BWW Review: TRAILER PARK TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS at Show Palace Dinner Theatre
On opening night, you expect maybe a kink or two still working its way out. You don't necessarily expect a flawless show; yet flawless is the only accurate adjective for the inaugural performance of THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL at Show Palace Dinner Theatre in Hudson.
When I heard the title, I knew exactly what was in store and I was right - sort of. Though the campy spoof did use every preconceived notion and cliché about trailer parks and its residents and pack them into 120 minutes, it did so with lots of heart and southern Stark, Florida charm.
Yep Florida. I admit I was excited to actually know the places mentioned in the musical.
Featuring music and lyrics by David Nehls and a book by comedy writer and performer Betty Kelso, when the audience is introduced to the residents of Armadillo Acres trailer park, three beer-drinking ladies are sunning themselves. In the energetic opening number, they proclaim they're on "This Side of the Tracks," as opposed to the wrong (or right) side of the tracks in front of incredible suggestions of trailers. Bravo to the set designer and master carpenter Todd Everest and scenic artists, Vitale Brothers.
In costumes coordinated by Pat Werner that suggested trailer living but thankfully didn't go over the top, the trio dispensed narration and commentary to move the show forward in time, often breaking the fourth wall, and speaking directly to the audience - which that night's full house loved.
THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL is expertly directed by Matthew Belopavlovich and Steven Jones, also the choreographer. Matty Colonna, who also plays Duke, is the music director. This show is a triple win for the three men.
We follow Lin (Laura Titus), named after her linoleum floor birthplace, whose husband is on death row trying to get an appeal. We meet Pickles (Lindsay Nantz), self-admittedly "dumber than a box of hair" whose prone to hysterical pregnancy, and Betty (Millicent Hunnicutt), the trailer manager widow whose husband left her the keys.
We're introduced to Norbert (Matthew Frusher) and Jeannie (Bridgette Karl), a toll booth operator and his wife slowly drifting apart since a bad perm and their infant son, Elvis's kidnapping causing her agoraphobia. It is a few weeks away from their 20th anniversary and she is determined to get outside the trailer park to celebrate.
Their lives are disrupted when Hurricane Pippi (Elizabeth Koepp), a beautiful brunette, a stripper in black fishnets and stilettos, hiding out from a jealous gun-wielding, marker-sniffing, bacon-bit-loving, anti-vegetarian boyfriend, Duke blows into town, making Armadillo Acres and Norbert her own.
Performed by an amazing talented cast of regulars and newcomers that truly brought their characters vividly to life, the vocal power of this ensemble is outstanding. Whether a solo or part a group, the songs are witty and the entertaining score ranges from rockabilly to country to pop.
Despite beautiful costumes, the only issue I had in the entire performance came directly from the directors following succinct instructions in the script - a 70s-styled sequence to close out the first act. Though it was fun and choreographed by Jones to perfection like the rest of the show, it seemed disconnected and could have easily been performed in the characters' original garb. I'd be interested to ask the playwrights Jean Doumanian, Jeffrey Richards, and Rick Steiner what was their reasoning behind the costume and decade flashback.
Without giving anything away, when Duke (Matty Colonna) enters in a car, the Pete Clapsis' prop was ingenious. One cannot mention Duke without talking about his hilarious facial expressions and especially, a shocked expression that caused Jeannie and Duke to wait patiently for the audience to stop laughing.
And it is Jeannie's role that added a dash of heart to all the silliness. She mesmerized the audience with her performance of "Flushed Down the Pipes."
When the show ended with the cast's favorite, a transcendent number driven by Pippi's brave and plaintive call to make like a nail and press on, there's no surprise that it is greeted by a standing ovation.
Matinee and evening shows run through May 21 at the theater, 16128 U.S. 19, Hudson. Ticket prices: buffet dinner and show, $49.50 plus tax. Show only: $38.45 plus tax. For tickets or information, call (727) 863-7949 or go to showpalace.net.