The less than salubrious surroundings of the North Florida trailer park Armadillo Acres (few armadillos and even fewer acres) might seem like the ideal location for a madcap musical and in some ways, you’d be right. And The Great American Trailer Park Musical certainly lives up to the madcap and the musical in this knowingly camp production by Kirk Jameson – it’s just the ‘great’ that feels somewhat in doubt.
There’s no questioning the quality of the production and its brilliant casting decisions. Tempting the likes of illustrious veteran Rosemary Ashe to the fringe is no mean feat and the powerhouse pipes of the severely under-rated Sabrina Aloueche is all the more impressive in the intimate (if poorly raked) Waterloo East Theatre. In fact, the whole company sing very well, their assured vocals matched by James Taylor’s musical direction.
Playing up the clichéd notions of trailer trash, Betsy Kelso’s book follows the love triangle that emerges for the Paula Abdul-loving Norbert who finds himself torn between agoraphobic wife Jeanie, still mourning the kidnapping of their son 20 years ago, and newly-arrived Pippi, a stripper with a past (as if there were any other kind). But the thinness of both characters and plot means that trashy and silly just aren’t enough on their own.
There’s no exploration of stereotype to give dramatic heft, or satirical bite to add substance to the humour, and thus David Nehls’ score has to work doubly hard. But even here, there’s a strange decision to veer between direct pastiche (essentially rewrites of songs like Nutbush City Limits and It’s Raining Men) and passable pop which offer ample opportunity for the women of the cast to belt but little else besides, which ends up quite wearying – voices this good deserve variety.
The Greek chorus of Rosemary Ashe, Michelle Bishop and Jodie Steele offer some welcome comic relief as they transform from neighbours to strip club punters to umbrella-wielding backing dancers and back, Anna Kelsey’s set design is impressively well-realised and Adam Vaughan and Joshua Dever do the men of the piece proud. But it’s hard to shake the abiding mocking feeling of The Great American Trailer Park Musical, a slice of Southern-fried stereotype leaves a funny taste in the mouth.
Revie by Ian Foster
11th May – 5th June 2016
Garry Lake and Waterloo East Theatre present
The Great American Trailer Park Musical
By David Nehls & Betsy Kelso
The Hit off Broadway show finally receives its LONDON PREMIERE!
There’s a new tenant at Armadillo Acres – and she’s wreaking havoc all over Florida’s most exclusive trailer park. When Pippi, the stripper on the run, arrives at Armadillo Acres and comes between the Dr. Phil-loving agoraphobic Jeannie and her tollbooth-collector husband Norbert. – the storms begin to brew!
The Great American Trailer Park Musical with music and lyrics by David Nehls and book by Betsy Kelso, is a musical comic fable exploring the relationships between the tenants at the exclusive Armadillo Acres Trailer Park in Florida.
“A delicious new musical. The joint is jammed and jumping with raucous laughter. It’s like The Honeymooners meets The Best Little Whorehouse in Urinetown.” — NY Post
“Joyful and unashamedly vulgar, Betsy Kelso’s comic fable about women in a Florida trailer park and their no-account men is more fun than a chair-throwing episode of Jerry Springer set to music.” — The New Yorker.
The show premiered at the first annual New York Music Theatre Festival in 2004 and transferred to The Dodger Stages off-Broadway in 2005, it has since played throughout the USA, Australia and Europe. This will be its British Cast Premiere.
Rosemary Ashe – (The Phantom of the Opera, Mary Poppins, Oliver, Les Miserables, The Witches of Eastwick – for which she was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for best-supporting Actress in a Musical)
Sabrina Aloueche – (We Will Rock You, Les Miserables)
Jemma Alexander – (Sound of Music Live Wicked, Rent)
Jodie Steele – (Rent, War Of The Worlds, Jesus Christ Superstar, Legally Blonde)
Michelle Bishop – (Sunset Boulevard, Bend it Like Beckham, Jersey Boys, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
Adam Vaughan – (Sunset Boulevard, From Here to Eternity, Billy Elliot)
Joshua Dever – (Jesus Christ Superstar, Grease, Tonight’s The Night)
Director – Kirk Jameson (The World Goes Around, I Love you You’re Perfect, Seussical, Dames at Sea,
Choreographer – Rebecca Howell – (American Psycho – Funny Girl)
Musical Director – James Taylor – (Sound of Music Live)