When Jennifer Hudson was announced as a performer in last night’s Actors’ Fund Best Little Whorehouse in Texas benefit concert, well, we were almost as excited as an Aggie boy after a big win over the Longhorns. And I know I wasn’t the only one at the August Wilson Theatre counting the days till Dreamgirls (66 to go!).
Broadway fans adore the Actors’ Fund concerts: They’re stacked with stage stars, fully choreographed and costumed, and nearly every number brings down the house (their 2001 Dreamgirls is legendary). And this wasn’t J.Hud’s first — she tore it up in 2004’s Hair (preserved on CD, fortunately). As for Whorehouse, it was, appropriately, as rowdy as Miss Mona’s on payday: Emily Skinner (a cult fave for her turn as a Siamese twin in 1997’s Side Show) played the proprietor of the “chicken ranch”; Terrence Mann, the original Inspector Javert in Les Miz, was foul-mouthed sheriff Ed Earl; and Hudson, as Jewel, turned in a sparkling rendition of “Twenty Four Hours of Lovin’,” a.k.a. “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Hanging Around Here With You Hos ’Cause I’m Meeting My Man.” Sure, Hudson (pictured backstage with three stars of Jersey Boys) wasn’t wearing anything remotely Texan (or hookerish), she couldn’t really remember her lines, and she had those deer-in-the-headlights eyes, but she brought down the house just by prancing across the stage with a shotgun. In fact, the only thing to get a bigger ovation? The towel-clad, beyond-buff dancing football players. (Idol castoff Constantine Maroulis, however, was completely clothed as a lackadaisical locker-room attendant.)
Other highlights: The intro from Texas gal Liz Smith (years ago, on NBC’s Live at 5, she had to call the show “The Best Little Who-house in Texas”); Denis’ Jones spank-and-shimmy choreography; Richard Kind as a sex-fiend senator; and, of course, the sensational score by Carol Hall (I’m still singing “Hard Candy Christmas”) and hilarious script (co-written by Peter Masterson, whose wife, Carlin Glynn, was the original Miss Mona).
And here’s a sign of just how dedicated actors are to the Actors’ Fund: Tony winner Christian Hoff (my personal favorite Jersey Boy) has a new baby girl, yet donned a cowboy hat for charity on his evening off. As Hoff — in character as his JB alter ego Tommy DeVito — said, “It was the nicest f—in’ whorehouse you ever saw.”