Whorehouse lacks rhythm, technique and size to satisfy

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Sixty dollars will only get you an 80-minute ride at Whorehouse.

Tempting as it is to spout easy, sleazy quips—say, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas blows, or couldn’t get a rise out of Ron Jeremy—we first have to set the measurement standard for the musical that recently opened downtown.

Community theater-level or tourist-ready entertainment? Floating between—awkwardly—it turns out. Directed by local theater vet Betty Sullivan-Cleary and including community actors, the Plaza showroom musical based on the ex-Chicken Ranch brothel often feels tinny and small. In this case, size matters.

On a cramped stage and against a modest set that could have been outlined on an Etch-a-Sketch, Whorehouse is sheared to 80 intermission-less minutes, which forces its familiar characters—Miss Mona and her girls, simpatico Sheriff Ed, the pompous reporter crusading to close down the Ranch and the goofball governor—to be rendered in broad strokes. Even in a raucous musical, characters need nuance to be relatable to an audience, but emotionally, they amount to stick figures here. That deflates the poignancy of two of its best, bittersweet numbers: the gals’ “Hard Candy Christmas” and Mona’s “The Bus From Amarillo.”

Two sterling moments—Audrei Kairen as housekeeper Jewel joyously bringing the gospel in “24 Hours of Lovin’” and the acrobatic Aggie boys flipping and hand-standing through “The Aggie Song”—bust out with such professional brio they almost seem of a different show, leaving a conflicting impression. Ultimately, though, they can’t rescue a production that treats jokes no better than road kill and sends actors ridiculously running through the audience, mistaking frantic for funny. Sure, there’s exposed skin to ogle (the girls, plus a male narrator) and the requisite profanity. Even so, this showroom musical can’t claim superiority to most staged by Signature Productions and P.S. Productions at Spring Mountain Ranch and Summerlin Library. Certainly it’s overpriced: tickets start at $59.95.

We wonder: Combining this with Insurgo Theater Movement, its in-house outlet for community theater, is the Plaza targeting its entertainment at tourists—or redirecting it toward locals in an evolving downtown arts scene? Should the latter be true, it will take more than this Whorehouse to make the Plaza The Best Little Playhouse in Vegas.

NOSHING ON NOTES: Individual tickets for the much-anticipated Wicked (Aug. 29-Oct. 7) go on sale only at The Smith Center box office from 7-10 a.m. May 19, with an eight-ticket limit per patron. By 10 a.m., any remaining tickets will be available by calling 749-2000 or visiting TheSmithCenter.com. … Multiple goodies at The Smith Center: Chanteuse Jane Monheit blends jazz and adult contemporary vibes on May 18; influential singer/guitarist Buddy Guy brings the Chicago blues sound he helped pioneer on May 19; and Broadway’s Mary Poppins— you know, that supercalifragilisticexpialidocious musical—settles in from May 22-27. … Carlos Santana, who just opened his new residency at the House of Blues, has a treat for attendees: Through June 3, fans will get a card with a code enabling downloading his new album, Shape Shifter.

STRIP POSTSCRIPT: Human cartoon Donald Trump brings his Miss USA competition to the Theatre for the Performing Arts on June 3. Before allowing him into Planet Hollywood, let’s demand a birth certificate. Rumor is he’s an illegal alien from Planet Looney Tunes.

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