by Beki Pineda
THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL – Music and Lyrics by David Nehls; Book by Betsy Kelso; Directed by Deb Flomberg-Rollins. Produced by Equinox Theatre Denver (Presented at the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo, Denver) through August 31. Tickets available at 720-984-0781 or equinoxtheatredenver.com.
It’s delightful to see local boy David Nehls’ silly but sweet musical get another production after quite a few years. It’s the kind of lighthearted swipe at redneck Americana that we can all laugh at because we recognize ourselves in this small group of people. These are folk who all have problems and yet, as they sing, “make like a nail and press on.” They may poke fun at each other but when the time comes, they also support and help one another. I wouldn’t mind having them as my neighbors on “This Side of the Tracks.”
As you enter the theatre, you see the set for Armadillo Acres which is comprised of the butt ends of three extremely well constructed trailers set up on cinder blocks with the adornment of pink flamingos, a beer keg, year round Christmas lights, and three webbed lounge chairs that match the paint colors of the trailers. I wonder which came first – the trailer’s color or the chairs?? Soon three of the park’s residents show up to sun with home-made tanning screens. They explain about their lives in song. Lin has a husband on Death Row that she keeps alive by keeping all the lights on in the park so the prison doesn’t have enough power to run the electric chair. Pickles is prone to hysterical pregnancies and is described as being “dumber than a box of hair.” Betty has “her” own set of problems as well. These three act as a Greek chorus to the shenanigans on stage, explaining to the audience what’s going on and the various back stories of the other characters.
Jeannie and her husband Norbert are going through a rough spell because of Jeannie’s agoraphobia. She hasn’t set foot outside their trailer in the last twenty years – ever since her baby was stolen out of their front yard. Norbert has gotten a pair of Ice Capade tickets for their anniversary and wants her to make an effort to get over her fixation so she can go with him. The routine of their lives is turned upside down by the arrival of Pippa the Strippa who is on the run from an abusive husband. From then on, we get caught up in the trials and troubles of all of the residents as they try to solve their personal problems and help each other. All delightfully tongue in cheek and cheeky, racy and raunchy without being vulgar. Not for the kids but a great delight to the sold out adult audience on a recent Saturday night.
Equinox has attracted a top notch cast for this little romp. The three girls telling the story are Anna Sturtz as a robust and hearty Lin, Shelby Taylor is a dim but sweet Pickles, and Colin Roybal (yes, you read that right) is the heavily made up leader of the group, Betty. Bussy Gower is a surprisingly experienced stripper and pretty enough to make any guy think twice about cheating on his wife. Zachary Vaughn and Tracy Denver are the couple in trouble. Tracy is especially convincing as she tries to take a step out of her sheltered life and in her anger at Norbert as he is tempted. The seventh character is Duke, Pippi’s husband who makes his way across country to find her. Surprisingly, it turns out he has a connection to Armadillo Acres no one could predict. Carter Edward Smith spectacularly breaks out of his usual sort of nebbish-y roles to play a rough and tumble paint-sniffing hoodlum on a mission.
The four piece backstage band led by Kelly Bidstrup Graham did an especially fine job with this set of music. While it was occasionally difficult to make out all the lyrics, the music came across clear and strong.
I have to give heartfelt congratulations to Equinox. They have created a whole new audience from the North Denver neighborhood they live in and have found a niche that suits them and their audience. TRAILER PARK is typical of the kind of show they do so well – very silly and a little raunchy. The last few times I’ve attended their shows the house has been full or nearly full which means they have found what their audience likes and continue to do it well. Finding extra chairs to seat everyone!! What a sweet problem to have. Congrats, Colin and Deb!! Their next show – SWEENEY TODD – should be a treasure!
A WOW factor of 8.5!!