A lot of people are currently going through tough times, and the folks living at the Armadillo Acres trailer park are no exception. Beyond their limited economic horizons, they also have to deal with baby-snatching, straying husbands, magic-marker-sniffing psycho boyfriends, and power outages, just to name a few problems. Somehow, however, they manage to prevail and “like a nail, press on.”
This ain’t Eugene O’Neil, and the only catharsis you’re likely to undergo will involve tears of laughter rather than sorrow. But The Great American Trailer Park Musical, with a script by Betsy Kelso and a score by David Nehls, is a really great way to spend a couple hours if you’re looking to forget whatever is troubling you.
The plot revolves around a runaway stripper’s impact on a marriage made shakier by agoraphobia and a missing toddler. When Norbert the toll collector and Pippi the stripper meet, it is love at first sight, or at least something approximating love. Jeannie, Norbert’s wife, is galvanized into overcoming her phobia when she can’t bring herself to attend the Ice Capades with Norbert, but it is just possible that when she brings herself to finally leave the trailer, she may see some things she doesn’t want to. Meanwhile, Pippi’s ex-boyfriend is on the road from Oklahoma running over every animal that crosses his path, a journey celebrated in the song “Road Kill.”
All of this action is presided over by a trio of trailer park ladies who act as a Greek chorus to drama, helping the plot along as the situation demands. Kathy Harden, Emily Richardson, and Natalie Ellis are all superb in these roles, singing, dancing, and delivering hilarious dialogue in turn. You may wonder why a modern musical is using a 2,500-year-old theatrical technique that is generally employed in tragedies, and to that I have no answer. All I can say is that it works great — the plot whooshes off like a big-haired rocket and doesn’t stop till the finale.
Alysia Rae as Pippi makes an eye-opening entrance with her pole dance and backs it up with her singing and acting. Martha A. Mills did a great job as the soulful Jeannie, coaxing sympathy out of a character that has doormat tendencies. Michael Steen struts and frets psychotically and delightfully injects extra energy into whatever scene he enters. Special mention should be made of Matthew Fear as Norbert. Apparently, Mr. Fear, who appeared in a production of Closer last month, is able to demand, and get, a scene with a stripper in every production he is in. Not even George Clooney has that kind of clout. In any case, he was excellent as Norbert and helped balance out the frothy femininity in other aspects of the show.
The direction, by Jodi L. Prosser, and choreography were excellent. It’s hard to get a cast to move so well in a small space like the Station’s without them looking like marionettes when they dance. But the dancing and movement in general were great.
Nick Stefanic and David Butler provided a full musical sound without overwhelming the space. The sets and costumes were also tastefully done. In fact, everyone associated with the production deserves a round of applause for their efforts. This is one trailer park you may be sad to leave.
The Great American Trailer Park Musical runs Wednesday through Sunday throughout April at The Station Theatre.