THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK CHRISTMAS MUSICAL (Montgomery Theater): Treasure amid the chintz

xmas-trailerThe clock is ticking down to tinsel time at Armadillo Acres in Starke, Florida, where the residents intend to blind the heavens with bargain store bling, lots of lights and assorted curb shopped curios including naked lady mudflap and beheaded Barbie angels, a beer can menorah, popsicle stick snowflakes, plus of course, the requisite pink flamingos.  After all their trailer park has been “selected” for a visit by Mobile Homes and Gardens and there is a $10,000 winner’s prize.  Problem is, there is one resident who refuses to tolerate any decorating on her property, asserting via song that “Christmas is for Dummies”.  This same bayou Scrooge soon receives a shock causing her to forget her past and how much she hates the schlock of the season. Her neighbors sing “Twelve Days of Amnesia” till Christmas, and hope for non-recovery. What she does begin to remember, after three hilariously campy ghosts of Christmas Past visit her and another zap are some of her true feelings, and the discovery of the real gift this time of year brings.  Burrow down past the stereotyped trailer trash speak, beneath the prickly Armadillo Acres personas living in shoddy splendor decked with cheap plastic, and there you will find a touchingly beautiful message.  And, well, maybe some other things… (like the ashes of Lin’s electrocuted ex-con husband). Opening night’s full house, some dressed in trailer park garb, found lots of fun and laughter for sure, and gave standing applause afterwards!

There is constant build-up of momentum in this high energy musical as Stephen Casey’s direction and choreography shine through an excellent cast. The dance and slow motion action numbers are superbly in sync, the performers wonderfully expressive throughout some complex moves.  Betty, the mobile home park manager, graced with great charm by Barbara McCulloh, Lin (named Linoleum for where she was born), expertly portrayed by Sarah J. Gafgen, and Pickles played smack-dab by Elena Camp, are all characters from the original The Great American Trailer Park Musical, which also featured music and lyrics by David Nehls and book by Betsy Kelso.  New in this sequel are characters Darlene Seward, the trailer park’s Grinch, done with gusto and great belting vocals by Jenny Lee Stern; her adorably kind neighbor, Rufus the dufus, given a tender charisma and terrific singing voice by Joseph Michael O’Brien; and the virile and vile Jackson (Jackie) Bordeaux, brash owner of the breastaurant Stacks (think Hooters), personified with panache and fabulous singing by Bryan DeSanto.  The actors also don other roles, such as ghosts of Christmas Past and Stacks waitresses (McCulloh, Gafgen and Camp), Mall Skanks (DeSanto and O’Brien), Darlene’s lost love Hank (McCulloh), and gin drinking dollar store Santa  (O’Brien) with splendid skill.

The musical (Michele M. Ferdinand, music director) numbers are spot on. Particularly memorable are “Black and Blue for Christmas” (Rufus), “My Christmas Toy Boy” (Darlene), “Baby I’ll be Your Santa Claus” (Jackie and “Waitresses”), “There Will always be Christmas Next Year” (Betty, Lin and Pickles), “Heart Full of Christmas” (Company) and yep, “F… it, it’s Christmas” (Company).

Two trimmed down trailers adorn the well designed set (Meghan Jones) in addition to three folding chairs, an evergreen tree, and a multitude of outre Christmas decorations, with lighting (Jim Leitner) and sound (Brian S. Weiss) assisting during changes of scene or mood, which were fluid and nearly unnoticeable.

Kudos and a round of keg-nog to cast and crew for a finely tuned production containing some unrefined, but well done wildly funny material.  The audience deemed THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK CHRISTMAS MUSICAL an absolute hoot, and the show has been extended through December 20th.

[Montgomery Theater, 124 N Main Street, Souderton, PA]; November 21 – December 20, 2015; montgomerytheater.org

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About the author

Lisa Panzer

Lisa Panzer has worked for many years in theater not only as an actor, but as a director, dramaturg, technical director, lighting designer, stage crew, and roustabout. A few of her favorite past theatrical roles include: Liz Imbrie in Philadelphia Story, Maria in Lend Me a Tenor, Mrs. Tarpey in Spreading the News, Mollie Ralston in Mousetrap, Trinculo in The Tempest, Bernice Roth in Musical Comedy Murders of 1940 and Felicia Dantine in I Hate Hamlet. In addition to theatrical endeavors, Mz. Panzer has also worked as a background performer in television’s Cold Case, Invincible, The Happening, several television commercials, and has played various roles in independent films including Project 21 productions and other commercial acting venues. (See http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3355274/ for additonal information).