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Songs of the ‘Trailer Park’

REP musical does some funin’ with stereotypes

Posted: May 18, 2012 6:00 a.m.
Updated: May 18, 2012 6:00 a.m.

“The Girls” of Armadillo Acres trailer park, Pickles (Beth Ann Sweezer), Betty (Leslie Berra) and Lin (Lori D’Itri).

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Now, I don't know how the folks in the town of Starke might feel about it ... or the folks in Florida as a whole ... or folks who live in "trailer parks" across our great nation, for that matter. But I really don't care, because the audience at the REP's opening of "The Great American Trailer Park Musical," myself included, found the goings-on at the Armadillo Acres trailer park a real hoot.

Everything in this play is stereotyped to the absurd, and nothing is to be taken seriously. And that goes especially for the "plot," which is a thin soap-opera stitch to join the laughs and wonderful songs together. And no one makes any excuses for that.

"The purpose of theater is to entertain or to make you think," Director Mark Kaplan said. "This show is pure entertainment."

And wonderful entertainment it is. With some nifty set pieces, including a trailer that rotates so you can view the inside as well as the outside, video monitors that play classic period commercials and other nostalgia, mood-setting sound effects and great music, the table is perfectly set for the songs as the entrée, and they don't disappoint.

Kaplan complimented Vocal Director Leslie Berra (who also plays Betty) in this regard, but noted that his entire production team brought a wealth of talents to the process, which made things especially easy.

"It's important to have great people around you to get a great product," he said. With such a wonderful cast and crew, he said, "It's one of the easiest processes I've had as a director. I just told the cast to ‘have fun.'"

And their fun (and talent) is your fun.

Now, I am a big fan of harmony, especially as it fits into eccentric little musicals such as this one. And that sweet musical method is used early and often to excellent effect in "Trailer Park," including when the lyrics are tongue-in-cheek, such as those in "Flushed Down the Pipes."

Between songs, each performer brought delightful life to his or her quirky character. Kristen Heitman, as the agoraphobic Jeannie, was especially touching in that role, and her awkward steps getting out of her trailer were humorous. Her singing voice was strong and sweet as well.

Jeremiah Lowder played Jeannie's cheatin' husband Norbert with just the right amount of aw-shucks to keep you from hating him, and his voice added a pleasant masculine accent to several of the songs.

Similarly, Shannon Bouknight played Pippi, the "other women," with an innocence that kept you from hating, and her sweet voice fit that perfectly.

"The Girls," Leslie Berra as Betty, Lori D'Itri as Lin, and Beth Ann Sweezer as Donna, sing this thing through from beginning to end. The "Greek chorus" here, these three add their own humor to events, and keep things lively through song and sass.

Luke Barnett plays Duke, the dangerous ex-boyfriend searching for Pippi. You learn he's-a-comin' and that provides the "edge" to things. Barnett is fantastic in this bad-old-boy role.

So, if you like music and harmony, outrageous characters and silly fun, I suggest you take a trip to Armadillo Acres at the Repertory East Playhouse soon. You'll have a good-ole time.

"The Great American Trailer Park Musical" continues at the REP through June 16, with show times Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. A White Trash Dance Party (come in costume) follows the Friday shows. Tickets to the play are $21 for adults and $18 for students and seniors. The REP is at 24266 Main St., Newhall, CA 91321. Visit www.repeastplayhouse.org or call (661) 288-0000.

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