If it were a movie, THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL, with its sassy songs by David Nehls and ribald script by Betsy Kelso, would be rated at least PG-13 (for language and sexual situations). But the computer-savvy members of Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy audiences will rated this Southern-fried musical comedy, set in the Armadillo Acres trailer park in Starke, Florida, LMAO, as Laughed My A** Off.
Thanks to the hilarious hijinks of Broadway funny lady Lisa Jolley as agoraphobic housewife Jeannie Garstecki, sultry chanteuse Canady Vance Thomas as runaway stripper Pippi, and Jesse R. Gephart as Pippi’s crazed Magic Marker-sniffing boyfriend, gun-toting boyfriend Duke, THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL comes with a bladder-control advisory: Don’t try to watch this show with a full bladder, even if you’re wearing adult diapers! Your cup will runneth over.
These three crackerjack comic characterizations would alone be worth the price of admission, but there’s more, much more to tickle the funny-bones of Triangle theatergoers. First, Canady Thomas and especially Lisa Jolley pull out all the stops in their no-holds-barred battle for the affections of Jeannie’s frustrated toll-collector husband, Norbert (Michael Jones), who’s mortally tired of going out alone while his wife is trailer-bound. It’s 20 years … and counting … since their only son was kidnapped and Jeannie became trailer-bound, and Jeannie and Norbert’s planned trip to the Ice Capades to celebrate their upcoming anniversary looks about as likely as former Vice President Al Gore being named Man of the Year by the American Massage Therapy Association.
While Lisa Jolley flounces her long curly red locks and has the audience literally rolling in the aisles as she uproariously recreates all Jeannie’s neurotic tics and twitches — like a young Lucille Ball or Carol Burnett, Canady Thomas is smoldering as Pippi, especially when she gives Norbert come-hither looks that could set off a new wave of Global Warming.
Meanwhile, Jesse Gephardt as Duke is in Oklahoma City, with snakes in his boots, terrorizing Pippi’s dimwitted former friend Tina (a knee-slapping comic cameo by Lauren Barone) until he finds out his former honey-bunny’s new 10-20. After Tina drops the dime on Pippi, Duke embarks on the most hilarious road trip (“Road Kill”) since Bob Hope and Bing Crosby’s infinitely more urbane THE ROAD TO … pictures.
Barone is also a hoot as a pregnant newlywed named Donna, better known as “Pickles” for her nocturnal cravings. (Pickles has had a series of hysterical pregnancies.) Sandi Sullivan as Lin (which is short for Linoleum, because her rough-as-a-cob character was born on the kitchen floor) really struts her stuff as a red-hot mama frustrated because her no-account husband killed a man during a Road rage incident and is locked up on Death Row and no amount of conjugal visits can satisfy her womanly needs; and Gina Stewart is a scream as the trailer park manager, Norbert and Jeannie’s high-school classmate Betty, a banty hen whose always poking her beak into everyone else’s business.
At Wednesday’s opening-night performance, there were still a few rough spots to smooth in the effervescent musical staging by Hot Summer Nights guest Hot Summer Nights director and co-choreographer Tito Hernandez and assistant director and co-choreographer Sherry Lee Allen; but from first to last, this stellar cast gave exuberant performances, musical director/pianist Jay Wright and his bodacious band (guitarist Drew Lile, bass player John Simonetti, and drummer Todd Proctor) provided high-octane accompaniment, and the versatile set of scenic designer Chris Bernier and the lurid Wal-Martian outfits in which costume designer Casey Watkins dressed her white-trash characters made THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL look as good as it sounds — and that’s mighty good.
SECOND OPINION: July 2nd Raleigh, NC NEWS & OBSERVER online review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/07/02/562426/trailer-park-stereotypes-are-subtle.html; and July 1st Durham, NC INDEPENDENT WEEKLY review by Zach Smith (who awarded the show 2.5 of 5 stars): http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/rednecks-white-trash-and-blue-humor-in-trailer-park-musical/Content?oid=1509107. (To read the Triangle Arts & Entertainment online version of the July 1st TRIANGLE THEATER REVIEW preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2010/06/the-great-american-trailer-park-musical-jun-30-jul-4-plus-jul-7-11/.)
Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy presents THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL at 8 p.m. June 30-July 3 and July 7-10 and 3 p.m. July 4 and 11 in the Sara Lynn and K.D. Kennedy, Jr. Theater in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
- TICKETS: $22 ($18 students and seniors). BOX OFFICE: 866/811-4111 or https://www.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/712605.
- SHOW: http://www.hotsummernightsatthekennedy.org/trailerpark.asp.
- PRESENTER: http://www.hotsummernightsatthekennedy.org/.
- VENUE: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/page.php?mode=privateview&pageID=29.
- PARKING: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/page.php?mode=privateview&pageID=37.
- DIRECTIONS: http://www.hotsummernightsatthekennedy.org/directions.asp and http://www.progressenergycenter.com/page.php?mode=privateview&pageID=36.
- The Musical: http://trailerparkmusical.betsykelso.com/ (official website) and http://www.lortel.org/LLA_archive/index.cfm?search_by=show&title=The Great American Trailer Park Musical (Internet Off-Broadway Database).
- David Nehls: http://www.lortel.org/LLA_archive/index.cfm?search_by=people&keyword=name&first=David&last=Nehls&middle= (Internet Off-Broadway Database).
- Betsy Kelso: http://betsykelso.com/index.html (official website) and http://www.lortel.org/LLA_archive/index.cfm?search_by=people&first=Betsy&middle=&last=Kelso (Internet Off-Broadway Database).