Y’all! Y’friggin’all!! Y’all gotta do one thing, if you do anything in the next week, and that’s get yourself to the Hugo House on Capital Hill to see STAGEright’s production of The Great American Trailer Park Musical! This show, this gloriously hilarious show is not to be missed. It’s got humor, it’s got great actors, it’s got epic costumes, it’s got great actors, it’s got fun music, and did I mention the great actors?!? Cuz the actors are phenomenal!
I want to gush about every little detail of this show, but I will refrain, because I know you will go see it like I told you to do, so I don’t want to ruin all of the surprises that are waiting for you. I will, however, tell you about this amazing group of artists who put this show together!
Let’s start with the direction. It’s glorious! Jay Irwin has outdone himself with this show. He cast it perfectly, staged it beautifully, and allowed this white-trashy-fun-loving-gut-splitting script to be everything it’s meant to be, and none of it overdone! I’d never heard of this show, but all I could think while watching it was, “Damn, why didn’t I audition for this!?!” This script has the potential to be cheesy, but Mr. Irwin did a beautiful job of flirting with that line, and choosing the perfect moments to be over the top, adding to the magic of this fantastic script! It was a hilarious ride, and I thank Mr. Irwin for the experience!
Additionally, the music was phenomenal. And why wouldn’t it be, with Josh Zimmerman at the helm! I’ve gushed about my love for Mr. Zimmerman’s work in my reviews of Next to Normal and Are You There God, It’s Me, Karen Carpenter. I love when I see his name on a program, or in this case, on an air conditioner (and if you want to know what that means, go see this show to find out!), because I know it means I’m in for some fantastic music, both from the cast as well as from the band, and Mr. Zimmerman did not disappoint! Loved it all!
But can we for a minute discuss the design elements on this production, because they were stellar! The set design by John Ambos was inspired, the props by Cedric Blake Wright were perfection, and the costumes by Cherelle Ashby and Jonelle Cornwell were sheer brilliance! Each character was highlighted and amplified so beautifully, that I was absolutely transported into this trailer park world created by writer Betsy Kelso (music by David Nehls). The design set the tone for a raucous good time, and boy, was it ever!
And why was it ever, you might ask, well, it was because of this amazing cast put together by Mr. Irwin! Oh, these actors, these actors! People, this is the kind of acting I want to see every time I go to the theatre. I want to see real characters, regardless if they’re silly, ridiculous, serious, deep, shallow, I don’t care, as long as the actor is making real choices, and oh these actors did that and then some! Each character developed exquisitely, one more raunchy than the next. Levels of comedy that kept the audience on the edge of their seats wondering what crazy thing these characters would say next was heaven to behold. I laughed, I was shocked, I was absolutely entertained! So let’s get into these phenomenal artists, shall we?
This show is set in the Armadillo Acres Trailer park in Northern Florida, following a cast of its residents and all their late-80s-early-90s-white-trash-redneck-wrong-side-of-the-tracks antics. Need I say more to describe the delicious vulgarity that is just waiting for you to enjoy? I think not! On to the actors!
The entire show is anchored by the best Greek chorus I have seen in a long time played by three of the best comedic actresses I’ve ever seen live on stage. Tori Spero Dullenty, Loretta Deranleau Howard and Walker Caplan! These chicks are no joke when it comes to telling a story, setting up a joke, and driving punchlines home. Ms. Caplan is a little spitfire comedic genius! She’s quirky, and funny, and man does she commit to this outrageous character she’s created. My best friend referred to her as “The Next Gilda Radner,” and I couldn’t agree more! Ms. Deranleau was mind blowing as the anchor of the trio, portraying hilarious character after hilarious character! My fav is her Sally Jesse Raphael character! This diva was exciting from the moment she stepped on stage to the final bow, and she cracked me up the entire way! Ms. Spero Dullenty, however, was my favorite of the three! Her characters, and ad-libs combined with her impeccable comedic timing had her pulling my focus in every scene, in the best way possible! I can’t even tell you which of her characters was my favorite, because they were all unbelievably great! Ok, I lied, I think the guy in the strip club is my fav! I cried, I was laughing so hard! Thank you, ladies, for your impeccable commitment to these characters, and for taking the audience on one hell of a ride! Brava!
The main relationship in the show is between Norbert and Jeannie, played by Casey Raiha and Margaret Lamb. But of course, couldn’t stop there, because Pippy, played by the stunning Cherisse Martinelli, is the third point of one of the it’s-so-wrong-it-must-be-right love triangles ever! There are a lot of layers to the relationships between these three characters, and each did their job so perfectly, that you’re not quite sure whose side to be on. Ms. Martinelli has a revelation moment at the end that broke my heart! She was so beautifully broken, juxtaposing the strong sass she has for most of the show, I was unbelievably impressed by her chops! Well done, young lady!
Ms. Lamb’s Jeannie is the perfect compliment to Ms. Martinelli’s Pippy. Jeannie is complicated and endearing, and also funny as hell when she needs to be! Her journey throughout this play is pure magic, and in the hands of a less skilled actress could have been quite boring. But Ms. Lamb was dynamic, and committed to the journey, and took my breath away with the moments she created on that stage. She was the perfect driver of the story allowing Mr. Raiha to effortlessly take Norbert’s journey.
I’ve seen Mr. Raiha in a few plays, but this was by far the best performance I’ve seen from him. These two fantastic actresses gave him the anchors he needed to really sink into this character. Normally not one to sympathize with a cheating husband, Mr. Raiha was able to make me see Norbert’s plight through his clear telling of the story. He embraced the physicality of a man much older than him, as well as took on the emotional baggage in a real and profound way. I hope Mr. Raiha continues to work with the likes of Ms. Lamb and Ms. Martinelli, because it elevated his performance to a new level that I hope to see more of from him in the future.
Lastly, yet certainly not least, is the character of Duke, played by Kyle James Traver. This hysterical mess of a character cracked me up every time he stepped on stage, mostly because his actions caused the most hilarious reactions from the women on stage, especially Ms. Spero Dullenty. Much like Mr. Raiha, this is the strongest performance I’ve seen from Mr. Traver, and I look forward to seeing more performances from him at this level!
I laughed, I cried (mostly because I was hysterically laughing), and I was shocked by some of the things coming out of the mouths of this wonderfully trashy characters. Everything I imagine Florida to be came alive at the Hugo House, and you must go experience it for yourself! The Great American Trailer Park Musical plays for one more weekend at the Hugo House. Ticket and show information can be found on STAGEright’s website.
I give this a rambunctious applause and a loud, southern, Bravo, y’all!!!!
Ciao for now,
Photos from STAGEright’s Facebook Page