When I previewed "The Great American Trailer Park Musical," I said its setting of Armadillo Acres is no amusement park.
I was sort of wrong. If you see this show, expect a truckload of amusement.
David Nehls and Betsy Kelso's musical is a blue-collar hoot on the Auburn Public Theater stage, both playing with stereotypes and pigging out on them.
As Norbert, a toll collector running out of patience with his agoraphobic wife, Jeannie (Brooke Wilson), Andy Lindberg is a big old lug, bellowing "Holy ham sandwiches!" as he careens through a mid-life crisis that lands him in the lap of stripper-on-the-run Pippi (Brooke Martino).
Wilson excels at balancing the humor and sadness of Jeannie's psychological prison, whether she's coiling spray cheese on everything she eats or inching down her front steps wearing an inflatable tube. Martino, meanwhile, is a sultry force on striptease number "The Buck Stops Here," and Seth Danner crackles with marker-huffing mood swings as her wrathful ex-boyfriend, Duke.
Chelsey Whitelock, LillyAnn Carlson and Kristen Gehling are Betty, Pickles and Lin, a cutoff-clad Greek chorus that gossips about the central love story when they're not hung up on their own weird troubles.
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Whitelock shines satirizing the fake sincerity of TV talk-show hosts during "The Great American TV Show," Gehling gets many a cackle putting her own profane stamp on the proceedings, and Carlson darn near steals the show mixing ditziness, dead-on ebonics and a jumble of other tics as Pickles. With whip-smart timing and a mercurial batch of silly faces, Carlson got opening-night roars with her blank stares and 100-mph storytelling.
I say I was "sort of" wrong about "Trailer Park Musical" because it does indeed, as I wrote, assign some moving traits to this hilarious crew. Somber moments come in Norbert and Jeannie's story of tragedy and estrangement, as well as Lin's effort to keep the lights on at Armadillo Acres so the juice can't be used to electrocute her husband at the nearby prison.
Other times the show just gets random, like the fantastic first-act closing number, "Storm's A-Brewin'," which squeezes the cast in puffy wigs and sparkly yellow-and-purple spandex for a number that'd be right at home accompanying the pre-finale montage of an '80s action movie.
Armadillo Acres is palpably realized on the Auburn Public Theater stage with trailer facades that seamlessly fold into Pippi's strip club. The setting even gets its own laughs; the brake lights on Norbert and Jeannie's trailer blink and beep as a small platform on its rear retracts. Lighting (the TV glow that hypnotizes Jeannie), clothing (Norbert's Ratt shirt is superb attention to detail) and props (a round of Pabst Blue Ribbon for everyone) were all excellent, too. My only criticism is that Armadillo Acres, unlike every single trailer park in America, I'd wager, has not a single badly tattooed resident.
Though sparsely choreographed, "Trailer Park" is also dandy as a musical, distinguished by sizzling rock guitar on catchy songs like "This Side of the Tracks" and "Road Kill." It's as a comedy, though, that the show really knocks it out of the park.