“The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” a bawdy low-brow, but clever five-years young off-Broadway musical, opens Thursday, Oct. 6, at M&D Productions’ Your Theatre in North Conway and will be playing Thursday through Saturday for the next three weeks.
As one would expect with a name like “The Great American Trailer Musical,” the show trades in broad white trash and red neck stereotypes. It is an easy target to be sure, but the book by Betsy Kelso with music and lyrics by David Nehls is populated with a high quota of genuinely funny fast-paced one-liners.
In terms of structure, this is deeply rooted in old traditions. A trio of women (Brenda Bailey, Jennifer Sias and Amy Nicole Smullen) form a Greek chorus of sorts that provides back up vocals for nearly all the songs and provides a humorous running commentary of the events as they are unfolding.
As strange as this may sound, the plot is not dissimilar to that of Shakespeare’s comedies. A twist in the end will be predicted quite easily by frequent theater goers, but the show doesn't take itself serious and doesn't expect this plot development to surprise anyone.
Set at Armadillo Acres in Starke, Fla., the musical centers on Jeannie (Elaine Kondrat) and Norbert (Gary Wilkinson). Jeannie hasn't left the trailer in 20 years following the kidnapping of her baby boy. Norbert is frustrated, so when Pippi (Natasha Repass), a stripper on the run, comes into town, a love affair begins. Things become further complicated when Pippi's marker-sniffing, gun-totting ex-boyfriend Duke (Eric Jordan) comes looking for her.
Musically the show is a relative to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Little Shop of Horrors.” As with both those shows, “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” is vibing off of 1950s and early 1960s rock.
The show is populated with a fair amount of ballads. A ballad when poorly written can bring a show to a halt, but here lyrics like “I gotta make like a nail/ And press on” are just irreverent enough to keep things fresh and unexpected. Another number called “Flushed Down the Pipes” comes complete with choreography featuring toilet brushes also deconstructs the usual heavy-handedness of most musical ballads.
There are also big numbers like “The Great American TV Show,” which has Bailey taking on the role of a Jerry Springer-esque talk show host trying to sort through the sordid plot developments.
The cast is clearly having fun with this coarse, loose material. Bailey, as the landlord of the trailer park, has an appropriately big personality and a set of pipes to match it. Smullen as the dimwitted Pickles has some of the play's choicest quips and delivers them with perfect timing. Sias fills out the girl-group Greek chorus well and the trio has good chemistry.
Repass could have a harder edge, but is sufficiently trashy as Pippi. She is such a warm, upbeat performer that she makes Pippi likable despite taking on the role of a mistress. We even feel bad for her during third-act developments.
It is Jordan though who steals the show. He doesn't appear until late in the show, but his high-energy performance revitalizes the production just as it was beginning to spin its wheels. More than anyone else in this cast, he seems to understand you have to sell this material big. Subtlety is not necessary. His song “Roadkill” is a comic highlight.
At around 90 minutes, this is quick, light and fun show. It is junk food theater, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes a meal of Doritos and Diet Dr. Pepper is more satisfying than a filet mignon.
For more information and tickets call 662-7591.