How's this for a musical theatre concept? Take a bunch of trashy trailer stereotypes, embroil them in a plot about love run amuck, wrap some catchy tunes around their everyday escapades and presto you get "The Great American Trailer Park Musical" currently playing at Thunder Bay Theatre.
TBT certainly mixed it up over the last couple of months, first with a heart-tugging drama about a woman dying of cancer, then the sixties era rock musical, "Jesus Christ Superstar," and now this low brow comedy by Betsy Kelso and David Nehls. While the source of the show's humor rests squarely on a less fortunate, less affluent slice of society, it nevertheless wrings a multitude of laughs out of other people's down-trodden state of affairs. I'm not sure what that says about us, but hey, TBT Artistic Director freely admits right up front in his welcome speech, "Les Miserables" this is not.
Perched in old metal lawn chairs, a trio of friends known as Linoleum, Pickles and Betty start things off with the song, "This Side of the Tracks." Not only are these three ensconced in the Armadillo Acres Trailer Park "family," but they also serve as the show's comical narrators. Sandi Schmidt, Juliana LaBar and Beth Matzke looked their parts, dressed their parts and performed their parts well together.
Keep in mind, this isn't a show you'd want your children to see, and TBT doesn't recommend it for anyone under the age of 13. There are liberal amounts of gutter talk sprinkled over with the occasional "F" bomb, and there are also a number of sexual situations, including a pole dance performed by Hannah Matzke as Pippi, a stripper on the run from her crazed ex-boyfriend.
Matzke's character not only shakes her booty but also steals the affections of married guy, Norbert, who's frustrated to the max with life because his wife, Jeannie, hasn't left the confines of their trailer ever since the day their young son was kidnapped 20 years ago. Of course, the exact moment Jeannie finally begins to overcome her agraphobic ways and rejoin the outside world is also the time she spies her hubby in a lip lock with Pippi. Let the fireworks begin.
Life further unravels when Pippi's gun-toting ex-boyfriend, Duke, tracks her down at the trailer park with revenge and mayhem on his mind. Perhaps the plot sounds a bit over-the-top, though on the other hand, judging by current headlines in the news, perhaps not. Whichever the case, LeShawn Bell as Norbert and Zachariah Clement as Duke definitely add to the comedy factor.
Clement's character sings an amusing song, "Road Kill," with the trio of narrators along for the ride. Matzke and Bell also draw plenty of laughter for their part in the confessional let's-spill-our-guts-on-national-television song called "The Great American TV Show."
By far, however, my favorite moments in the show have to be anytime Suni Travis, portraying the bathrobe clad Jeannie, sings her torchy ballads. Her voice is beautiful and every number she takes on seems to be totally in her wheel house.
The 14 songs included in the show are backed up musically by the Armadillo Acres Doublewide Band. The band's talented members include Randy Bouchard on guitar, Kat Tomaszewski on keyboard, Jerrith Clewley on bass and Joe La Vigne on drums.
This musical comedy only plays at TBT for one more week. Remaining performances are Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. For reservations, call the box office at 354-2267.