AISLE SAY San Francisco


Music and lyrics by David Nehls
Book by Betsy Kelso
Directed by Rick Singleton
Presented by San Jose Stage Company
The Stage
490 S. First St., San Jose, CA / (408) 283-7142

Reviewed by Judy Richter

With a title like "The Great American Trailer Park Musical," one might rightly expect to see a hokey show focusing on poor white trash. That's not quite the case with the show being presented by San Jose Stage Company. True, the characters are hardly rich, and they're white, but they're not trash. They're just people trying to make the best of what life has dealt them. Along the way, they deliver lots of laughs in this bouncy show by composer-lyricist David Nehls and author Betsy Kelso.

The action is set in the Armadillo Acres trailer park in Florida. A chorus of three women, all residents, narrates part of the story and helps to propel it. Besides their leader, Betty (Diana Torres Koss), the park's owner, they include Lin (Keite Davis), whose husband is on death row awaiting the electric chair; and 17-year-old Pickles (Halsey Varady), who apparently has a hysterical pregnancy.

The story focuses on Norbert (Kevin Blackton) and Jeannie (Lydia Lyons), high school sweethearts who have been married nearly 20 years. He's a toll taker, but she suffers from agoraphobia and hasn't stepped out of their home in years -- not since their infant son was kidnapped. Complications set in with the arrival of Pippi (Allison F. Rich), an attractive stripper who's running away from a possessive boyfriend, Duke (Robert Brewer). The inevitable happens: Norbert and Pippi have an affair, but of course Jeannie finds out. And of course the crazy Duke, sniffing Magic Markers and Pam and toting a gun, arrives in search of Pippi.

Directed by Rick Singleton with musical direction by Spencer Williams and choreography by Dottie Lester-White, the seven-person cast is terrific. The chorus keeps the action bubbling along, assuming various persona along the way. Varady is fun as the not-too-bright Pickles, and she dances well. Blackton's singing isn't all that great, but he's convincing as the conflicted Norbert is torn between the appeal of Pippi and his longtime love of Jeannie. Lyons shows the difficulty of trying to overcome her agoraphobia, and she sure can belt out a song. Rich is a very sexy Pippi, but she also reveals the young woman's vulnerability as well as her determination to keep going no matter what. Brewer has the show's smallest role as Duke. Unfortunately, it's a fairly one-dimensional role, and his frenzied performance does little to deepen it.

The set by Adam Puglielli features three rundown trailers. Pippi's revolves to show the dressing room at the strip club where she works, while Norbert and Jeannie's revolves into their living room. Lighting is by Selina B Young with costumes by Jean Cardinale and sound by Grant Huberty.

With its clever lyrics, varied musical styles and involving plot, "The Great American Trailer Park Musical" treats its characters respectfully yet humorously, adding up to a fun-filled show.

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