The Great American Trailer Park

  • Date:
    September 1, 2005
    Review by:
    Polly Wittenberg

    Review by Polly Wittenberg

    Book by: Betsy Kelso
    Music by: David Nehls
    Lyrics by: David Nehls
    Directed by: Betsy Kelso
    Choreography by: Sergio Trujillo
    Cast:Marya Grandy, Linda Hart, Shuler Hensley, Kaitlin Hopkins, Leslie Kritzer, Orfeh, Wayne Wilcox
    Synopsis: There's a new tenant at Armadillo Acres - and she's wreaking havoc all over Florida's most exclusive trailer park. When Pippi 'the stripper on the run' comes between the Dr. Phil loving, agoraphobic Jeannie and her tollbooth collector husband - the storms begin to brew - and this storm ain't any old Florida hurricane.

    Polly Wittenberg's Review.

    I�m not sure that this is a good time for musicals to be making fun at the expense of trailer parks, what with large installations of pre-fab homes looking pretty good to shelter dwellers from the recent hurricane-induced destruction of New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast.

    But here it is at Dodger Stages, The Great American Trailer Park Musical, an agglomeration of every possible clich� on the subject in a book by Betsy Kelso, who also directed the show, with serviceable tunes and lyrics by David Nehls. Set in the Florida back country, the clever set by Derek McLane has parts of multiple RVs, satellite dishes, Astroturf and mucho knick-knacks with the lively band sheathed by Venetian blinds. The suitably tacky costumes by Markas Henry are awash in vibrant pastels, leopard prints and glitter.

    The plot, such as it is, is propelled by the commentary of three dumb but shrewd blondes named Betty, Linoleum and Pickles (Linda Hart, Marya Grandy and Leslie Kritzer, respectively) who use Mazola oil to fuel their tans. The inevitable romantic quadrangle includes a middle-aged couple, Norbert and Jeannie (Shuler Hensley and Kaitlin Hopkins) whose only child disappeared years ago. Jeannie�s got agoraphobia and while she�s trailer-bound Norbert�s taken up with the new pole-dancer in town Pippi (the single-monikered Orfeh). Pippi�s got a younger ex-boyfriend from Oklahoma City named Duke (Wayne Wilcox) and he�s got a big gun and a bad temper. This is an old-fashioned musical, however, and despite all the obvious chances for conflict and violence in such a story, a happy ending is assured.

    What makes the show kind of special is the energy and likeability of the cast. Ms.�Hopkins looks like a younger Xerox-copy of her mother, actress Shirley Knight, and projects the same kind of sweetness and warmth that Ms. Knight is capable of. It�s also good to see Mr. Hensley, who gave such a devastating award-winning performance as Jud in the Trevor Nunn revival of Oklahoma several years back, again. Even if the part and the songs he has here do nothing to tax his dramatic powers or his vocal cords.

    Polly Wittenberg

    What the critics had to say.....

    CHARLES ISHERWOOD of the NEW YORK TIMES says �The title's mighty cute, and a few of Mr. Nehls's dozen ditties raise a hearty chuckle. But the musical has all but dispensed with plot, and substitutes crude cartoons for characters. It seems to hope to get by on jokes and attitude, and both are on the stale side. �
    HOWARD KISSEL of the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS says "For 10 minutes, this might have been cute. Nine times that, and it's truly trailer trash."
    MICHAEL KUCHWARA of ASSOCIATED PRESS SAYS "But this raunchy show does have a bouncy, appealing score, delivered by a powerhouse cast that gets every ounce of twang and corn pone out of David Nehl's down-home music and surprisingly witty lyrics".
    NEWSDAY says "Doesn't seek to be anything but entertaining, and it sort of succeeds. The problem is that there are lots of less expensive and time-consuming ways to be entertained in the same low-rent way."

    External links to full reviews from newspapers

    New York Times
    New York Daily News
    Associated Press