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Jacksonville Beach’s Players by the Sea opened David Nehls andPost to Post Links II error: No post found with slug "Betsey Kelso"’s “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” on November 28, 2014. It will be on stage through December 13 at 106 6th Street North in Jacksonville Beach, Fl. For information or reservations, call 904-249-0289 or visit playersbythesea.org.

Players staged the original Trailer Park musical in 2011 in their smaller theatre and it was a smash hit and was totally sold out. For the sequel, the larger main stage is used and ticket demand is once again high so act quickly and make reservations if you want to see this wacky alternative to the usual holiday fare.

Three characters, Betty, the manager, Lin, and Pickles, are back from the original show, but are played by new actors. They are joined by Darlene, Rufus, and Jackie at the tacky Armadillo Acres Trailer Park in Starke, Florida. There are three reasons for wanting to see this show: The actors are outstanding, the set is fabulous, and comedy abounds. The script and story? Well, we will let you decide.

687The story centers on Darlene, a woman who hates Christmas, until she receives a severe electrical jolt while unplugging a wired cable. This unsettling event, twelve days before Christmas causes an amnesic transformation: Darlene now loves Christmas. She is excited about decorating her mobile home so the park can win a magazine-sponsored competition. The park selected as Best Decorated for Christmas will receive a $10,000.check. Jennifer Paulk as Darlene sings well and has the best songs in the show. Ms. Paulk was recently a hippie in “Hair” at Amelia Community Theatre and also appeared in “Songs for a New World” at ABET. She spent several years in California and has an impressive resume filled with leading roles in musicals in that area.

Darlene is a waitress at Stacks Pancake House, owned by Jackie (Jeff Springmann, seen previously as Simon in “Jesus Christ Superstar”). He calls his business a ‘breastaurant,’ which gives the audience insight into his approach to business. He is an animated sleaze ball, who, with unanticipated assistance, finally sees the error of his ways.

Aaron DeCicco is the Christmas loving Betty. Aaron is an outstanding vocalist, actress, musical director, and musician and we welcome her back to the stage after her return from New York to give birth to her daughter (a future musical theatre star no doubt). Betty interacts hilariously with Lin, Pickles and Rufus, the three permanent park residents.

Pickle688 (1)s is a delightfully dimwitted female who can fall asleep at the snap of your fingers and is portrayed by Kat McLeod, whose name is familiar to Players’ patrons for the many shows she has stage managed. This is her first role on their stage and her first time as a singer. Kat has been seen in impressive roles with The 5 & Dime in “All New People” and “Matt & Ben.”Julie Harrington is Lin, a truly dizzy blonde. She is making her community theatre debut with her first appearance on stage since high school. She is very funny as a member of this daffy female trio.

Gary Baker as Rufus completes the zany cast. You may remember him in the original musical as the psychotic Duke. As Rufus, the trailer park handyman, he is quite lovable. A master of comedy, he plays an inebriated Santa at a local store; the song he sang was a crowd favorite. Baker, who spent some time at Second City in Chicago studying improv, is one the funniest actors we have ever seen and we have seen him many times, including appearances in Dirty Blonde, Parade, Pippin, Spelling Bee, Tommy, and Urinetown.

One of the most humorous scenes in the show involved visits to Darlene by three Christmas ghosts. If that sounds familiar, we bet you can guess the classical origin of the apparitions.

All the actors have good voices, a requirement for such songs as “The Twelve Days of Amnesia” and “Christmas Leather Love.” And they received excellent support from the backstage band. The Music Director was Greg Hersey, also on drums. Band members included Misha Frayman on guitar, Matt Falgowski on Keyboard, and Cody Wheaton on Bass.

The set, by Director/Choreography Lee Hamby (who also did the tacky costumes) is outstanding. It consists of three small trailers, painted in eye-catching colors and covered with improvised Christmas decorations. A large Christmas tree fills the center stage and could be considered a major character. Production Manager Ron Shreve and Hamby even have the famous Starke water tower pictured on the rear wall.

Trailer Park Christmas is a fast-paced show and should be considered a dark comedy due to sexual references and adult language. The script also casts doubt on the existence of Santa Claus. Leave the kids home.

This sequel has been very successful thus far and is currently playing in Austin, Charlotte, Indianapolis, Houston, Kalamazoo, and St. Louis. And it has been booked into a dinner theatre in Ft. Myers, Florida for over two months.

The playwrights apparently know a cash cow when they see one and are probably busy writing another sequel. The record for successful musical theatre sequels is uneven, so we can’t predict what may come. Sequels for “Nunsense” have been wildly successful, with six scripts following the first one, but sequels for shows as diverse as “Annie” and “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” failed. watch for Players By The Sea to bring you the best of them.

If a bit of trash talk won’t get your tinsel in a tangle, and then by all means join the gang in Starke at the town’s most famous trailer park.


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About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.