Tuesday August 22nd 2017

“The Great American Trailer Park Musical”

Most Chicago area residents, in particular, those who are theater lovers, are unfamiliar with trailer parks of America and the people who are residents of these walled in areas filled with metal boxes that these people call home. In “The Great American Trailer Park Musical”, with Music and Lyrics by David Nehls and a book by Betsy Kelso, now on stage at Theater Wit, we are allowed to peer into what might be going on in one of these parks, one in a rural area of Florida, known as Armadillo Acres. FYI- there are many parks in the country, not called “trailer parks” but instead referred to as factory built homes, where they cannot be moved about and so these places such as Whippletree Village in Wheeling and others have the appearance of a small development with smaller homes, that in fact look like homes, not trailers. But in this story, they look like “trailers”. Ones that can be hooked up to a “pick-em-up-truck” and hauled away at a moments notice. In fact, this play is filled with every stereotype that America thinks is what a “trailer park ” is all about.

Trailer Park Musical is in fact 90 minutes of pure laugh out loud fun. (0 minutes of not thinking about the economy, the election, the report you have due in two days or in fact anything but having a great time. Directed by John D. Glover ( might I add, slickly directed) on a cartooning, yet clever set by Zachary Gipson, from the time the band enters theater 3 at Wit, we get into the feeling of what the playwright wanted to do- allow us to escape from our reality and enter the lives of the characters in Armadillo Acres in Starke Florida. The stereotypes are all here; first of all, they are all southern ( with slight accents) and each trailer appears to be what we “think” they should be- metal with a few stairs up to the door, some with awnings, some not and of course all their “patio furniture” is aluminum and mesh nylon folding lawn chairs ( you know, the ones that Chicagoans use to “mark their parking spots” in a winter snowstorm, once shoveled).

The main story is about high school sweethearts Norbert Garstecki ( deftly handled by Jonathan Hickerson) and Jeannie ( Christina Hall) who were married when she became in a “family way” and had a little boy who one day disappeared from the trailer park and since that day, Jeannie has become agoraphobic ( she won’t leave the house). They are now just weeks away from their 20th anniversary and Norbert cannot convince her that the time is right. Meanwhile, a newcomer comes to the park, as it turns out running away from her jealous boyfriend,Duke ( Alex Grelle). Pippi ( Bri Schumacher) is an exotic dancer and finds Norbert as he finds her- lust turns into something else and we get to watch a novel story unfold; one about true love with a few twists. The only other characters in  the play are a sort of “trailer park chorus ( a sort of Greek Chorus with southern accents) played by three dynamic actresses; young Pickles ( always pregnant or thinks she is) played lovingly by sprite Jennifer Wisegarver, Linoleum -“Lin” named by her mother for where she was born, played by the powerful Ashley Braxton and the park manager Betty , played lovingly by the adorable Danni Smith. These three ladies take on all types of characters to tell the story as well as open up their personal lives to us- in fact, the opening number truly sets the tone as we meet them and hear the start of what we are about to bear witness to.

Over all, this is a well put together fun evening of theater. The set is cute and efficient, the direction slick, the music ( Allison Hendrix at keyboards and musical director,Dan Toot on guitar,Michael Sinclair on bass and Phil Martin on the drums). The Choreography by Tom Coppola is very stylish Country/Western and works very well in the limited space the theater affords him to work with. Angela Enos’ costumes are very what we think they wear in trailer parks ( another stereo-type),Jeffrey Levin’s sound is perfect ( we never miss a word or lyric) and Brandon Wardell’s lighting has a few places where he might want to refocus, but is otherwise well done. The props, of which there are many are well done by John Buranosky ( often these people are not mentioned and the work they do is very important to the total picture that the director is offering us.

If you like to laugh, “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” is a sure way to guarantee you will. In fact, you will walk out of the theater on a sort of “high” thanks to the powerful cast and crew of this fun production which will continue at Theater Wit, located at  1229 West Belmont Street through August 26th with performances as follows:

Wednesday through Fridays at 8 p.m.,Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Tickets are only $30 which is a value when you break it down by cost per laugh, that’s about 10 cents per.

To order your tickets call the box ofice at 773-975-8150 or visit www.kokandyproductions.com

This is an open seating production, but there are no bad seats. Parking is available on the street ( some metered, some not) and of course valet or have dinner at Cooper’s and park in their lot ( try the Brisket sandwich- wow)

To see what others say about this show, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to review roundup and click Great American….


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