Also with: Susannah Blinkoff, Gerry Burkhardt, Laurel Lynn Collins, Vincent D’Elia, Sally Mae Dunne, Pamela Everett, Tom Flagg, Ganine Giorgione, Niki Harris, Joe Hart, Amy N. Heggins, Don Johanson, Troy Britton Johnson, Nancy LaMott, Mark Manley, Mary Frances McCatty, Casey Nicholaw, Ryan Perry, Louise Ruck, Danny Rutigliano, William Ryall, Lainie Sakakura, Shaver Tillitt, Jillana Urbina, Theara J. Ward, Christina Youngman.
Musical numbers: “Let the Devil Take Us,” “Nothin’ Like a Picture Show,” “I’m Leavin’ Texas,” “It’s Been a While,” “Brand New Start,” “Down and Dirty,” “Call Me,” “Change in Me,” “Here for the Hearing,” “Piece of the Pie,” “Change in Me” (reprise), “If We Open Our Eyes.”
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 timearound, 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 onstage — it may be the only publicity the studio gets from the show, for which fact U 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, call for the honey.
One runs the risk, in expressing such strong sentiments about an entertainment like “Whorehouse,” of sounding like a snobbish prude. But while we like trash as much as the next tired businessman — honest! — “The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public” is trash of an altogether ranker sort.
“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 locker-room chorus line of football players and another of girls dancing with chorine cutouts.
But “Public” shows Tune ossified in the mediocrity he once so energetically spoofed. The show 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!
This is Broadway hack work at the highest level, from Carol Hall’s flat, imitative score to Larry L. King and Peter Masterson’s brain-dead book. In the staging and choreography, by various combinations of Masterson, Tune and Jeff Calhoun, there’s not 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.