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BWW Review: THE 'GREAT' AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL Returns to CCTC

Ever wonder how the mechanics of a musical work on an audience expecting to see something that will distance it from the reality of life for not a few extended moments? What constitutes the makings of a "great" musical - one that will make people laugh, react uproariously, sympathize with its characters, and did I mention laugh? A great musical must be able to entertain an audience to the degree of tempting people to either remain in the theater to see more of the show, or accept that the show must end after the second act; believe me, the second of those two options is certainly not the more favorable, especially with audiences fortunate enough to be at the Cape Cod Theatre Company anytime until the start of October.

Home of the Harwich Junior Theatre, where children and adults alike come together to perform in stellar productions that are both a surprise with each and every one, and hardly surprising because of the beautiful reputation this theater has in the Cape Cod community. This time around, CCTC is bringing back the hit that greeted me when I first arrived on the Cape months ago, and now that The Great American Trailer Park Musical is alive and fiercely kicking again, what better way to spend an evening than attending one of wildest and funniest rides an audience will ever say it has had at a theatrical performance?

After an exciting summer season, Harwich Junior Theater, now a part of the Cape Cod Theatre Company, continues its sixty-forth season with a revival of its start-of-summer hit, The Great American Trailer Park Musical, bringing back a majority of its original cast that once made (and hereby continues to make) this show quite the adventure to embark on. To call it a revival, though, really does not do what is currently happening on that stage justice, as the cast and creative team has thus come together again to create a show that is even more powerful and more hilarious than what I remember; it is essentially a new show. The success and beauty of the first production, though, made me more than happy to provide a second review of the show, but the prospect of sitting through it again (even though I am now pretty familiar with the show) made me quite willing to make my way to CCTC once again.

It is amazing to observe how many differences there are in style, personal opinion, etc. when reading or watching something already experienced, and to me, those differences not only make this performance even more of a hit than last time, but also make the audience more perceptive to change its expectations when sitting down once again to see the show.

So, does Trailer Park live up to all the fantastic things originally said about it? Heck yes.

Written by Betsy Kelso, with music and lyrics by David Nehls and directed by Robert Wilder, who also serves as the theatre group's resident music director, the plot of The Great American Trailer Park Musical revolves around the lives of Armadillo Acres' residents, who are in over their heads with unexpected yet nevertheless highly anticipated trouble. Living in the trailer park community are Donna (nicknamed "Pickles"), Linoleum and Betty, three women who share more of a sisterly camaraderie than they do a friendship, brought together to deal with the happenings within their trailer park community. Serving as more of the "Greek chorus" in the little town of Stark, Florida, they help tell of the drama that is going on around them while effectively engaging the audience in a way that only three trailer park women can.

Joining them at Armadillo Acres as the cause and effect factors in the community are Norbert and Jeannie Garstecki, high-school sweethearts who must deal with the repercussions of the newly arrived Pippi, a seductive woman on the run from her obsessive, quick-tempered ex, Duke. What ensues when connections are made and broken among these residents, both old and new, can only be described along the lines of "crazy," and accompanied by a catchy score really make this show something else.

Watching Trailer Park this time around made me think of a few things I had missed in the original production, although the plot and characters themselves cannot be viewed with much depth; it is a stimulating show in the sense of its simplicity, and not requiring the audience to overthink anything whatsoever makes it the straightforward comedy it is. Who doesn't like this sort of basic humor, where one character is clearly an idiot, one the promiscuous club dancer and the like, all who make questionable choices and live lives that would almost be fascinating to take part in for a little while? As I did last time, I enjoyed watching the actors take such interesting characters, and I believe that this time there was a little more spunk to those characters than from what I remember. For example, watching Caroline Clancy as Pickles play such a simpleton with such grace was funnier this time around, while observing how newcomer Ari Lew as Duke fit right into the chaos was something wonderful to behold. As I said from the last time, Caitlin Mills has a beautifully rich voice, and Matthew Kohler plays the role of the confused, slightly horny Norbert very well; it is tough for an audience to view an adulterous character with sympathy, although Kohler pulls that off unscathed.

Kym Edson plays Pippi with the same spunk as last time, but what I noticed this time around was how her character is just so accepting of what happens to her, even though with each circumstances does she fight with the same vigor and desire, even if she knows the result will be the same. I had a new appreciation of her character this time around, and I say "bravo!" to how she accepts defeat with such class. Heidi Crawley as Betty is just an awesome entertainer, and there is little surprise that all of the big numbers have her hollering and exciting the audience somewhere within them. Finally, Anne Vohs is just as I remember her: tough, brassy and completely self-sufficient. I think that she is one of my favorite characters in the show, as she is just so down to earth and calm about things that would make other people do a double take.

Kudos must also go to the creative team and band members, as the show wouldn't be the complete mess (a very good mess) it is without you all involved.

Overall, I would say that Cape Cod Theatre Company's attempt to bring The Great American Trailer Park Musical back on its stage was a success, and as I always say about the group's shows, they are a wonder and should be shared with the entire Cape Cod community, whether you happen to be from Harwich/Dennis or not. There is just something so unique about these shows, and I really don't think that I could ever be disappointed by anything that is performed on this wonderful stage. Just remember that this isn't a family show, so anyone who can appreciate its humor should take a ride over to the theater and have some weekend fun.

The Great American Trailer Park Musical at Cape Cod Theatre Company (home of Harwich Junior Theatre and located at 105 Division Street in West Harwich) began performances on September 18th, and will continue thru October 4th. Tickets are $20-$25 and can be purchased either at the box office, by calling (508).432.2002 or by visiting www.hjtcapecod.org. Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 PM with Sunday matinees at 4 PM; a special Thursday, October 1st performance will also be had.

Enjoy the show!

Photo Credit: Nina K. Schuessler


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