THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICALMusic and Lyrics by David Nehls
Book by Betsy Kelso
Director – Ashley White
Musical Director – Amy Wyatt
Choreographers – Maegan Stewart and Jana Edele
Scenic Design – Abby Kipp and Lamar Graham
Lighting Design – Michael Ramey
Costume Design – Lindsey Humphries and Jessie Wallace
Sound Design – Alex Krus
Jeannie – Delynda Moravec
Norbert – Scott Nixon
Pippi – Susan Riley
Duke – Billy Betsill
Betty – Kelly Moore Clarkson
Linoleum – Angela Allen
Pickles – Daron Cockerell
Reviewed Performance: 8/1/2014
Reviewed by Jeremy William Osborne, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Scenic design by Abby Kipp and Lamar Graham is perfectly tacky but restrictive in Runway's small space. The multi-level platforms upstage are great for providing different areas for the actors to perform. The Astro-turf main stage level and large trailer set pieces on either side are wonderful for setting the location. However, all of that means the main performance area is a limited piece of real estate downstage center. Also, the trailer piece stage left often blocks any action that happens on that side’s platforms. Fortunately, Ashley White limits the action in that area and blocks the performers to quickly get back where they can be seen.
Costumes and props, as previously mentioned, are specifically low-quality items. Lindsey Humphries and Jessie Wallace do a great job staying true to the heart of the musical. The best costumes are the “Rosie the Riveter/Cleaning Lady” ones which the three chorus ladies wear during “Flushed Down the Pipes.” Their denim outfits with rubber cleaning gloves and scrubbing brushes tucked into their belts are a great visual that compliments the scene sublimely.
Michael Ramey’s lighting for the show, however, is a sticking point. For the most part, it is fine. There are several problem moments, as during “Storms a Brewin” when a disco ball blocks a light, casting a shadow over an important area of the stage, or when a bouncing, follow spotlight fails to follow the action or is simply late for its cue. The use of Christmas lights for decoration and stage highlights is enjoyable, however.
The band sounds great but for a majority of the songs the words are muffled or drowned out by the music. The audience can get the gist of the story through context clues but a number of jokes are missed simply because the words are not understandable. It's a real shame since the entire cast has great voices and is giving excellent performances.
Underneath the celebration of America's trashy but good-hearted sub-culture is a classic Greek comedy complete with chorus in the form of three ladies, Betty, Linoleum, and Pickles. Played by Kelly Moore Clarkson, Angela Allen, and Daron Cockerell, the three guide the audience through the story of a woman on a run, a cheating husband, and a psychotic tweeker in a Florida trailer park. Of course, they take on many roles to fill in the gaps and live out fantasies, like “The Betty Show” dream sequence in Act I. All three women are strong comedic talents who keep the audience rolling with laughs through their improvised lines in reaction to a scene. The three harmonize well through the songs and facilitate scene changes by moving scenery into place.
Delynda Moravec and Scott Nixon are the not-so-happily married couple, Jeannie and Norbert, whose lives are disrupted by newcomer, Pippi, played by Susan Riley. All three are great talents which show in their gung-ho performances here. Moravec's attempts at leaving the trailer, as the agoraphobic Jeannie, are funny and somehow sweet as she suits up in a life preserver and water wings, tying a lifeline around her waist. Her portrayal of delight at small victories in her progress outside the trailer is heartwarming.
Nixon's portrayal of simple Norbert is good but a little too subdued. In comparison to all the more colorful characters throughout the show, Norbert often gets lost in the shuffle and sometimes Nixon seems more of a prop and a voice to round out harmonies than a part of the cast.
Riley, on the other hand, hits the stage like the proverbial hurricane, as Pippi is metaphorically referred later in the show, and doesn't let up. She's flashy and grandiose in both costume and action. Riley puts on an impressive pole dance in Act I, complete with a back flip and twirl. She does need to be careful with the dance, though. People sitting at the correct angle to the stage may get more of a peep show than is bargained for. Her performance of “He is Mine/It's Never Easy” along with Nixon and Moravec is a truly touching moment of the play.
Finally, Billy Betsill as Duke is a raucous character. Betsill puts a lot of energy into the tweeker high on markers character as he twitches and bounds around the stage. He uses great voice fluctuations to get across the unstable nature of Duke. In the song “Roadkill”, Betsill puts his all into the performance and has one of the funniest improvised lines in the entire show about magenta markers. Also, his “car(t)” has to be seen to be believed. Bravo to the uncredited prop designer that came up with the skull headlights and dashboard light, simulating a steering wheel. Overall, Betsill is a great joy to watch.
The Great American Trailer Park Musical at Runway Theatre is a wonderful show with a great cast. Although sound issues make it hard to hear sometimes, the laughs continuously pour out of the audience. It is definitely worth a stopover in Grapevine to see this show.
215 North Dooley St.
Grapevine, TX 76051
Runs through August 17th
Friday-Saturday at 8:00 pm and Sunday at 3:00 pm
Tickets are $20.00 and $15.00 for seniors and students.
For tickets and information, go to http://www.runwaytheatre.com or call their box office