Music and Lyrics by David Nehls
Book by Betsy Kelso
Directed by Kelly Wynn Woodland
Venice Theatre Cabaret
140 W. Tampa Ave., 941-488-1115
December 4-20, 2009

Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker


Great big voices fill the small space slanted between a worn white picket fence and a silver stream mobile home linked by a half full clothes line to a blue rental unit. Scene designer Donna Buckalter put enough lit up Santas among artificial daisy gardens, along with faux fir garlands to set time of year. Plastic flamingo and webbed lawn chairs denote place. To guide us through a story of Love Triangle and Villain, we enjoy the whisky-strong songs of trailer trash Betty (always-in-reds Melanie Souza, with volume, vigor, vulgarity), Lin (animal print clad Laura Priscilla Hoffman, buxom  bewailer of imprisoned hubby), and Donna "Pickles"/Tina (blond Heather Kopp, youngest, silliest, most bewildered: is she pregnant?). Of central concern "On the Wrong Side of the Tracks": trailer couple Norbert (likeable Patrick B. Johnson) and Jeannie (serious Rita Mazer). For their upcoming 20th anniversary, he wants to take her to Ice Capades. Problem is, since their newborn baby was kidnapped when she stepped out of the trailer, Jeannie suffers from agrophobia.  Now she just cleans and clings to home.


Enter exotic dancer Pippi (pretty Rebecca Phippard, with clear enunciation,  tone made for ballads and body graceful even for pole dancing). Pursued by crude boyfriend Duke (heavy Alex Krumm, threatening in and out of disguise), Pippi rents the trailer next to Norbert. Soon, as The Girls sing, "It Doesn't Take a Genius" to see what's going on between the two neighbors. Yet both are torn. Pippi may really be falling for Norbert, and besides, her sexy job days may be numbered. Norbert learns Jeannie is practicing getting beyond her front door. Still, "Storm's A-Brewin'." Sure enough, with revelations, romances lead to "Panic."  Relationship complications abound. We must learn what's happened to the principals as well as catch up with The Girls and their fellas before a tune-filled "Finale."  Owing to the compelling vocal performances, it's worth waiting for, despite some musical overload. For example, a "Great American TV Show" at end of Act I merely unnecessarily recaps foregoing action and "But He's Mine"---though a lovely tune beautifully sung by Phippard---presents an argument with a contradictory conclusion. Though the only real characters are the Love Triangle, The Girls, stereotypes all, interest us more. Heather Kopp playing two people sometimes confuses. Could another actress take the part of the budding chef? 


Kelly Wynn Woodland respects her conservative audience by not emphasizing the musical's  adult language. Her direction assures the satire is strong but overall tone is light enough.  We thank her for enlisting Jeannette Ryvicki to create showy, often outlandishly sparkly costumes. Patrick B. Johnson, well characterized as Norbert by his Florida orange  shirts, aptly choreographed the fights as did Kelly Burnette the musical backup movement and dance.  Jason Brenner directed the mostly fun music from off-stage. Derick Kitson designed effective lighting, including the difficult scenes inside Jeannie's trailer. Gabriela Gorka's sound design adds realism.


Linda Kochmit is Stage Manager.  The 1 hr., 50 min. duration includes a 15 min. intermission. 

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