Geneva Anderson digs into art

Review: Finding the treasure in white trash—“The Great American Trailer Park,” at Santa Rosa’s 6th Street Theatre is a campy musical that invites you to get your redneck on….through September 30, 2012

From left to right: Mark Bradbury (Duke), Craig A Miller (Norbert), Julianne Lorenzen (Jeannie), Taylor Bartolucci (Pippi), Daniela Innocenti Beem (Betty), Alise Girard (Pickles) and Shannon Rider (Lin) are all part of 6th Street Playhouse’s “The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” through September 30, 2012. Photo: Eric Chazankin

They didn’t all plan to be neighbors at the Armadillo Acres Trailer Park in North Florida but the fates of a toll collector, his agoraphobic wife, a stripper-on-the-run, her crazy ex, and a trio of busty tube-topped women are all intertwined in the enchanting “The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” which opened Friday at Santa Rosa’s 6th Street Playhouse.  Written by composer/lyricist/actor David Nehls and writer/actor Betsy Kelso, the two-act musical opened in New York in 2004, played off-Broadway and has been produced regionally and internationally ever since.  This love triangle, with its hilarious low-rent twists, has a lot of heart, a lot of dysfunction and snappy, crass, funny songs you’ll find yourself humming on the way home.  6th Street’s Barry Martin is the producer and a talented team of 7 local singers and actors round out the cast.  To add to the fun, 6th Street is encouraging all attendees to dress up in their best “trailer park” fashions and join in on the fun.

The show is staged in 6th Street’s intimate Studio Theatre where the action all unfolds just a few feet from the furthest seat.  The pre-show includes Mark Bradbury’s sign twirling display for Armadillo Arms.  The musical itself opens with the energetic “This side of the Tracks,” sung by the trailer park’s pal-gal trio (also narrators and chorus)— Betty (Daniela Innocenti Beem) the leasing agent and manager of Armadillo Arms; Pickles (Alise Girard), a hysterically pregnant teen; and Lin (named after linoleum) (Shannon Rider) whose husband is in slammer.  These gals, with their ample bewbs spilling forth from their clinging leisure wear, are neither on the “right side” or “wrong side” of the tracks, rather they’re on “this side” of the tracks.  As the women belt out tune after tune, it’s as plain as the nose on your face that these are good-hearted gals who have been through some hard times that have bonded them.  And can they sing!

Daniela Innocenti Beem made a strong impression in the title role in 6th Street’s parody, “The Drowsy Chaperone” in January.  Here, she delivers a glorious Bad Ass Betty, who’s more of an earth mother hidden under some seriously wild hair (wigs marvelously styled by Michael Greene).  Her voice is strong, appealing and memorable, anchoring song after song.  Shannon Rider, of the local Shannon Rider Band, is also impressive.

The story centers on a love triangle between toll collector Norbert Garstecki (6th Street’s Artistic Director, Craig A. Miller), his wife Jeannie Garstecki (Julianne Lorenzen), and Pippi (Taylor Bartolucci DeGuilio).   Jeanie’s been agoraphobic since their son was kidnapped some 20 years ago and she stays inside their trailer timidly watching TV in a fuzzy bathrobe.  When exotic dancer Pippi moves into the trailer right next to theirs, Norbert is magnetized by her fishnet-clad bod and sexuality—and that’s way before she’s pole-danced for him.  Soon they are knee-deep into an affair.  The sparks really start to fly when Jeannie gets wind of her husband’s philandering and when Pippi’s ex shows up with a gun at the trailer park.

The show’s credibility rests on the role of Pippi and Taylor Bartolucci DeGuilio delivers in spades.  She has a radiance and energy and sensuality about her that channels pop-star Mariah Carey and she puts all those netted body-hugging outfits to good use in a very authentic display of pole dancing.  Bartolucci is a stage veteran with more than 60 productions under her belt. She partners with director Barry Martin in Lucky Penny Productions, located in Napa, and the two recently collaborated on 6th Street’s Kiss Me, Kate in 2011, a production voted “Best Local Musical” in the Bay Area awards.  Her Pippi is a likeable, strong woman who is independent and yearning for love and her complex feelings for Norbert are apparent.

Craig A. Miller’s Norbert pulls off some great one-liners as the loving husband with a roving eye.  Miller’s acting and on stage chemistry with both Julianne Lorenzen, as his wife, and with Bartolucci as his new love connection adds a poignancy to the production.  You may remember Lorenzen’ s stand-out performance in The Marvelous Wonderettes in May (ARThound review here.)  She spends most of the musical neurotically trapped in a bathrobe but her burst-out moment is dazzling.

And ARThound has to comment a detail in the scenery that was spot on.   There’s a poster replica of C.M. Coolidge’s famous Dog’s Playing Poker poster on the wall of Norbert and Jeannie’s little trailer.  This is a personification of every man’s hopes and dreams for the future, carrying the subtle message that without risk there is no reward.  We may never know the outcome in life until we lay down our cards but the winner never folds (gives up).  And that’s the spirit that is driving the residents of Armadillo Arms.  And speaking of driving, there’s a fine poster image of Nascar’s beloved Dale Earnhardt on the other wall…I just knew that mild-mannered Norbert had racing in his blood.

Production Team: Directed by Barry Martin; Musical Director Lucas Sherman; Choreograper Alise Girard; Music and Lyrics by David Nehls, Book by Betsy kelso

Cast:  Daniela Innocenti Beem as Betty;  Shannon Rider as Lin; Alise Girard and Natalie Herman as Pickles; Craig A. Miller as Norbert; Taylor Bartolucci DeGuilio as Pippi; Mark Bradbury as Duke

Dress the Part: 6th Street is encouraging all attendees to dress up in their best “trailer park” fashions and join in on the fun.

Details:  The Great American Trailer Park Musical runs through September 30, 2012 at The Studio Theatre at the 6th Street Playhouse, 52 West 6th Street, Santa Rosa.  Shows are 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday with additional 2 p.m. matinee performances on Saturday 9/29 and Sundays 9/16, 9/23 and 9/30. Tickets are $15 to $25 and can be purchased by calling 707-523-4185 x101, or, visiting  Advance ticket purchase recommended as the show has been selling out. Suitable for adults only.

September 13, 2012 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment