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“The Great American Trailer Park Musical”

Craig Miller, Julianne Lorenzen

 “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” at 6th Street Playhouse, Santa Rosa CA

Reviewed by Suzanne and Greg Angeo

Photos by Eric Chazankin

Come for the Fun, Stay for the Shoes – “Trailer Park” an Irresistible, Raunchy Good Time

It’s safe to say that 6th Street Playhouse has never featured pole dancers, dead skunks, agoraphobia, false pregnancies, and guys sniffing magic markers all on the same stage before. Well, there’s a first time for everything, and this first – a risky little gem – really pays off big-time. “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” at 6th Street is one rockabilly-rowdy, awesome show.

“Trailer Park” premiered off-Broadway in September 2005, and has seen sold-out shows in regional performances all over the country ever since. Music and lyrics are by David Nehls, and the book is by Los Angeles comedy writer Betsy Kelso, known for her irreverent spoofs and somewhat risqué humor.

(From Left) Shannon Rider, Julianne Lorenzen, Daniela Beem, Alise Gerard

Once settled in our seats at 6th Street’s Studio Theatre, we find ourselves in a north Florida trailer park called Armadillo Acres, where the outdoor thermometer is stuck at 118 degrees. Their motto is “We accept almost everybody” , and they aren’t kidding.  The park’s little travel-type trailers (minus the wheels) are just like the residents: really very cute, but slightly smudged and dilapidated, bravely scraping the bottom of the barrel of life. Park manager Betty, and her cohorts Lin and Pickles, worry about their neighbor Jeannie, who hasn’t left her trailer in 20 years. And now it seems like Jeannie’s husband Norbert has taken to canoodling with the new gal in town, a stripper named Pippi.  When Pippi’s slightly crazed roadkill-obsessed boyfriend Duke shows up with an impressive supply of magic markers, you don’t need much imagination to guess what happens next. This is part of this show’s lowbrow charm.  

“Trailer Park” is filled to the brim with non-stop laughs and relentless, high energy music, very much in the spirit of “The Rocky Horror Show”. The characters could have stepped right out of a comic book. Sure, they’re crude and vulgar, and maybe they play on broad stereotypes, but they’re so likeable you can’t help but fall in love at first sight. And the ladies wear the most fabulous collection of footwear seen in recent memory: sky-high glittery golden heels, thigh-high lace-up boots, acrobatic wedgies and scary-sharp stilettos. The shoes are nearly matched in tawdriness by the cheap-chic clothes and over-the-top hairstyles (all tributes to the talents of costume and wig designers Tracy Sigrist and Michael Greene). But these are mere accessories. What really makes this show is the stunning performers. 

(From Left) Taylor Bartolucci DeGuillio, Daniela Beem, Craig Miller

Each and every cast member is superb, a goldmine of North Bay talent. Betty, played by the truly amazing Daniela Beem, captures your heart with her spectacular voice, tacky wardrobe and unfailing concern for her neighbors. Also excellent is noted area vocalist Shannon Rider. She plays Lin (short for Linoleum!), the park’s resident bad girl whose bad boy hubby is on death row. She prowls the stage, alternately squatting and strutting, seething with resolve. Alise Girard (also the show’s choreographer) plays the charmingly goofy teenager Pickles. After using a pillow to fake her pregnancy, she produces a big surprise for everybody at the end of the show (Natalie Herman also plays Pickles for three shows, but we did not catch her performance).  Each of these ladies delivers exceptional individual vocals, but it’s their three-part harmonies that really get the joint a-jumpin’.

Julianne Lorenzen is at the top of her game as the neurotic Jeannie, who can’t make herself leave her dingy trailer ever since the day her baby was kidnapped long ago. Her character is less one-dimensional than the others, one you can identify with. She’s sympathetic and real, and serves as the pivot point around which the other characters move. In such a demanding role, she not only needs to be funny; she needs to be dramatically strong and believable, and she is, with her wild hair and wilder eyes. And on top of all this, she has a beautiful singing voice. Her buffoon of a husband Norbert is played to clownish perfection by 6th Street Artistic Director Craig Miller.

Mark Bradbury

 

Jeannie’s nemesis is Pippi, the sleazy but fiercely proud pole-dancer who moves into the trailer next to theirs. Taylor Bartolucci DeGuillio is outstanding not just in her vocals, but in her ability to make her character smolder with passion and heart. It’s not long before Pippi’s loony boyfriend Duke comes a-lookin’ for his woman. Mark Bradbury’s entrance nearly steals the show, which is really saying something. His nimble craziness as Duke, and in a couple of smaller non-speaking roles, provides the veritable icing on the cake.

The four-piece band, directed by Lucas Sherman, is cleverly tucked away upstage, on the rooftop of one of the trailers. Each musical number seems better than the last, but especially memorable are: “Flushed Down the Pipes” featuring the ladies twirling plungers; the pulse-pounding disco beat of “Storms A-Brewin”; and the rousing finale, featuring a breathtaking solo by DeGuillio. The ingeniously compact set, including those cute little travel-type trailers, is the creation of set design wizard Paul Gilger.

Director Barry Martin delivers a home-run hit with “Trailer Park”. He told us he didn’t want to give the audience a chance even to catch their breath, and he doesn’t. There are no pauses between scenes (except for intermission) and the pacing is fast and furious. With his full use of the Studio Theatre’s simple, open thrust stage – meaning there are views from three sides – Martin allows ample opportunity for the cast to mingle with the audience. You really feel a part of the story, and the fun.

“Trailer Park” is what musical theatre is all about – pure escapism. You think you got troubles? Nothing compares with the back-breakin’, heart-achin’ comic strivings of these zany folks. It’s been reported that shows are selling out in advance, so it’s advised that you call ahead for tickets. But be forewarned – the characters are colorful, and so is the language. You may want to leave the kiddies at home.

When: Now through September 30, 2012

8:00 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays

2:00 p.m. Sundays

2:00 p.m. Saturday, September 29

Tickets: $15 to $25 (general seating)

Location: Studio Theatre at 6th Street Playhouse

52 West 6th Street, Santa Rosa CA
Phone: 707-523-4185

Website: www.6thstreetplayhouse.com

 
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