The Savannah Community Theatre and Tybee Post Theater are wrapping up their “Islands Destination” series with the outrageous musical comedy “The Great American Trailer Park Musical.” The show has been described as “South Park” meets “Desperate Housewives” and every sleazy, trashy, hilarious situation the title suggests is most definitely in the show.
Written by Betsy Kelso and David Nehls, the hit Off Broadway musical centers on the colorful residents of Armadillo Acres, a Florida trailer park. Pippi, a stripper on the run from a drug-addled biker ex-boyfriend, moves into the park and immediately stirs up trouble between Jeannie, a daytime TV junkie with agoraphobia, and her toll-booth collector husband, Norbert. A trio of gossipy ladies acts as a Greek chorus from the comfort of their lawn chairs, providing color commentary to the sordid Jerry Springer-esque events.
SCT Founder Tom Coleman III has directed over 250 plays since 1971, and this is his first go-round with “The Great American Trailer Park Musical.”
“When we opened the Savannah Community Theatre, that was the show my sister [the production’s choreographer Suzanne Coleman Cone] and her acting friends wanted to do,” says Coleman.
Unfortunately, the rights weren’t available at the time, so they had to wait several years to get their opportunity (so many years that Coleman’s sister got married and had three children in the meantime).
Coleman and Tybee Post Theater wanted to finish the season with a bang, so Coleman made sure he assembled a stellar cast and production team that could handle this demanding and highly entertaining musical.
“If I’m going to do that show, I’m going to try to get people together that I know, so that we can speed through this thing because it’s only a two-week rehearsal process,” says Coleman. “I know all of them but one, so it makes it easy.
“The trick to it is finding crazy people who can make it work.”
The cast includes local actor/director Jeffery Hall (who appeared in “Ken” earlier in the “Islands Destination” series) as the philandering Norbert, and Landings resident Jenny Lobel as his shut-in wife, Jeannie. Sandra Nix is returning to Savannah to play Betty, the matron of the trailer park, and Maia Collins (who also appeared in “Ken”) is Pickles, the youngest member of the lawn chair trio.
The rest of the cast come all the way from New York City, including Kayla E. Jordon as Lin, the wife of a death-row inmate. Amanda Becker, a recent graduate from Catawba College with a BFA in musical theater, is playing home-wrecking stripper Pippi. Chris Williams, a former student of Coleman’s, is taking a break from his job at iHeartRadio to play Pippi’s off-kilter ex-boyfriend Duke.
The small ensemble cast gets plenty of chances to shine. “Every character in the show has their own moment, their own song, where they’re living a life other than their trailer park life,” explains Coleman.
A lot of these musical numbers include wild props and even wilder wigs. Backstage is a table full of bouffants and mullets for the characters to wear during fantasies about strip clubs and Sally Jessy Raphael.
The music, an energetic mix of country western, gospel and rockabilly, is performed by a rockin’ four-piece band led by musical director Chris Chandler.
Not only is “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” a great way to cap of the season, but Coleman also seems to think it is a worthy show to make his curtain call.
“I keep telling them all it’s a good way to end my 45-year career,” Coleman jokes. “I need to do something for myself, I have to go somewhere ... and they say, ‘Yeah, yeah. We know you’ll do another one next year.’”