Senator Wingwoah: Tony Longhurst.
Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd: James Parkes.
Jewel: Stephanie Tavernier.
Doatsey Mae: Lindsay Scigliano.
Mayor Poindexter: Luke Barron.
Farm hands/TV Reporters/Whores: Aimee Buchanan, Patrick George, Dayle Hodge, Oliver Metcalfe, Dan O’Brien, Stephen Oliver Webb, Jarred Page, Jamie Papanicolaqu, Kimberley Powell, Sasi Strallen, Katy Stredder, Kelly Walters, Scott Wheeler, Anthony Williamson

Director: Paul Taylor-Mills.
Designer: Kingsley Hall.
Lighting: Howard Hudson.
Musical Director: Tom Turner.
Choreographer/Musical Staging: Richard Jones.

2011-10-25 00:28:32

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