There are times when I savor getting all dressed up, going to an opening night gala at Arena Stage or The Kennedy Center, and mingling with the 0.1% who fund Washington theatre. But sometimes you just wanna kick back, grab a 24-pack of Natty Lite, and tune in to find out who is or is not the baby daddy. Luckily, The Great American Trailer Park Musical (Book by Betsy Kelso, Music and Lyrics by David Nehls) is here to fulfill all your white trashiest needs. With its hilarious sendups of redneck culture and infectuous country-infused music, the new show by Dominion Stage will make you wish you lived on “this side of the tracks.”
The action takes place in Armadillo Acres, “North Florida’s most exclusive manufactured housing community.” It is here that toll booth operator Norbert Garstecki (the lovably clueless David Wright) lives with his Lifetime obsessed, bathrobe clad spouse, Jeannie (the equally endearing Emily “EJ” Jonas). Having suffered the double traumas of her young son’s kidnapping and an “awful perm” years ago, Jeannie is now crippled with agoraphobia. She is unable to leave the safety of the trailer, not even on the occasion of her and Norbert’s 20th anniversary, for which he has procured tickets for nothing less than the Ice Capades (because “It ain’t entertainment if it’s not on ice”). Faced with his wife’s intractable condition, Norbert finds himself swept up in an affair with Pippi (Becca Harney), a stripper on the run from a manic ex-boyfriend (Jack O’Reilly) who carries a loaded gun (named Beulah, because why not?) and sniffs magic markers.
At the center of this aluminum-plated drama is “The Trio,” a sort of Greek chorus that guides us through the sordid Norbert/Pippi affair, while also contributing their own daytime TV drama. For instance, Linoleum (so named for the floor on which she was birthed), played by Amy K. Cropper, insists on keeping the lights on at all times so that the penitentiary won’t have enough juice to fry her death-row boyfriend. And Pickles (Rachel Barlaam) is a wide eyed 17 year old with a perpetual phantom pregnancy. It is Betty, however, played by Katherine Lipovsky, who wields the greatest power to delight and entertain. With a leopard print blouse and a fabulous blond hair piece, Lipovsky is a white trash matron with a powerhouse voice. All three members of the “Trio” carry the show along on the strength of their voices and the height of their hair.
Composer and lyricist David Nehls writes a deceptively difficult score for The Great American Trailer Park Musical. A wide range and a boatload of belting are required for almost every role, and there are times when the cast is not up to the task. But for the most part the country-rock rhythms soar, especially those sung by the Trio and ex-stripper Pippi (Becca Harney).
Beyond the frothy music, fans of Bat Boy and Zombie Prom will be familiar with the fatuous, tongue-in-cheek, and ultimately heartfelt tone of Trailer Park. Director and Scenic Designer David M. Moretti delivers a set-packed with delightful details (my favorite is mudflaps on an office chair), and the live band (The Mudflap Band, conducted by Kevin Diana) contributes a fresh and lively score. All in all, The Great American Trailer Park Musical lives up to its title. And don’t bother coming in a suit and tie – Levi’s and a wifebeater will do just fine.
Running Time: One hour and forty five minutes, with no intermission.
The Great American Trailer Park Musical, plays through January 24, 2015 at Dominion Stage performing at Gunston Theater One in Arlington – 2700 South Lang Street, in Arlington, VA. For tickets, purchase them at the door, or online.