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A rompin' stompin' 'Whorehouse' at Signature

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Entertainment,Theater

You may want to leave your 10-year-old at home for "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." Because explaining to your youngins that the spastic television reporter on stage is trying to rid the town of its long-standing "courthouse" may not work so well under a fairly constant backdrop of scantily clad women and half-naked men.

But in the event that you venture out sans kids one night, what you'll find at Signature Theatre is Larry L. King and Peter Masterson's 1978 musical romp in the hay, and under Eric Schaeffer's fun, spirited direction, the entire rendezvous is beautifully tempered and downright delectable.

In case you need a refresher following the 1982 blockbuster starring Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds, "Whorehouse" is a famously fun exploration of both cultural and political hypocrisy -- it's 1972 in the fictitious little hamlet of Gilbert, Texas, and a madam's manse that has been operating for well over a century is suddenly threatened by an incoming crusade of outraged moralists swayed by a sensational media blitz. Never mind that the good folks of Lanville County have peacefully coexisted with the Chicken Ranch for years -- or that Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd counts Miss Mona among his best friends -- that's all about to change one fateful Thanksgiving night.

Of course, if you don't recall the finer plot points, then perhaps you'll recognize the music. Carol Hall's frothy score is chock-full of twangy two-steps and roadhouse rockabilly sounds, most notably her 11th-hour lament, "Hard Candy Christmas." And if that isn't enough to jog your memory, at least Schaeffer's bawdy brothel features all of the same quality production values that audiences have come to expect out of the little garage theatre that could.

Onstage
'The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas'
Where: Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington
When: Through Oct. 7
Info: $30 to $86; 703-820-9771; signature-theatre.org

Sherri L. Edelen is a sprightly Miss Mona, a sharp-shootin' little pistol who packs a musical punch. She is joined again by her "Xanadu" sister Nova Y. Payton, who practically brings down the house with her "Twenty-Four Hours of Lovin'" number. And just as the duo turned acrobatic vocal tricks earlier this summer, it is medal-worthy together again in the second act.

Thomas Adrian Simpson brings a rustic, stoic sensibility to the proceedings, lending an air of quiet dignity that lands softly as the titular "Whorehouse" closes, and Tracy Lynn Olivera's Doatsy Mae sparkles as she belts a woeful ditty from behind the counter of the local coffee shop.

Current political parallels aside, perhaps most shocking of all is how genuinely funny King and Masterson's script is after aging 34 years. You just can't keep a good thing down, and Schaeffer's "Whorehouse" is a rootin' tootin' rowdy good time.

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