GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICALMusic and Lyrics by David Nehls, Book by Betsy Kelso
Greater Lewisville Community Theatre
Director: Terri Hagar Scherer
Music Director: Tim Georgeff
Choreographer: Larry Borero
Stage Manager: Nancy Mora
Set Designer: George Redford
Wig Designer: Arianna Movassagh
Costume Designer: Penny Greenbauer Parker
Lighting Designer: Bear Hamilton
Set Artist/Set Dresser: Paula Hagar
Props: Nancy and Leo Mora, Paula Hagar
Vehicle Design/Construction: Hugh Scherer, Adam Scherer
Backstage Crew: Becky Bardales, Cody Hundall
Makeup: Kris Walters
Light Board Operator: John Damian, Sr.
Spotlight Operator: Chris Buras
Conductor/Keyboard: Tim Georgeff
Drums: Randy Linberg
Guitar: Enrique Martinez
Bass: Steve Cullen
Betty: Sherry Etzel
Donna "Pickles": Jad B. Saxton
Linoleum "Lin": Noelle Salter
Jeannie Garstecki: Rachel Robertson
Norbert Garstecki: Tom DeWester
Pippi: Courtney Sikora
Duke: Blake Rodgers
Reviewed Performance: 10/15/2011
Reviewed by Ashlea Palladino, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Director Terri Hagar Scherer assembled a bright cast to tell this story of seven ladies and gents who share space at a north Florida mobile home community (aka trailer park) known as Armadillo Acres. Like many Texans, I had a hard time considering Florida as part of the Deep South, but The Great American Trailer Park Musical (running through October 30th) reminded me that our magnificent home state doesn't own the trademark on big hair, poor grammar, front yard drama and general "redneckery" - we're just really good at it.
The stage inside the GLCT theater is not huge but having seen Urinetown performed on the same stage, I wasn't too worried about everything fitting. Designer George Redford did not disappoint with his colorful, representative set. Large facades of two mobile homes were stationed on the left and right of the stage and both opened to reveal different set areas behind them. When opened, the home at stage right served as the gentleman's club, complete with dangling tinsel and the requisite brass pole. Instead of opening out via folded panes of plywood (like its neighbor), the front panel of the Garstecki's home at stage left slid away on a horizontal track to reveal the interior of their living room. Set Dresser Paula Hagar and the properties crew of Nancy and Leo Mora brought in other elements often associated with white trash-edness: yard flamingos, lawn chairs, igloos, hubcaps, indoor/outdoor carpeting, Christmas lights, and beer. Lots of beer. The effect was light and fun and while there wasn't any room to spare, the set helped to tell the story effectively.
Music Director/Conductor/Keyboardist Tim Georgeff brought together a talented team of musicians for Trailer Park and it was obvious the orchestra enjoyed playing this score. While awaiting the start of Act 2 the orchestra played Tennessee Ernie Ford's "Sixteen Tons" and the audience joined right in for a rollicking sing-a-long. The orchestra overpowered the singers at times, but it wasn't all that frustrating because I was having so dad-gummed much fun. After all, it was hard to take a musical too seriously with songs like "Road Kill" and "The Great American TV Show".
I shall henceforth refer to this cast as the Magnificent Seven as each actor was at the top of his or her game ? there wasn't a weak link amongst this septet. One of the things I enjoyed most about this cast was their distinct individuality. While they each maintained portions of the white trash stereotype, they also fleshed out independent behaviors and attitudes that made them specific and important.
I put myself out on a limb after the show and stated to my companion that Sherry Etzel may just be the funniest woman working in our D/FW theater community today. As Betty, the leasing manager at Armadillo Acres and overall ringleader, Ms. Etzel was nothing short of brilliant. The beer-slugging, cigarette-smoking, cleavage-revealing Betty narrated the story along with Pickles and Lin, her equally-entertaining trailer park cohorts, but it was clear that Betty was in charge. Ms. Etzel donned a teased auburn wig that reminded me of Reba McEntire which fit nicely within the boundaries of this Southern story. She wore blue eye shadow and an ankle bracelet and she could've doubled for a Steel Magnolia had she not plainly enjoyed cussing so much. Ms. Etzel also took a turn as a Sally Jessy Raphael-inspired television talk show host, as well as a disco diva.
