By popular demand, “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” is back at Players by the Sea in Jacksonville, Florida after an absence of seven years. This campy Off-Broadway musical by David Nehls and Betsy Ketso will be on stage at Players through March 24, 2018. For reservations, visit playersbythesea.org or call 249-0289. These are hot tickets; the first two performances were sold out.
The setting is a tacky trailer park in Starke, Florida. Yes, there is such town, located on Route 301 between Jacksonville and Gainesville. When Gator town’s Hippodrome did the show several years ago, it set new attendance records, probably because most of Starke’s residents showed up. Repeatedly.
Warnings: this is a comedy filled with dysfunctional folks, all of whom can sing up a storm and the score allows them to show off their talents with songs which include “The Buck Stops Here,” “Flushed Down the Pipes,” “Road Kill,” and “Panic.” Sexual situations are portrayed. And we heard a few bad words here and there, but they zip by so fast you might miss then.
The infamous Allen Morton directed some thirty plays before coming to Jacksonville twelve years ago; “Trailer Park” is his local directorial debut. In the past, he has been seen on our local stages in many roles, and in addition is very much in demand as a set designer and dresser.
The first three of the unforgettable characters we meet are friends who live at Armadillo Acres. They are Betty (Kathy Sanders), the park manager; Lin (Kimberly Doctor), whose name is a reference to her birth in a kitchen on a linoleum floor; and Pickles (Zoe McMillan), who may be pregnant. These gals can dance like nobody’s business.
Jeannie (Regina Torres) has been a park resident for many years, but suffers from agoraphobia and hasn’t been out of her front door for a long time. She is married to Norbert, portrayed by a very funny Clayton Riddley, who hopes she will be able to overcome her fears so they can celebrate their twentieth wedding anniversary on the lawn with friends. Prior to the planned celebration, Norbert becomes physically involved with Pippi (Ashley Penrod) a gorgeous stripper and pole dancer; we will leave the details for your viewing.
We will say things get even crazier when Duke, Peppi’s boyfriend, arrives; he stays high by inhaling fumes from cooking sprays and magic markers. Duke is portrayed by Austin Kelly, a UNF senior and if we had a Theatre Hall of Fame in Jacksonville, he would certainly qualify based on his demonstrated ability to sing the song “Road Kill” marvelously while riding around the stage on a hoverboard.
Director Morton also designed the set, which had a trailer on the left for Jeannie and Norbert, three chairs in the center for Betty, Lin, and Pickles, a trailer on the right for Pippi, and enough flamingoes to satisfy demanding patrons who insist upon authentic portrayals of lawn décor in theatrical settings.
The excellent band, placed on stage at the back of the set, was led by Musical Director Robin Brazelton on the piano, with Sean Tillis (bass), David Ott (guitar), and Harley Galeano (drums).
Branon Hines and Mr. Morton were the costume designers, and while the creative costumes were all good, we particularly liked the blue jumpsuits for the ladies and the Jamaican-inspired garb for Norbert in the show-stopping “Storm’s A-Brewin’.”
The creative team include Allen Morton (Director), Robin Brazelton (Music Director), Ashley Penrod (Choreographer), Zac Stone (Stage Manager), Jereme Raickett (Production Manager), Sam Catone (Lighting Designer), Nate Cimmino (Sound Designer), Gayle Featheringill (Costume Assistant), and Katie Dawson (Scenic Charge Artist).
If you want a couple hours of zany fun and are broad-minded, you will enjoy “Trailer Park.” Go early, so you can fully appreciate the lobby’s new look, which includes grass, horseshoes, and a picnic table. And flamingoes. Many flamingoes.