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'The Great American Trailer Park Musical' is a smash in New Milford

By David Begelman, News-Times


Maybe it's a no-brainer that the productions at New Milford's TheatreWorks seem to be getting better all the time. But its current offering, the Betsy Kelso and David Nehls two-act show, "The Great American Trailer Park Musical" goes the extra mile. Its production staff and cast, led by director Glenn R. Couture, are even more impressive than the vehicle they are in.

It's a surprising reversal of the usual expectations, since critical reception of a show routinely gauges whether a production measures up to the demands of a script.

The script in this case offers some pretty thin stuff: a parade of cartoon characters whose lives are so peppered with painfully trite foibles, the musical seems to be concoction of authors enamored of soap opera, or who have it in for rednecks -- if not a manufactured version of them.

The New Milford production of the show, on the other hand, is a high energy array of performing talent led by Elyse Jasensky, who, in the role of Betty, spearheads a cast of vocal accomplishment that is truly impressive. She is followed by Beth Harvison (Lin), Deanna Chorman (Pippi), and Tracy Hurd (Jeannie), all of them with sets of pipes that would grace any professional stage.

The musical begins with a trio of characters, Betty, Lin, and Donna (Abby Nissenbaum) sitting in folding chairs, languidly delivering the number, "This Side of the Tracks," their paean to life in Armadillo Acres, a trailer park in Florida.

The three may be decked out in tattoos, and addicted to beer swilling and expletives, but make no mistake about it -- they are the redneck version of a Greek chorus commenting on the ongoing action. This turns out to be a triangulated love affair between Norbert (Michael Wright), the new object of his affection, a bump and grind stripper, Pippi, and his estranged agoraphobic wife, Jeannie.

Norbert becomes conflicted about his marital double-dealing -- proving that even trailer trash sensibility is not above a timely infusion of middle class morality. Even the chorus of The Girls, a sleazy trio celebrating the virtues of promiscuity, have it in for Norbert because of his philandering. It's a clear case of double dealing sparking a case of double standards.

Duke (Justin Boudreau) is a like-minded player. He is a gun-toting, glue-sniffing, tattooed firebrand out for payback when he learns his girlfriend Pippi has been cavorting with another man. In a surprise ending, Duke is exposed as considerably less than the macho menace he appears to be.

The TheatreWorks production is distinguished by the high caliber performances of every member of its cast, a set design that's easily among the most memorable in its theater's history, Regina Sweeney's terrific choreography (especially in group numbers), and Dan Ringuette's stellar musical direction, backed up his four-piece band.

Lighting design by Richard Pettibone and Scott Wyshynski was up to its usual professional standards. Contributions to sound design by Tom Libonate and ten backstage builders enhanced an already rousing production. See it!

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