"Trailer Park Musical" Is a Hootenanny Hit
TheatreWorks New Milford patrons knew they were in for a treat last Friday night when a large gaggle of bright pink plastic flamingos roosted in the gardens surrounding the entrance, just in time for opening night of this season’s musical, “The Great American Trailer Park Musical.”
Directed by TheatreWorks president Glenn Couture, with music and lyrics by David Nehls and book by Betsy Kelso, “Trailer Park” may not be what theater sophisticates seek, but this musical comedy has enough heart and rowdy, silly, laugh-out-loud fun to keep audiences hitched to their seats, waiting for more.
Sure, its premise is flimsy; its twists and turns a tad predictable and of the soap opera variety, but where else can you enjoy an ample dose of ’80s nostalgia, spray cheese, and road kill? Why, in Armadillo Acres, of course. And with a stellar cast, impeccable timing and a brilliant country-rock and blues score, Mr. Couture and assistant director Robin Frome have one hootenanny of a hit on their hands.
“The Great American Trailer Park Musical” is set in the fictional town of Starke, Fla., visiting some of its more sordid spots, but primarily centers its action at the Armadillo Acres trailer park, “North Florida’s most exclusive manufactured housing community,” its residents will tell you. The story revolves around high school sweethearts Norbert (Michael Wright), an ordinary tollbooth worker, and his agoraphobic wife, Jeannie (Tracy Hurd), who hasn’t left their home since the couple’s newborn was kidnapped 20 years earlier. Their marriage is further threatened by Armadillo Acres’ newest resident, hot exotic dancer Pippi (Deanna Chorman), the new tramp in town.
The plot thickens, and the love triangle skews, when Duke (Justin Boudreau), Pippi’s mentally unstable boyfriend, whose drug of choice happens to be the intoxicating aroma of Magic Markers, comes looking for her. To say his presence on stage is intense would be an understatement—but hysterically so.
Keeping the audience abreast of the happenings in Armadillo Acres are the resident gossips, Betty (Elyse Jasensky), Armadillo Acres’ manager, who does more than scramble eggs with her frying pan; Lin, short for Linoleum (Beth Harvison), who’s obsessed with keeping the lights on so the county can’t use its electric chair; and Pickles (Abigail Nissenbaum), a hysterically pregnant teen who’s married to a gay Broadway dancer we never see. But nothing gets them down. These gal pals vow to “make like a nail and press on.”
“Trailer Park” is far from mean spirited. This satire immediately and gleefully skewers trailer park stereotypes, allowing viewers a hilarious and outrageous slice of life in Starke. And, thanks to a brilliant cast, not a comedic beat is missed, despite the occasional sour note.
Ms. Hurd and Mr. Wright have wonderful chemistry as a couple losing touch, and have several opportunities to shine, both individually and together. Oddly enough, Mr. Wright shares a similar chemistry, albeit hotter and more physical, with Ms. Chorman as the sympathetic, adulterous, Pippi. Of particular note is the song, “But He’s Mine/It’s Never Easy,” when this love triangle truly commands the spotlight—particularly Ms. Hurd.
Offering most of the laughs are “The Girls,” portrayed by an insightfully funny Ms. Jasensky as the all-knowing Betty, a hilarious Ms. Nissenbaum as Pickles, the typical dumb blonde, and Ms. Harvison as the tough-as-nails but uproarious Lin. Whether they’re lounging in lawn chairs or dressed for the occasion in the daffy number, “Flushed Down the Pipes” (How many TV commercial references can you find?), this sassy trio effortlessly nails the comic timing. They also brilliantly portray extraneous characters, from employees and patrons of a strip club, to the cast of a Jerry Springer/Sally Jessy Raphael-esque talk show.
They are joined by the ever-energetic Roxy (Robyn Maitland) and Buck (Ryan Reynolds), who round out the ensemble and offer an extra dosage of camp. And who could forget Mr. Boudreau as Duke, whose joke-a-minute dialogue and impeccable timing keeps the laughs coming.
In addition to directing, Mr. Couture designed an extraordinary set. His Armadillo Acres is vibrantly decked out with surprisingly realistic mobile-home fronts, complete with Christmas lights galore and a sign that warns, “If the trailer is rockin’, don’t come knockin.’” But with a simple turn on wheels, one trailer transforms into the strip club at which Pippi works, while the other takes the audience inside Norbert and Jeannie’s humble abode.
Kudos also go to Renee Purdy’s costume design. The audience is immediately swept away to the ’80s, complete with hot pants, heels and big hair teased to perfection.
If you’re looking for an evening of highbrow theater, this ain’t it. “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” is an outrageously funny, tongue-in-cheek, rockabilly romp ripe for the TheatreWorks stage. Just leave the kiddies at home.