By Daniel Skora
The trailer park has become an American institution. It’s the place where mobile homes go to live out their lives after serving time on the road. Trailer parking presents a rather unique way of living. Your neighbors are often so close that it seems like you’re all living in the same home. You can’t own too much “stuff” because there really isn’t any place to keep it. And even a light shower can sound like a deluge when the rain begins to fall on the trailer’s metal roof. More disconcerting is the fact that trailer parks come with a reputation. It’s said that when the trash gets put out on Wednesdays, there’s nobody left living in the park on Thursday. The Dio Dinner Theatre is currently presenting “The Great American Trailer Park Musical”. It’s raunchy, it’s crass, it’s over-the-top, and it’s a darn good funny show.
Armadillo Acres is run by Betty (Sonja Marquis), whose ear for gossip keeps her tight with “the girls”, residents of the park who have been the subject of many a whispered secret themselves. Lin (Natalie Rose Sevick) has a husband in the slammer, waiting on death row while his wife goes about enjoying life as if he never existed. Pickles (Tori Rogers) is delightfully daffy and kinda, sorta, maybe pregnant. Together, the three make up a kind of Greek chorus, popping up whenever there’s a good rumor going around to comment on the shenanigans in song and dance. Norbert (Andrew Gorney) and his wife Jeannie (Carrie Jay Sayer) seem like the most normal of the trailer park bunch, but that’s not really saying much. Jeannie has not set foot out of her trailer for decades, not since her baby boy was kidnapped years ago, never to be seen again.
Norbert has been longsuffering all those years, starved for his wife’s affections and a night out on the town. Enter Pippi (Alaina Kerr). In another time or another town, she might have been reffered to as an exotic dancer, or even an ecdysiast. But this is Armadillo Acres, and Pippi happens to be a stripper. Pippi is on the run from her boyfriend Duke (Mike Suchyta), a brash young man who thinks a pistol is a good substitute for brains. Besides keeping one step ahead of Duke, Pippi has a penchant for scoring affairs with married men. Very quickly, she and Norbert begin getting it on.
The rest of the plot should be easy to surmise. Duke finally catches up to his evasive girlfriend. Norbert begins experiencing remorse. Jennie inches ever so slowly to making her way outside the trailer, and the mystery of that stolen baby might soon be solved. But like a leisurely ride through the country when you’re going on vacation, making your way through this trailer park scandal is all the fun.
The Dio’s production is lively and entertaining, anchored by its enthused and talented cast. The songs for the most part have pop, gospel, and rockabilly roots with titles like “Flushed Down the Pipes”, “It Doesn’t take a Genius”, and “Road Kill” that fit so well the southern trailer park theme. Many are accompanied by some fancy choreography.
Even in the midst of some occasionally awkward situations, the show’s humor never manages to come off as mean-spirited. It can be blatantly suggestive as well as thoughtfully sly. Example: Pippi, in a state of fatigue after strutting her stuff at the neighborhood “gentlemen’s club”, says this to Norbert, who’s a toll-booth taker by occupation: “How would you feel if you had people throwing dollar bills at you all day?”
“The Great American Trailer Park Musical” is a laugh-filled show that will give you a hint of what to expect if you ever decide to unhitch that mobile home and drop it in a place where everyone has a story and is not afraid to tell it. Just remember to leave your scruples behind. There’re no place in a trailer to keep them.
Book is by Betsy Kelso. Music and lyrics are by David Nehls. Steve DeBruyne directs with Matt Tomich doing set, lighting, and sound design. Music direction is provided by Brian Rose, choreographer is by Kristin Renee Reeves. Costume design is by Norma Polk, hair and makeup by Madison Merlin, and props by Eileen Obradovich. Chef Jarod pitches in with his usual tasty buffet, complimenting his Signature fried chicken with that most basic of comfort food, meat loaf.
“The Great American Trailer Park Musical” runs through October 8th. For tickets and information call the Dio at 1.517.672.6009 or go online at www.diotheatre.com. The Dio Dining and Entertainment is located at 177 E. Main Street in downtown Pinckney.