IF YOU GO
What: Tongue-in-cheek musical about the denizens of Armadillo Acres
When: Through April 29.
Where: 1380 Colonial Boulevard, Fort Myers (in Royal Palm Square)
Cost: $25 to $51. Show only $25.
Information: 239-278-4422 or broadwaypalm.com
Something Else: Extremely limited ticket availability; Tickets available April 18, 21, 24-28 only.
On the Web: Sign up to receive more theater news from the Stage Door blog via email.
Armadillo Acres is the place to be. Where the sun shines bright and the propane ain't free! Armadillo Acres is the place to be. Where the trailers lean and the mailboxes are rusty. Put on your overalls. Broadway Palm goes deliciously white trash with "The Great American Trailer Park Musical."
It is exactly - EXACTLY - what you think it is. This musical visits the not-so-scenic stretch of dilapidated, run-down, rolling disasters known as Armadillo Acres in, of all places, Starke, Florida. Oh, but it is so much more. Writer Betsy Kelso and lyricist/musician David Kelso breathe inspired life into their trailer park queens, strippers and crazy boyfriends.
"The Great American Trailer Park Musical" approaches its subject matter with a sly wink and a nod - blasting away at the stereotypes with a shotgun. The dialogue comes littered with snarky commentary: "We do not marry our cousins. (beat) Not without a pre-nup!"
Characters like Linoleum (she was born on the kitchen floor) and Pickles (because she's always pregnant) croon the tunes from plastic lawn chairs while sipping beers from a cooler. Opener "This Side of the Tracks" lays it all out for the audience just minutes after the lights dim: "We ain't highly educated, but who needs a diploma when you're wed and mated here on this side of the tracks?"
There's a plot. Of course there's a plot. Agoraphobic Jeannie (a radiant Jessica Unice) loses husband Norbert (wonderfully funny Bryan Robinson) to stripper Pippi (legs-for-days Shannon McMillan). Pippi's on the run from ex-boyfriend Duke (Adam Clough doing a brilliantly insane full-on William Shatner playing William Shatner impression).
It all ends in pistols and Pam (yes, the cooking spray) brawl at the trailer park. Why Pam? You can get high from sniffing it, if course - and Duke buys it by the pallet-load at Costco.
The show - absolutely chockablock full of one-liners and throwaway jokes- literally made me laugh so hard the woman in front of me turned around to stare. For instance, Pippi's takes her clothes off at a quaint little establishment named the Litter Box Show Palace and one of Pickles' alter egos works at a mall dessert kiosk dubbed "Stand By Your Flan."
Director Paul Bernier strikes exactly the right tone in the show, whisking his cast along with both speed and glee. He gets the over-the-top atmosphere, celebrates it, understands that there's no boundary too far for this white trash extravaganza and tosses a few more Natty Lights in the Igloo cooler.
Amy Marie McCleary's sterling chreography makes the small ensemble look big. Thrilling first-act curtain number "Storms' A-Brewin'" hearkens to the disco era, complete with bopping 70s era dance moves. I prefer the comical "Flushed Down the Pipes" though.
A comical, heartbreaking, terrifyingly, awfully tragic ... something, "Flushed Down the Pipes" compares love to plumbing. McCleary gives her girls toilet plungers (as microphones) and recreates girl group and fan dance poses under romantic blue lights. "My marriage is in the hands of the Tidy Bowl man / plopped face down in the can, and then flushed down the pipes once again!"
April Monte slides her Linoleum across the stage into a show-stealing character. She's an electric presence, sipping beer, gawping in the background of scenes and giving the one-liners plenty of topspin. ("There was a time when a series of sexual favors actually meant somethin' to a governor!") Kaitlin Doughty charms as the daft Pickles, with just the right amount of goofiness.
McMillan delights as brassy stripper Pippi. She gives the role heart (and the front row a real show, check your pacemakers). Pippi's not a bad girl, she's just looking for something - in Jeannie's trailer and in Jeannie's husband's pants! McMillan gives the outsize character plenty of sparkle, going big and bold at every turn - and the caricature fits perfectly. Clough's deranged portrait of ex-boyfriend as villain caps the show perfectly.
Jim Conti's costumes delight, especially Pippi's stripper outfits. Four words: sparkly leopard booty shorts. McMillan also sports stiletto cowgirl boots (the second time those have popped up in local theater this season). Trailer park denizens get either cutoffs or tights as pants or in shut-in Jeannie's case - a bathrobe over an old "Frankie Says Relax" tee. A set of sizzling electric blue wigs and sparkling robes give vibrant life to the disco number.
Bernier's set features two tumble-down trailers in slate blue sandwiching an Armadillo Acres sign. One light bulb is - predictably - burned out. Christmas light (in summer) give the place a festive air. Tennis shoes hang from a power line. Rusty mailboxes line the fence and weeds peek out from the battered and peeling trellis that last got a coat of white paint in the 1970s.
Be warned, the show does come a bit bawdy. Broadway Palm makes some slight edits to remove one four-letter obscenity, but there is a stripper, a stripper pole, stripper routine, an eye-popping costume (complete with belly-button crystal) and a rump-shaking routine. There's also my favorite line of the show in that scene: "In Texas, got down to the nitty and gritty / wanna know what else ryhmes with 'gritty!'" So, yeah, it's a long, long way from Irving Berlin - and it might be the funniest thing you'll see all month.
Which trailer park does Britney Spears live in? Email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, find me on Twitter at @napleschris or read my Stage Door theater blog. You can also sign up to receive the Stage Door blog via email.