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Southern Florida by John Lariviere


The Great American Trailer Park Musical

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The Great American Trailer Park Musical
Back: Stacy Schwartz, Margot Moreland, Stephen G. Anthony, and Kelly Atkins. Middle: Meghan Moroney and Gwen Hollander Front: Christopher A. Kent
Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre, with support from Funding Arts Network, presents The Great American Trailer Park Musical. The musical features a book by Betsy Kelso, and music and lyrics by David Nehls, whose other works include It's A Wonderful Life, The Watercoolers, and Fishwrap. The show was originally performed in 2004 at the first annual New York Music Theater Festival, and opened Off-Broadway at Dodger Stages on September 27, 2005.

The Great American Trailer Park Musical takes place in Starke, Florida in the Armadillo Acres Trailer Park—touted as the most exclusive in all of Northern Florida. A trio of women, Betty, Lin and Pickles, comprise a narrative Greek chorus. Betty is the "bad ass" widowed owner of the trailer park. Her late husband (dead from a whack on the head from a frying pan) is dead but not gone, as she and her best friend Lin buried him right in Betty's backyard. Lin's real name is Linoleum "because her mother had her right on the kitchen floor." Lin's husband has been on Florida's death row for eight years awaiting execution. Fortunately, Florida's electric chair, nick-named Old Smokey, only works when most of the town's electricity is turned off. Lin does her best to be sure her husband stays alive by using as much electricity as she can. After all, as she cites, "Cruel and unusual punishment of a man is not the job of the government—it's the job of his wife!" Pickles, the youngest of the three women, is perpetually in a state of fake pregnancy, despite the frequent absence of her husband.

Jeannie Garstecki has lived at Armadillo Acres for twenty years with her husband Norbert. She and Norbert married at seventeen and had a son shortly after. When their son was kidnapped at the age of five Jeannie became an agoraphobic, and hasn't left her trailer since. With an anniversary close at hand, and tickets to the Ice Capades as incentive, she is determined to leave the trailer not just for herself but to save her marriage. Norbert loves his wife, but is weary of her isolation and the constraints it has put on them both. It is not surprising that his head is turned when a sexy stripper named Pippi moves into Armadillo Acres. Pippi is on the run from a bad relationship with a magic marker sniffing, redneck ex-boyfriend named Duke—who finds out where she is and travels cross country with gun in hand to get her back. In the midst of all this, it's hurricane season in Florida, and the electricity has gone out in the trailer park. Our trailer park residents scatter to a nearby motel for refuge just in time to sort out the mess they've created, and even discover a happy ending of sorts.

From strings of flamingo lights to bottled, bleached blonde hair, this show embraces every cliche of the tackiest of trailer parks and the the residents who stereotypically inhabit them. Could there be any doubt when the show's dream sequences are a "Jerry Springer Show" face-off, and a bad disco number? But the writing is terribly clever and honestly funny. As for the singing—far too many modern musicals feature belting for no good reason other than it is a gimmick. This is partially due to the popularity of "American Idol" and/or the inexperience of the composers and singers. Whatever the reason may be, it should fit the character, the show and the moment. This show is one in which the belting makes complete sense as one could not picture the characters singing any other way. The production at Actors' Playhouse has singers who can deliver the goods without just screaming unmusically.

Meghan Colleen Moroney is big and brassy as Betty. Her clear belt leads the trio of trailer park cronies. Stacy Schwartz obviously has a great time playing the smart-mouthed, white trash Linoleum. Gwen Hollander is a bit prissy in the role of Pickles; she needs to make her choices bigger and her character clearer to rise to the level of the other two women. She is actually better in her smaller, secondary role of Tina. The three women provide solid harmonies and good vocal and acting balance throughout the show, especially in songs such as "The Other Side Of The Tracks" and "That's Why I Love My Man."

At first glance, Margot Mooreland seems miscast as Jeannie. She is so known for her huge voice and commanding presence, one expects her to be Betty, not the more fragile Jeannie. Director David Arisco has wisely given Mooreland the chance to show her acting range, as well as her singing range, in a role that is more demanding and shows more growth and depth than any other in the show. Mooreland's performance shows both great sensitivity and strength. Christopher A. Kent has the right edge to his performance as Duke, and does some fine singing at the end of the song "Road Kill." The hottest property in this trailer park is Kelly Atkins as Pippi. She has strong acting moments throughout the show, and makes her character real and raw rather than cheap and heartless. The hands down showstopper of the evening is Atkins' pole dancing number, "The Buck Stops Here." Scantily clad and looking gorgeous, hanging upside down with legs wrapped around a stripper pole yet still with every note perfectly in place, she is one hard act to follow.

This production of The Great American Trailer Park Musical is great, irreverent fun featuring rollicking music and good singing.

The Great American Trailer Park Musical appeared through February 7, 2010 at the Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables. Actors' Playhouse is a Florida Presenting Cultural Organization and a nonprofit professional regional theatre hiring local and non-local Equity and non-Equity actors. In addition to its Mainstage season, Actors' Playhouse produces a year-round five-show season of Musical Theatre for Young Audiences, a National Children's Theatre Festival, and a Theatre Conservatory and Summer Camp Program. Actors' Playhouse is located at 280 Miracle Mile in Coral Gables, Florida. Information and tickets may be obtained by contacting the theater at their box office at (305) 444-9293, or online at www.actorsplayhouse.org.

The Great American Trailer Park Musical appeared through February 7, 2010 at the Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables. Actors' Playhouse is a Florida Presenting Cultural Organization and a nonprofit professional regional theatre hiring local and non-local Equity and non-Equity actors. In addition to its Mainstage season, Actors' Playhouse produces a year-round five-show season of Musical Theatre for Young Audiences, a National Children's Theatre Festival, and a Theatre Conservatory and Summer Camp Program. Actors' Playhouse is located at 280 Miracle Mile in Coral Gables, Florida. Information and tickets may be obtained by contacting the theater at their box office at (305) 444-9293, or online at www.actorsplayhouse.org.

Cast:
Jeannie Garstecki: Margot Moreland*
Norbert Garstecki: Stephen G. Anthony*
Pippi: Kelly Atkins*
Duke: Christopher A. Kent*
Betty: Meghan Colleen Moroney*
Linoleum "Lin": Stacy Schwartz*
Donna "Pickles"/Tina: Gwen Hollander*

Crew:
Director: David Arisco
Musical Director: Eric Alsford
Choreography: Chrissi Ardito
Scenic Design: Sean McClelland
Lighting Design: Patrick Tennent
Sound Design: Alexander Herrin
Costume Design: Ellis Tillman
Stage Manager: Carl Waisanen*

*Designates a member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.


Photo: Alberto Romeu


See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere



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