The Great American Trailer Park Musical is a Junkyard Joy of a Show
As sure as I had never heard the Off-Broadway cast recording, you are likely not to have heard of The Great American Trailer Park Musical , Book and Lyrics by Betsy Kelso and Music by David Nehl, receiving its first Seattle production by Stageright. Director Jay Irwin’s passion project for some years turns out to be a total, fleet-footed, fast-paced free-for all of a little campy musical. Irwin’s direction may be a career best, the songs are infectious (as in ear pleasing, not as in STD’s), and the cast is just dandy!
The musical had a short 121 performance off Broadway run, but also toured and has been done across the U.S. and in foreign countries to cheering There's a new tenant at Armadillo Acres--and she's wreaking havoc all over Florida's most exclusive trailer park. When Pippi, "the stripper on the run," comes between the Dr. Phil-loving, agoraphobic Jeannie and her tollbooth collector husband Norbert, the storms begin to brew -- and this storm ain't any old Florida hurricane. The story focuses on Norbert (Casey Raiha) and Jeannie (Margaret Lamb), high school sweethearts who have been married nearly 20 years. He's a toll taker, but she suffers from agoraphobia and hasn't stepped out of their home in years -- not since their infant son was kidnapped.
Complications set in with the arrival of Pippi (Cherisse Martinelli), an attractive stripper who's running away from a possessive boyfriend, Duke (Kyle James Traver). The inevitable happens: Norbert and Pippi have an affair, but of course Jeannie finds out and tosses him out. And of course the crazy Duke, sniffing Magic Markers as if they were amyl nitrate and and toting a gun, arrives in search of Pippi. Sharing and commenting on the action are a 3 female titanic trio of a Greek Chorus portrayed with vocal agility and the right blend of sympathy and sarcasm by vocal and comic whizzes Loretta Deranleau Howard, Tori Spero Dullenty, and Walker Caplan (a nifty new face). The twist at the end I did not see coming, and added to my joy in seeing the show.
Raiha shows that despite a rather boyish face, a middle-aged character role is also in his wheelhouse, and his rich voice is an asset as well. Lamb is the most sympathetic character, a nervous Nellie glued to her TV and you root for her and Norbert to reunite. Traver is a jolly loose cannon as Duke, a sort of blood brother to Little Shop of Horrors nitrous oxide nut dentist Orrin. Martinelli sings well and brings her sexpot character to a boil. Also very reminiscent of Little Shop of Horrors Urchins are the trio cooked to a turn by the magnetic and Merman-voiced Deranleau-Howard, slow-burn stunner Spero Dullenty, and the affable and quirky Caplan, though their various roles are bigger than the LSOH trio by far, and funnier.
Musical Director Josh Zimmerman gets high marks for a great sound from vocalists and musicians, led by pianist John Lehrack. Choreography by John R. Huddlestun is light and limber, and he also knows how to succeed in his sound design. John Ambos provides an ingenious unit set, and John Chenault makes much of a limited light board with his Sound Design.
With my new rating system I give it The Great American Trailer Park Musical GTG + (Good Thing Going) the equivalent of 3 and ½ stars!
The Great American Trailer Park Musical runs from Stageright runs through August 29, 2015 at The Hugo House, 1634 11th Avenue, Seattle. For more information, go to www.seattlestageright.org or http://thegreatamericantrailerparkmusical.brownpapertickets.com/.