Regardless of the wig she was wearing, her facial expressions, body language, timing, and physicality kept me laughing and shaking my head in wonder at her complete lack of inhibition while on stage. Very well done, Ms. Betty.
Jad B. Saxton played Donna, or Pickles as she was known around the ol' trailer park (because she was perpetually hysterically pregnant). Ms. Saxton was a tiny lady so it was absolutely believable that she was seventeen years old, and she delivered her lines with a timbre of sprightly youth that added to that believability. If Ms. Saxton was funny as Pickles, she was downright hysterical as Tina, the flan-selling friend of Pippi whose Spanish-lilted English flooded the theater with waves of laughter.
Rounding out our trio of narrators was Noelle Salter as Lin. Of all our trailer park dwellers, Ms. Salter wore the largest of the wigs and bore the "baddest" of airs. While Pickles was somewhat cutesy in her yellow canvas sneakers, Lin wore leather motorcycle boots and an adorned leather vest. Standing several inches above Ms. Saxton, and even a few above Ms. Etzell, Ms. Salter was physically set apart from her comrades which helped to solidify their personality differences and traits. Ms. Salter was bold and entertaining throughout.
While speaking of the aforementioned threesome I would be remiss if I didn't also make note of Larry Borero's choreography. As stated earlier the stage was pretty small but Mr. Borero made use of the space he was given and choreographed the musical numbers with that space in mind. Trailer Park was not a musical that required absolute precision in its dance numbers ? in fact, I would've been disappointed if Betty, Pickles and Lin had taken a more military approach towards their dancing. These three actors were very different women playing very different characters so it was actually endearing that their steps and hand gestures didn't match on every count.
Courtney Sikora was the standout vocal performance of the show with her sassy, come hither portrayal of Pippi, the newest stripper on the block. Pippi landed at Armadillo Acres after fleeing a deranged boyfriend and she took up with Norbert, her married neighbor. Trading one bad situation for another, it was easy to sympathize with Ms. Sikora's character even though she was an adulterous harlot who wasn't entirely likeable. Ms. Sikora seemed comfortable wearing less than the other actors and her interactions with Norbert were believably sexy.
Juxtaposed against Pippi, the character of Jeannie Garstecki, Norbert's agoraphobic wife of twenty years, was a tiny mouse alone in a huge field. Rachel Robertson played Jeannie with great heart and sensitivity and made the audience believe she was truly afraid to leave the confines of her home. Ms. Robertson had some great comic moments of her own as she relayed many of the themes of her beloved television shows during some of her songs.
Speaking of great comic moments, Blake Rodgers stole his share while onstage as Duke, Pippi's estranged boyfriend. Mr. Rodgers was intense and loud - much like the colors of the permanent markers he was addicted to sniffing. He played the crazed maniac extremely well which made his transition in the last scene so much fun (though I won't spoil the ending for you here).
Incidentally, Duke rolled into Starke, Florida in the strangest moving contraption I'd ever seen on a stage. It was part mail Jeep, part dune buggy, and part something else I couldn't quite explain but it was totally Duke ? congrats to vehicle designers Hugh Scherer and Adam Scherer for leaving the critic without words!
Most of the movement of the story wouldn't have been possible without the actions and behaviors of one character, Norbert Garstecki. Tom DeWester shared a performance that was perfectly matched to the pace and delivery of his co-stars. When dealing directly with Jeannie, Mr. DeWester was sentimental and kind, whereas he was flirtatious and masculine while interacting with Pippi. My biggest, longest laugh of the night came with his sporting a blond mullet wig during a flashback sequence, though he made me laugh a dozen or more times throughout the performance.
Suffice it to say that the Magnificent Seven, along with an energetic orchestra, turned this little theater in Lewisville into a trailer park I'd be proud to call home. Well, not "proud" maybe. And probably not "home". Maybe a visit to Starke, FL is in order though.
Greater Lewisville Community Theatre
160 W. Main Street, Lewisville, TX 75057
Runs through October 30th
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm, Sundays at 3:00pm, and a Thursday evening performance on 10/27 at 8:00 pm
Tickets range in price from $12 to $18 and may be purchased online at www.glct.org or by calling the box office at 972-221-SHOW (7469).