by Dick Kerekes
Currently on the stage of the studio theater at Players by the Sea in Jacksonville Beach, you will have the opportunity to see the tacky Armadillo acres Trailer Park, the setting for the David Nehls/Betsy Kelso‘s, The Great American Trailer Park Musical. The opportunity is yours if you call 249-0289 immediately after reading this review. Tickets in the 75 seat studio theater are going fast and I would recommend you consider a Thursday night performance or the only matinee on May lst.
The story is about an array of unforgettable characters during a month at the trailer park located in Starke, Florida. Jeannie suffers from agoraphobia and has not left her trailer since l983 when her baby son was stolen. She struggles to take her first step out of her home so she can celebrate her 30th wedding anniversary with Norbert, who is employed as a toll collector and now involved with the pelvis pumping Pippi, a stripper on the run from her psychotic boy friend Duke, who stays high by sniffing magic markers and cooking spray.
The story is told a by Greek chorus of three terrific gals who can sing up a storm and of course, are residents of this here park. Betty (Marli Albright) the park manager, Pickles (Lindsay Curry) who suffers from hysterical pregnancies and Lin (short for Linoleum since she was born on the kitchen floor) played by Leslie Richart.
The titles of a few of the songs will give you an idea of what to expect. “The Buck Stops Here”, “This Side of the Tracks”, “Storms A Brewin”, “Flush Down the Pipes” and “Road Kill”. The songs will never make the hit parade but they are catchy and certainly challenging to all the performers. I can guarantee you won’t recall hearing seven finer voices on the stage at the same time. Not only can every one really belt out a song, but they have all perfected the fine art of comedy and the opening night audience laughed their socks off.
I could go into detail on the various odd ball situations that occur, but I am lost for words to describe them adequately and you really have to see it.
The set by Joseph Schwarz consists of the living room interior of Jeannie & Norbert’s mobile home, then a small Airstream trailer and next to it and part of a double wide that is also Betty’ office. It is a visual treat and it is amazing they could get all that into such a small theater. The only thing missing was some plastic pink flamingos.
This show is particularly notable for the return to the stage of Shirley Sacks as Jeannie and Marli Albright as Betty. This is the first musical for both in several years. I had forgotten Ms. Sacks could sing so well, she has been so busy dazzling Jacksonville audiences with her amazing Directing talents. Ms. Albright, who played the lead in such musicals as Hello Dolly and Gypsy at Theatre Jacksonville some years ago, had been flying the friendly skies as an airline attendant for several years but says she has grounded herself and we should be seeing more of this talented lady.
Erik DeCicco as Norbert is certainly establishing himself as leading man material for musicals. He just finished doing the lead in The Full Monty at Players, and will be back again the next show Dividing the Estate in a non singing role.
Leslie Richart as Linoleum is multi talented. Musicals or drama, she can do it all, but this unique role emphasizes her great comedic talents.
Miranda Lawson as Pippi the stripper, prepared for her role by visiting the few trailer parks in this city and taking pole dance training from Ann Dixon at VIP Woman’s Dance, a local firm that specializes in pole fitness. By golly Miranda has the best singing voice of any stripper East or West of the Mississippi. Ms. Lawson is leaving this summer to perform in musical theatre in Fairfield Iowa. She obviously has a fan club there, as this is her second trip.
Playing Pickles is Lindsay Curry. This is her debut at Players, but I am proud to say I discovered her wonderful talents in shows at Orange Park Community Theatre in such shows as Brigadoon, Oliver and Godspell. Anyone planning to do Hairspray? She would be great as Edna’s daughter because she can really belt out a song.
I know if have written this before but it is worth saying again. If you are in need of an actor that can really do a wild and crazy character, you can’t get anyone better than Gary Baker. He has done it time and time again. Gary is hilarious as the psychotic Duke. Gary is heading for Iowa as well this summer to intern at a summer theatre.
Dana Branch Vinci cast and directed all this fine talent, in her debut as a Director. The amazing Aaron Marshall is Musical Director and on the key board. You can see her in action perched on top the double wide trailer with her band consisting of Dan Hunting (guitar), Steve Picataggio (drums), and Sean Tillis (electric bass). I think this is Brook Annie Hayes debut as Costume Designer, but she has done so many tacky roles herself she certainly is experienced. The costumes are outstanding.
The rest of production team includes Jim Wiggins as Technical Director; Lana Mullins is Stage Manager, with Claire Cimino as the Properties Master.
This show is a crowd pleaser, especially if you are not searching for the meaning of life but just want to enjoy some homespun redneck humor. The language is very earthy at times and there are lots of sexual references but if that does not bother you are in for a night of fun, fun, fun.
The Great American Trailer Park Musical debuted in 2005 and has been very popular all over the United States. Its Southern debut was at Gainesville’s Hippodrome in 2006 where it set attendance records. Starke is just up the road and I think every resident of that small town saw it twice. Catch it if you can, it is the hottest ticket in town right now.