The Chicken Ranch is back and this time it’s free to watch. In 2012, Theatre Under the Stars scored a success with The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas at the Hobby Center. TUTS decided to bring it back this year for its annual free summer offering at Miller Outdoor Theatre. Michelle DeJean will once again play Miss Mona, the brothel madam whose place of work captures the attention of Melvin P. Thorpe, a reporter based on Houston’s own Marvin Zindler. “She’s a tough lady who worked herself up from the bottom, so to speak,” DeJean says. She says the musical’s catchy songs (including “Hard Candy Christmas,” sung most memorably in film and on recording by Dolly Parton) as well as the fact that “it’s a bit of Texas history” combine to generate its enduring appeal.
Houstonian DeJean is a veteran of Miller Outdoor Theatre, both as an audience member growing up and onstage. The actual performances are fine thanks to the air-conditioning onstage, she says. “But the rehearsals can be brutal.” Still, she’s glad to be part of the show. The new mother of a five-month-old boy, DeJean says she appreciates that people who might otherwise not get to see a show like this can, thanks to the free performances at Miller. And this particular musical has helped put Texas on the map, she says. “People in New York City talk about La Grange,” she says, laughing.