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On Theater: A ‘House’ full of fun at Golden West

“The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” at Golden West College
“The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” is playing at Golden West College in Huntington Beach through Nov. 17. In the center is Imani Haze, who plays Jewel, the madam Miss Mona’s second-in-command.
(Lara Farhadi)

It’s been a few decades since local theatergoers had the opportunity to visit “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” but Golden West College is making up for that lost time with a lively staging of the boisterous musical comedy.

Based largely on actual incidents, “Whorehouse” was created by Larry L. King and Peter Masterson with Carol Hall’s music and lyrics back in 1978. Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds brought it to the screen four years later.

Currently, Golden West is having a high time with the show under the sprightly direction and choreography of Martie Ramm, with some appropriately “out there” performances by a large, unfettered cast.

The titular institution, dubbed the Chicken Ranch, is modeled after a boarding house of the same name which operated from 1844 to 1973. The musical paints it as a legitimate business operation where there was “nothin’ dirty going on.”

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There was, however, plenty of fun, and the GWC cast puts a lot of heart into the production. Megan Cherry fills the role of the house madam, Miss Mona, with sophistication and authority, as well as a superior singing voice.

“The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” at Golden West College
Maggie Underwood, as Angel, and Megan Cherry, as Miss Mona, in Golden West College’s production of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” which runs in Huntington Beach through Nov. 17.
(Lara Farhadi)

Also quite impressive is Steve De Forest as the local sheriff, tough as a longhorn steer and skilled in creative profanity. He’s also a good buddy to Miss Mona’s enterprise until higher-ups demand a shutdown.

John K. Wilson struts and frets in the cartoonish role of the media “watchdog” whose sights are set on the Chicken Ranch. Jay Harbison’s “sidestepping” performance as the governor is a choice cameo.

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The houseful of businesswomen functions admirably, both individually and collectively, shining in their “Hard Candy Christmas” number.

Imani Haze particularly excels as Mona’s second in command, belting out a sensuous “Twenty Four Hours of Lovin’ ” as she goes home on leave.

Other memorable moments include a forlorn waitress’ laments as Jordan Hamessley offers her “Doatsy Mae” solo. Unfortunately, nothing before or after that moment amplifies her character.

Well-staged pandemonium reigns at the ranch when the Texas A&M football players arrive to celebrate their victory. The jocks form a high-kicking chorus line, spurred on by musical director/conductor Rick Heckman.

“The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” may be a trifle long in the tooth, but it’s still quite entertaining in this rollicking revival at Golden West College.

IF YOU GO

What: “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”

Where: Golden West College, Huntington Beach

When: Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. through Nov. 17

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Cost: $14 to $16

Information: (714) 895-8150; gwctheater.com

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