It’s got plenty of kitschy charm to offset the bad taste left by one too many episodes of “The Jerry Springer Show.”
It’s “The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” which opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16 at the Fine Arts Building at the Island County Fairgrounds in Langley.
This will be the second offering from OutCast Productions and director Ned Farley said it fits the company’s pledge to offer theater on the edge, with just a bit of raucous entertainment thrown in for good measure.
He also said he couldn’t resist a musical about trailer park life.
“Sometimes you do theater for the pure fun of it,” Farley said.
This musical has all the ingredients for plenty of Cheese-Wizzy shenanigans.
With music and lyrics by David Nehls and a book by Betsy Kelso, here’s a show that never takes itself too seriously and revels in its own trashiness, satirizing everything from TV to musical styles.
Set in North Florida’s most exclusive “manufactured housing community” (a tacky collection of mobile homes) the themes of this musical cover some of life’s most important issues, including spray cheese, road kill, hysterical pregnancy, kleptomania, flan and disco.
The plot, in other words, is not too complicated.
When Pippi, a stripper on the run, comes between the Dr. Phil-loving, agoraphobic Jeannie and her toll-collector husband, neighbors Betty, Lin and Pickles team up to save their friend’s marriage.
“I initially was attracted to the script because of the title — how can anyone pass up a musical about trailer park life,” Farley said.
“However, after reading the script, which is tightly written, well-paced and just pure fun, and then hearing the soundtrack, which is fantastic, both Sandy and I knew we had to put this into our line-up somewhere,” he added.
Farley refers to K. Sandy O’Brien, the producing director for OutCast Productions. Farley is the company’s artistic director, and O’Brien also plays “Betty” in the show.
“This show is very over-the-top in
its acting style,” she said. “It pokes fun at the trailer park by its use of character which is sometimes cartoonish.”
But, as every conscientious actor is want to do, O’Brien is sympathetic, even toward these broadly drawn characters.
“What comes through for me is that a lot of people who get designated as ‘trailer trash’ are just people trying to make a living, have a life and pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” she added.
O’Brien said although the motley crew of characters is a loony bunch and although the play is long on laughs rather than providing any important message, every theater production offers a little food for thought.
“Mostly this production chews it up and spits it out,” she said.
One of those “loonies” is played by first-time performer Mona Newbauer, who said she is having a blast pretending to be someone else. Taking the role of “Lin” has given her a new perspective on life in the park.
“In a trailer park there are no secrets,” Newbauer said. “Friendships run deep and drama runs rampant.”
To soften some of that beer-slugging drama, Nehls has created a bouncy, appealing score with plenty of twang and corn pone in songs with titles such as “This Side of the Tracks,” “It Doesn’t Take A Genius,” “The Great American TV Show,” “Flushed Down the Pipes” and “Road Kill.”
An off-Broadway hit in 2005, the play was described by New York critics as “more fun than a chair-throwing episode of Jerry Springer set to music” and “It’s like ‘The Honeymooners’ meets the ‘The Best Little Whorehouse in Urinetown.’”
Producing a fun campy romp such as this one has served the young company well by attracting some new volunteers, which is always the challenge for every theater company, O’Brien noted.
“We truly have some standouts in this production and we have been fortunate to have some of our Oak Harbor theater friends come down to give us a lift. They’ve been the frosting on the cake, or in trailer park terms, the side dish of grits,” she said.
Farley said he likes the idea of presenting something funny and purely entertaining after debuting the company with “Yankee Tavern,” a conspiracy theory thriller.
“Where better than our second show, which we know will have audiences leaving the theater with their toes tapping and their laughter in full swing,” Farley said.
“It is purely and simply a crowd-pleaser, with just the right amount of irreverence necessary.”
The cast includes Megan Besst as Pickles, Gabe Harshman as Duke, Tara Hizon as Pippi, Gail Liston as Jeannie, Newbauer as Lin, O’Brien as Betty and Brian Plebenak as Norbert. Set design is by Heather Mayhugh, lighting by Alex Wren, sound by Jeff Fisher and musical direction by Scott Small. The musicians include Cynthia Kleppang on keyboard, Sean Lisle on guitar, Troels Oxenbad on bass and percussion by Small.
The play runs for three weekends through Oct. 1. Friday and Saturday performances are at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $18 for adults, $14 for seniors 62 and older and youths younger than 18, and are available in advance at www.brownpapertickets.com. Only a limited number of tickets will be available at the door.
Learn more about OutCast Productions at www.outcastproductions.net.