The last new show of the Broadway season is also the worst. In fact, it isn’t stretching things to say that “The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public” is the crummiest junk to litter the district since “Ain’t Broadway Grand” a couple of seasons back, and that is some competition.
As with the original “Whorehouse” 16 years ago, Universal has underwritten the project in exchange for the film rights. This time around, the bill is about $ 8 million, and it will take more than Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds to make this turkey fly.
Perhaps that explains the huge mock-up of the Universal logo adorning the curtain — it may be the only publicity the studio gets from the show, for which fact it should be eternally grateful.
Also, as with the original, “Public” is the product mainly of Texans hellbent on showing New York a good ol’ time. And if a beauteous bevy of cheerful, apple-cheeked B-girls, each one spangled and spread-eagled inside a mobile acrylic cube while praising the virtues of telephone sex sounds like your cup of tea, well then, call for the honey.
“The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” gave only mild offense, and Tommy Tune, making his Broadway debut, conjured up such ingenious, anti-Broadway images as a lockerroom chorus line of football players and another of girls dancing with chorine cutouts.
But “The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public” shows Tune ossified in the mediocrity he once so energetically spoofed. “Public” tells a story based, like the
earlier one, on a true episode: When a Las Vegas brothel is taken over by the government in an attempt to collect back taxes, the feds bring in renowned former Chicken Ranch madam Miss Mona (Dee Hoty) to clean up the operation — i.e., safe sex only — and turn profits along with tricks.
Texas, Vegas, girls and glitz.Don’t forget the dopey comic and the Elvis impersonators!
“Public” is a testament to Broadway hackwork at the highest level, and that includes Carol Hall’s flat, imitative score and Larry L. King and Peter Masterson’s brain-dead book.
As for the direction and choreography by various combinations of Masterson, Tune and Jeff Calhoun, there isn’t a glimmer of wit or originality in evidence.
The physical production is assaultive from the first moment to the last, as the Lunt Fontanne (handsomely refurbished at long last) has been outfitted with speakers spitting out casino clatter (as well, one suspects, as sweetened applause).
Set designer John Arnone appears to have cornered the market on neon palm trees and sequential lights.
It’s amazing how much money can be spent in the service of the boring.
Speaking of boring, that is the best that can be said of Hoty, who somehow got star billing without ever having been one.
Her name won’t draw the luckless patrons to the Lunt. But Tommy Tune’s probably will, and more’s the pity.