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Michael Tapley Plays Melvin P. Thorpe A.K.A. Marvin Zindler in TheBest Little Whorehouse in Texas

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Michael Tapley has played Melvin P. Thorpe -- based on the late Marvin Zindler -- before, but somehow, his character didn't have as much resonance in Portland, Maine, as it does in Houston, Texas.

That's why he's really looking forward to playing the part of the pesky newsman who uncovers the brothel operating in La Grange, Texas, in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, coming to the Hobby Center this week in a Theatre Under the Stars production.

He knows that people here still remember Zindler, who took a brief tour of duty in the sheriff's office before going on to appear on KTRK's news program every weekday night investigating all manner of things. And his signature phrase: "Slime in the ice machine."

But there are some differences between reality and the show, Tapley said.

"Marvin Zindler did some fantastic things and Melvin P. Thorpe is much more of a goof."

Tapley started at TUTS when he was ten years old, performing onstage and joining its Humphreys School of Musical Theatre. He eventually went to New York City and was a cover for the lead role in The Who's Tommy on Broadway and on national tour. From there he went on five national tours as well as regional theater performances in a variety of shows. He decided to return to Houston, where he teaches, directs and acts at TUTS. "I decided to come back to Houston, where I could have a home instead of a closet to live in." He'll direct their upcoming production of Legally Blonde.

Although he sang a lot in the rock opera and in other shows he's done since then, Tapley has only one song in this one. "I sing 'Texas has a Whorehouse in It, Lord Have Mercy on our souls,'" he said, laughing. "I'm mostly annoying the sheriff and the governor to shut down Miss Mona."

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is in previews June 6, opens June 5 and runs through June 17 at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-558-8887 or visit the theater's Web site.

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