Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The Great American Trailer Park Musical
Also see Gil's recent reviews of Hands on a Hardbody and Bye Bye Birdie
The show takes place in rural Florida's fictional Armadillo Acres trailer park and centers around its residents, including agoraphobic housewife Jeannie and her toll collector husband, Norbert, who are about to celebrate their twentieth wedding anniversary. Jeannie hasn't left their trailer in years, after the shock of having their child kidnapped when he was just a baby. Norbert has bought her tickets to see the Ice Capades for their anniversary, hoping it will spur Jeannie to come out of the trailer, but she hasn't managed to get past the trailer's front steps. When Norbert ends up having an affair with the newly arrived resident Pippi, an exotic dancer who is hiding out from her violent ex-boyfriend Duke, it sets in motion a series of comical adventures that also include the trailer park's trio of nosey neighbors, Lin, Betty, and Pickles, who also serve as a Greek chorus of sorts and the narrators of the story.
David Nehls' score features some fun lyrics and a nice mix of comical numbers and ballads, but the songs are mostly forgettable. Betsy Kelso's book is fast paced and fun, with some poignant moments as well as a nice dollop of risqué humor and adult language and situations. The score and book poke fun at trailer park residents, but the show is actually quite sweet with charming characters and situations. However, while I laughed out loud several times, the plot is fairly predictable.
Director Peter J. Hill does a great job of keeping the pace brisk, the laughter high, and the cast's performances fairly in check to not cross too far into broad caricatures. He also includes a lot of visual gags to add even more humor to the already funny book. Lacey Dixon and Adam Gobeski are charming and sympathetic as Jeannie and Norbert, with warm singing voices that shine, especially on their duet "Owner of My Heart." Kori Stearns is great as Pippi, the stripper who has been around the block but is trying to find a better life for herself. Her strong singing voice shines on her songs. Rudy Bogojevich is hilarious as the Sharpie-sniffing, gun-touting Duke; his very funny "Road Kill" is a highlight. Elizabeth Bridgewater, Hillary Low, and Janine Smith play the Greek chorus of Pickles, Lin, and Betty with each getting many moments to show off their comic chops and bright singing voices.
Hill's set design delivers realistic exterior portions of two trailer park homes as well as a clever way to depict the interior of Norbert and Jeannie's trailer by using a pull-out portion of the set for the scenes that take place inside their home. Gracie Schitkovitz's choreography is fun, including a hilarious way to incorporate Jeannie dancing inside her trailer home in the opening number that got big laughs from the audience at the performance I attended. Jay Melberg's music direction provides clear vocals and a fairly good accompaniment from the small off-stage band. The costumes by Mickey Courtney are a range of character-specific clothes and comical, over-the-top designs, especially for the "Storm's A-Brewin'" act one finale.
The Great American Trailer Park Musical may be loud and lewd, but it's also got a giant heart. It is satire done right as it pokes fun at the stereotypical characters without hurting them. With upbeat direction and a cast who know how to make their jokes land, Fountain Hills' production delivers a lot of laughs and a lot of charm.
The Great American Trailer Park Musical runs through June 4, 2023, at Fountain Hills Theater, 11445 N. Saguaro Blvd., Fountain Hills AZ. For tickets and information, please visit www.fhtaz.org or call 480-837-9661.
Director/ Set / Lighting Design: Peter J. Hill
Cast (in alphabetical order):