The Great American Trailer Park Musical asks the question (courtesy of the peroxide-haired, pork-rind-fed trio of Betty, Linoleum and Pickles): “What happens if you take a wrong turn on your Florida vacation?” Well, you end up in the burg of Starke where the Litter Box Show Palace is the strip joint of choice and high-end living is at a trailer park called Armadillo Acres. It’s the cartoon setting for the seven-year-old musical by David Nehls and Betsy Kelso now at San Diego Repertory Theatre, directed by the Rep’s Sam Woodhouse.
The howling, self-conscious musical combines obvious parody of Red States trailer park “culture” and the eternal triangle story. Neither on its own could bear the heft of this show (it’s a one-act affair, but really should be two) which features 12 songs and 10 times that many one-liners, spoken or sung. It’s a heapin’ helpin’ of hick, sexual and scatological jokes, with sight gags confined to guns, cleavage and tacky clothing. (The real sight to see here is the set created by Ian Wallace – three vintage trailers, one with a purple commode out front, and all the fun-to-read road and business signs plastered behind them.)
Trapped in the show’s love triangle are agoraphobic wife Jeannie (Courtney Corey), the strip-teasing other woman Pippi (Jill Van Velzer) and the local Leroy husband, Norbert (David Kirk Grant). The resolution of their romantic foibles is inevitable, though a gun-toting dude named Duke (David McBean, very funny) does supply a twist to the ending. In lieu of a subplot, there is continuous spoofing of trailer park stereotypes (maybe they’re not stereotypes) most of it provided by Betty (Melinda Gilb), Linoleum (Leigh Scarritt) and Pickles (Kailey O’Donnell) with all the subtlety of a hog calling.
A couple of musical numbers – the dream-sequence “The Great American TV Show” and the sequins and glitter (why?) “Storm’s A-Brewin’” – seem contrived, but most songs keep in the spirit of the proceedings (brace yourself for “Road Kill”). The band, directed by Anthony Smith, is ace, but at least on opening night vocals were way too loud.
Or can something be way-too-anything in a show like this one?
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat