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The Arts
06.03.09

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Phaedra

Photograph by Dave Lepori
POLAR OPPOSITES: Allison F. Rich dances her way into Kevin Blackton's life in 'The Great American Trailer Park Musical.'

Class Acts

San Jose Stage Company's 'Trailer Park' music pokes fun at Florida's finest

By Jessica Fromm


POLE DANCING, incest, agoraphobia, pink flamingoes, huffing—The Sound of Music this play is not. The Great American Trailer Park Musical, San Jose Stage Company's latest, is musical comedy theater seen through the lens of Jerry Springer, a low-class soap opera set to tunes about cheatin' men in beat-up pickups and women with big hair who collect commemorative NASCAR plates. With the depth of a blow-up kiddy pool, the play aims for little more than to make the audience laugh, and most of the time hits that mark. Set in Armadillo Acres, a Florida trailer park on "This Side of the Tracks" (as the opening number points out), the loose story line focuses on the marital drama of Jeannie (Lydia Lyons), an agoraphobe who hasn't left the confines of her double-wide in two decades, and her beer guzzling, toll-booth-attendant husband, Norbert (Kevin Blackton). After trying unsuccessfully to lure his wife out of the trailer with tickets to the Ice Capades, Norbert starts an affair with Pippi (Allison F. Rich, whose gams go on for miles). A stripper by night, Pippi rolls into the trailer park on the run from her Pam-huffing, gun-touting ex-boyfriend Duke (Robert Brewer), and drama, hilarity and mullet potshots ensue.

The production is narrated by a Greek chorus of Armadillo Acres residents who sit on their lawn chairs commenting on the action: big-haired Betty (Diana Torres Koss), state-pen conjugal-visiting Lin (Keite Davis) and the perpetually hysterically pregnant Pickles (an impeccably comically timed Halsey Varady). The show dances the line (literally) between making fun of its low-class cast of characters, and reveling in their white-cracker lifestyle. Heavy on the kitsch and decidedly politically uncorrect, the two-hour play sometimes comes off like an extended "You might be a redneck if ..." joke. Still, the production is saved by a talented cast who truly seem to be having fun with their roles.

With its delightfully tawdry approach, there is little surprise that the play was a 2005 off-Broadway hit created by two former Rocky Horror cast members, David Nehls and Betsy Kelso. The Great American Trailer Park Musical still carries many of the musical niceties of an old-school cabaret, including choreographed dancing, tight harmonies and layered melodies. Alongside the spewing of four-letter words and a tame strip scene, Lyons and Koss do some first-class belting, though Blackton's voice was often weak and off-tune. The strongest number of the production was "Flushed Down the Pipes." With a '60s girl-group sound, the song is led by Jeannie (an entertainingly neurotic Lyons). As she laments her husband's infidelity, the trio of Betty, Lin and Pickles provide backup vocals and waltz around her in aprons and dishwashing gloves, twirling toilet brushes.

The music ranges from twangy, Loretta Lynnesque ballads ("Owner of My Heart") to disco ("Storm's A-Brewin'") and rock ("Road Kill"), all played by a live band situated behind the stage out of view. The guffaw-inducing lyrics include lines like "just like clothes from Wal-Mart, my love is falling apart" and "make like a nail and press on." Though The Great American Trailer Park Musical doesn't tread any new ground in satirical musical theater, it's still a simple, fun crowd pleaser.


THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL, a San Jose Stage Company production, plays Wednesday–Thursday 7:30pm, Friday–Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm, with a July 4 show at 2pm, through July 5, at The Stage 490 S. First St., San Jose. Tickets are $25–$45. (408.283.7142)


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