The Great American Trailer Park Musical

Ken AshfordPopular Culture1 Comment

Trailerpark1smNothing heals like laughter.  Man, that’s so true, and I found that out Saturday evening, when I had the pleasure of seeing The Great American Trailer Park Musical performed by The Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte.  It’s a sold-out run, and it’s easy to see why.

I knew little about the show, but from the title, I expected it to be a one-joke show, full of cliches about rednecks and white trash living in a trailer park.  Cheap shots at a rather easy target — that’s what I thought I was going to see.

And in a nutshell, that’s what it was.  But funny?  Hell, YES!!!!  I think it’s one of the funniest musical comedies I’ve ever seen.  There was not a dry eye in the house — the laughs just kept coming.  If it wasn’t the dialogue, it was the plot, or the lyrics, or the characters, or even the choreography.  I don’t think more than ten seconds passed without a wild roar from the audience.  And I can’t think of the last time I’ve seen a show, including those on Broadway, where — if I had the opportunity to see again the very next night I would have in a heartbeat.

The plot centers around Jeannie, who’s developed a severe case of agoraphobia and finds comfort spending her days lounging on the couch watching the guests on Oprah, Rickie and Montel prove that there are worse lives than hers. Her husband Norbert, a toll collector, is frustrated with having a wife who won’t go further outside than as far as she can while keeping one hand on the door knob, has taken to spending his nights at the local strip club.  Norbert becomes smitten with exotic dancer Pippi, who, rather conveniently, has just moved into the trailer across the yard.  Add to that Duke, Pippi’s jealous ex-boyfriend who sniffs magic markers to get high, and you’ve got one nutty show.

The glue that holds it together are three women who tell the story to the audience — the "Greek chorus" if you will — all trailer park residents themselves.  Each has their own story — one actually owns the trailer park, one has a husband on death row that she’s trying to keep alive by making sure that the trailer park uses as much juice as possible, and one is prone to hysterical preganancies.  These three carry much of the singing burden in the show, and also play the roles of minor characters throughout the play.

Altogether, every cast member has a chance to shine, and shine they all did.  This is not an ensemble piece — this is a musical where every single character and performer is a ten-ton dynamo.

In this particular production, everyone was dead on.  Everyone.  Direction was flawless.  Band was hot.  Choreography was hysterical.  Great voices.  Great comedy bits.  A fun set.  Great white-trash costumes.

My primary purpose for going, other than to see this show I had heard so much about, was to see the soon-to-be wed, not-at-all-like-the-parts-she-plays Heather Hamby, who portrayed the stripper Pippi.  Yes, she was scantily clad at moments, gyrated, and so on — that was nothing new for me, having seen (or been in) several of her shows (Okay — she kept her top on when she was in Madame Butterfly, but….).  What was really great was to see her play a hard woman, rather than a dumb blonde bimbo.  I had forgotten how low of an alto she is, and it was great to hear her belt, and walk the stage with confidence.  Great comic timing, too, as usual.

I could tell, however, that deep down, Heather was disappointed with the actor playing her "leading man", the middle-aged frumpy Norbert.  He was good, but I could tell that Heather secretly wished that I was playing Norbert, as I would have been perfect for the part (and I would have!).  But, like the trooper that she is, she made the best of it, even though it was clear that she longed to be shaking her tits in my face, just like old times.  In fact, that was the only disappointing part of the show for me as an audience member — that I wasn’t a part of it.  Sorry, Heather.  Sorry I let you down like that, but I’m glad it didn’t affect your performance.  You were phenomenal.

The Great American Trailer Park Musical runs through Sunday, May 6, but like I said, the run (including the added Sunday show) are now all sold out.  Still, you should check out the website anyway, and if you happen to see any of those performers in another production, you should check them out.