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"New Line Theatre's production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas ultimately provides not only marvelous music and dance but substantial food for thought."
-- The Riverfront Times

"[Director Scott] Miller, who loves musical comedy, chooses to emphasize the musical over the comic in this production. . . But, having made his decision, he executes it with care and intelligence, delivering a production with charms of its own."
-- St. Louis Post Dispatch


New Line's twelfth season closed with the Tony Award winning Broadway musical comedy THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS, which tells the true story of a hundred year old whorehouse in a small Texas town that became the unlikely target of a crusading TV reporter (assisted by a much younger Larry Connors, now a St. Louis TV anchor on KMOV).

Since the 1890s, the Chicken Ranch had been one of the better pleasure palaces in all of Texas. It was during the Great Depression, when  a man couldn't always scrape together the necessary three dollars that the girls began accepting poultry in trade, and that's how the place got its name. But in 1973, when Marvin Zindler (who's still on the airwaves in Texas) turned his TV cameras on the Chicken Ranch, suddenly every politician in Texas (most of whom were repeat customers) expressed moral outrage that such an institution could be allowed to sully the good name of the Lone Star state. 

In April of 1974, Playboy published an article about the sad tale under the title "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," and it wasn't long before a group of Texans already working on Broadway decided it'd make a good musical. With a script by Larry K. King (based on his Playboy article) and Peter Masterson, songs by Carol Hall, and direction by the hotshot young director Tommy Tune, the show opened in 1978 off Broadway to rave reviews, then moved on Broadway to run for 1,584 performances, where it was nominated for seven Tony Awards and won two.

After a national tour (in which dozens of local papers, including those in St. Louis, refused to print the show's title), the show returned to Broadway for a second run in 1982. That same year, a watered down, kinder and gentler movie version was released with the most miscast leads in movie musical history -- Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds. Believe us, if you've only seen the Dolly Parton movie (or that godawful revival with Ann-Margaret), you have not seen Whorehouse


Want to explore more? We recommend:

The original Broadway cast album or the movie soundtrack , and the (not very faithful) 1982 film on videotape

Director Scott Miller's background notes on Best Little Whorehouse

Author Larry L. King's original April 1974 Playboy article, upon which the show is based, and King's very funny memoir about the creation of the show, The Whorehouse Papers

An outstanding 1973 article from Texas Monthly including a detailed history of the Chicken Ranch and the real story of its closing.

The book The Chicken Ranch: The True Story of the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

KTRK-TV's webpage about the story -- to see some great pictures of the real life players, click on the "Photos Tell the Story" link under the picture of the Chicken Ranch.

The true story of the real Chicken Ranch -- St. Louis news anchor Larry Connors was one of the reporters involved in exposing and shutting it down! Also a good history of the Chicken Ranch, fun facts about the story, the story of the show's creation, and bios of the show's authors

The official bio (and picture) of Marvin Zindler, the real-life model for TV crusader Melvin P. Thorpe in Whorehouse, PLUS a Texas Monthly article about Marvin's previous job as a Harris County deputy sheriff (he was fired in Jan. 1973).

The cast album of the truly terrible sequel, The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public

The Meretrix Virtual Prostitution Museum

New Line poster designed by New Line resident designer, Kris Wright.

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