by Don Church and Tony Schillaci – Critics On The Aisle
What could be better on a cold winter’s night than to go to the Spirit Of Broadway Theater (SBT) in downtown Norwich, grab a glass of wine or some homemade cake, and sit in a make-believe Florida trailer park with a zany group of outrageous residents for two hours of hysterical laughter?…. Nuthin’!
The latest offering from SBT Artistic Director Brett Bernardini is “The Great American Trailer Park Musical.” This laugh-out-loud confection is as yummy as momma Janet Bernardini’s cherry cheesecake, and yes, the show does offer a bit of cheesecake too, in the character of Pippi, the pole-dancing stripper who comes to live in the Armadillo Acres Manufactured Mobile Home Park and reeks hormone havoc with the tenants.
Pippi (recent Hartt School graduate Meagan MacLeod) does not get a hearty welcome from the wacky narrators, a trio of singing trailer park gals – Betty (Maureen Pollard), Lin (Heather Ruley), and Pickles (Hayley Pearl Overturf). These three are the real stars of the show! What great performances! They’re onstage most of the time, and they sing their hearts out with silly words and melodic music by David Nehls, opening with “This Side Of The Tracks” (which they sing while tanning themselves with aluminum reflectors as they sit in folding chairs in front of their tin-can residences.)
The rootin’-tootin’-hootin’ book by Betsey Kelso is so irreverent and bawdy that only the most prudish and those lacking a sense of humor will fail to laugh out loud. It’s one of those shows that insults just about everyone, but with such toothless good natured winks that it ain’t offensive!
Whenever Hayley as Pickles opens her mouth you can almost see the air leaving her head, and teamed with the combat-boot-wearing Heather as Lin these two could carry a show on their own.
Even the pseudo-serious songs sung by Nicole Marion as Jeannie and Derek Corriveau as Norbert are peppered with good-humor so that they don’t drag down the show. After all, this is a frothy musical comedy, and there’s no room here for any thought provoking message to interrupt the dizzy doings.
When the handsome and sexy, Sharpie-sniffing Duke (Nick D’Angelo) arrives in Armadillo Acres singing “Road Kill,” neither critter nor human is safe from his dumb jealous rage. Nick’s portrayal is so perfectly “in the moment” that it’s easy to forget that he’s actually a fine actor and not some drugged-up nitwit that just happened to get onstage. Duke has about two watts burning, which is only one watt less than the rest of the musical’s characters.
Brett Bernardini has opened his closet of exquisite tackiness to dress the set and the actors. From faded plastic flowers, battered mailboxes, scroungy garbage cans and blown out tires, to the rattiest wigs ever seen in a theater, they seem just right for Armadillo Acres. Choreographer Lisa Foss works with Director Bernardini to keep the musical’s bouncy action lively and effervescent.
The unseen four piece orchestra is directed by Daniel Brandl, who doubles on piano and keyboard. Lighting director Glenn Michaud and his crew have done some fun stuff, especially with floor projections in the sequence called “The Great American TV Show.” The MC of this segment, Maureen Pollard, does her turn as Betty Springer, and she squeezes the audience like a lemon to get every laugh, giggle, roar, guffaw, titter and hooter from her lines. Titters and hooters? Yeah, it’s that kind of a show.
This is an ideal escape from tough times. For two hours you leave everything behind except the inhabitants of Armadillo Acres in forgettable Stark, Florida.
If you were planning to go south this winter don’t bother because the weather’s totally unreliable this year. We suggest you take all your vacation money and call box-office manager Ruth Tefft at SBT to order a big block of tickets before this show closes on February 7th. And this is one rollicking show that you’ll definitely want to share with friends. It’s the kind of bawdy adult humor and situations you get in live theater, but never on network TV!
Brett Bernardini told THE RESIDENT that he would like everyone to put on your trashiest duds, black out a tooth or two and join him for one helluva trashy time at Armadillo Acres! For tickets, directions and getting on the mailing list go to: www.spiritofbroadway.org. or call Ruth at (860) 886-2378.