A Truly Great ‘Trailer Park’ at TheatreWorks New Milford
TheatreWorks New Milford generally does a great job with their summer musical, whether it be a traditional classic like Cabaret or Kiss Me Kate, or an edgy off-Broadway adventure like Urinetown. This year’s effort falls clearly in the latter camp. Set in the steamy and seamy territory of North Florida, the 2004 David Nehls-Betsy Kelso Great American Trailer Park Musical transports us to the world of Armadillo Acres, north Florida’s most exclusive manufactured housing community (as well as some of the more seamy spots in Starke Florida. . .).
Country-rock-blues music combines with hilarious—but-never mean-spirited – satire in a polished production that features powerful voices, delicious acting and a lovingly detailed movable set that alternates between the shabby exteriors of a pair of double-wides, and the interiors of both a trailer home and a strip club dressing room.
The plot narrative is provided by a trio of Armadillo Acres denizens: Betty (played by Elyse Jasensky) is the park manager and a kind of mother-figure to the younger residents; Lin, short for Linoleum, is a long legged, big haired sexy tough gal, whose husband is on Death Row in the Florida State Penitentiary Played by Beth Harvison, Lin supports his cause by making sure all the lights are always turned on, so that there won’t be enough electricity for Old Sparky to function. And Pickles (Abby Nissenbaum), is a hysterically pregnant high school girl who claims that she is carrying the child of a gay New York chorus dancer... or maybe she is just gaining weight.
The tale begins with an old high school love story between football hero Norbert (Michael Wright) and Jeannie (Tracy Hurd) the prettiest and smartest girl in his math class. A tutoring session, a romantic interlude, and a shotgun marriage lead the happy couple and their bouncing baby boy to the trailer park. When the infant is kidnapped while Jeannie is having her hair styled, Jeannie succumbs to agoraphobia and refuses to leave the trailer: It is now twenty years later: Norbert, who works as a toll collector, is still trying to coax Jeannie outside, waving tickets to the Ice Capades as a way to celebrate their twentieth anniversary.
Into this mix steps Pippi (Deanna Chorman) an exotic dancer on the run from a crazy boyfriend Duke, back in Oklahoma City When Norbert stumbles into her dressing room, looking for his brother, who had invited him to the strip club “for a beer;” sparks fly between them, as Pippi offers her new neighbor a ride home. It is clear that one thing is going to lead to another despite Norbert’s genuine love for Jeannie; he is ready for some excitement in his life.
Meanwhile Duke (Justin Bourdreau), a dedicated solvent sniffer, complete with Harley and Smith and Wesson, is determined to track his woman down and exact revenge.
Of course all this is just a frame on which to hang some rollicking musical numbers and comic bits. One of my favorites comes near the beginning when the girls put on overalls and mullet wigs and morph into the guys in Pippi’s audience, stuffing money into her costume in a number entitled “The Buck Stops Here." And then there’s “The Great American TV Show" in which Norbert and Pippi are encouraged by a beaming psychologist guru to confess to adultery in front of enthusiastic audience members.
Altogether there are a dozen of these pieces, every one of them mixing genuine musical richness with comic sight gags and one-liners, from the beginning “This Side of the Tracks,” in which the girls (and two more Parkettes — Robin Maitland and Ryan Reynolds) introduce the audience to a world they probably are unfamiliar with, to "Road Kill," in which Duke on his bike (actually a Razor scooter) dispatches a variety of bunnies, deer and other critters who get in his way to “But He’s Mine/It’s Never Easy" in which Jeannie and Pippi both declare their love for Norbert, who is caught in the middle.
This show is so entertaining, and so well done, without a single misstep that I would happily go back to see it every weekend, although it will probably be sold out. Glen Couture, who both directed it and designed the sets, has done a monster job. Credit too should go to musical director, Dan Ringuette, choreographer Regina Sweeney and costume designer Renee Purdy and also the EnV Hair Lounge which provided the hair and wig design.
There is one caveat, though. With lots of cleavage, ample use of the F word, and a casual attitude toward morality this is not a show for young children. Indeed if you do bring them, don’t let their parents know you did. But what I find delightfully ironic is that three of the women are local school teachers. If their students ever get to see them in this avatar, math class will never be the same!