Can you believe? A well known political official, involved in a stormy relationship with a woman, knowing of her connection with sexual trade, and pretending it doesn’t exist?

Surely, only happened in the “good ol’ days”? Maybe only existed in the 1930s or 40s, perhaps in rural Texas? Well, yes and no. History can be repeated.

Now, we have a re-telling of the original Texas story—“The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” So, y’all come! to the University of Texas Rio Grande, February 28, Albert L. Jeffers Theatre, 7:30 p.m., through March 1, 2020 (and March 20 -22) for a reprise of those heady days. That true story happened near La Grange, Texas.

A “House of Ill Repute,” the “Chicken Ranch,” survived from early days of the century until 1973 (Due to the Depression, clients paid as best they could, often with chickens!) Clients included working men, but also soldiers, Texas A & M football players, state senators, judges and other law enforcement officers. Most knew, full well, of the “business” that went on in the main house.

That story became the basis of a 1974 Broadway musical. (The marquee, at that time, had to use an asterix, as in “Best Little * House in Texas,” instead of THAT word.) Written by Larry L. King and Peter Masterson, music and lyrics by Carol Hall, choreography was by UT Austin-trained, Tommy Toon. It ran for over 1,500 shows at the 46th Street Theatre! It became a hit movie in 1982, featuring Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds, among other notable stars.

“Best Little Whorehouse” is back—sex with music, music with sex never dies. Whaaat? In this “Me-Too” generation? Yes. Troubling to some? Yes, but there are many ways to think about it. In many cultures prostitution is legal–Mexico (Zona de Tolerancia) and beyond. It is legal in four counties of Nevada (counter-intuitively, not in Los Vegas). Most major cities in the U.S. host a mixture of thriving (semi-legal?) “escort services.” Even some feminists (granted, a minority) champion the right of women to be sex workers; the main ethical/legal problem appears to be non-consensual sex. So, whatever one’s take on the morality, the facts themselves–and a musical, gaily centered around those facts–lives on.

Perhaps reserve those troubling thoughts for a later time of contemplation? For now, appreciate our freedoms, savor the creativity of our youth, come, enjoy the comedy and the music. Don’t expect “I Will Always Love You.” That sweet song (made even more popular, later, by Whitney Houston) was written by Dolly and sung in her inimitable voice for the film, but not in the original musical. But there are lots of others–“A Lil’ Ole Bitty Pissant Country Place;” “The Aggie Song;” etc.

Mona, the madam, played by Emily Villarreal, claims “There Ain’t Nuthin’ Dirty Goin’ On.” And, like the harlot with the heart of gold, she sings an anthem for the new girl, “Shy,” allowing her to see herself as a better “woman.” The Sheriff, Ed Earl, is played by Andy Garcia. The conniving, “holier-than-thou” reporter is played by Jayden Prater. (That role was inspired by a real-life radio/TV pundit, Marvin Zindler, who hounded the Chicken Ranch out of existence.) The Governor himself (played by Aaron Barrera) gets involved. It could be an operetta straight out of (a very risqué) Gilbert and Sullivan. The “girls” and rest of the ensemble are UTRGV students—and are terrific!

Insightful direction is by Professor Richard Edmonson, clever choreography by Illiana Cantu. You’ve gotta see all that sweatin’, testosterone-filled, tattooed beef-cake–the A& M football players! Nice counter-point for the singin’, sultry, sexy—I’m talking bolder than the film!–contortions of the cheese-cake! I wished for mics (and field glasses?) but the theatre is intimate and (for millennials?) acoustically sound. The musical will be the talk of the town and the Valley. Kudos to audacious Director Edmonson and the entire nimble cast!

So, “come to the (Cowboy) Cabaret!” You may witness some of the last of history—the story of the Chicken Ranch and its reprise in the Rio Grande Valley. Once satiated, justly proud for supporting the arts, as you leave the show, and wander off to… our future in America… this is just a reminder from another show, another musical about sex and the power of authority (while society around them slid into fascism): Auf wiedersehen; a bientot; y’all come back, hear?