CITY THEATER’S “GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK CHRISTMAS MUSICAL” IS SEASONAL SILLINESS

December, 2014

“It looks to me like Santa ate at CVS and threw it up all over Liberace’s storage unit while it was being robbed by Madonna’s back-up dancers.”

Actually, it’s Trailer Park Christmas Time and Biddeford’s City Theater unleashes a massive dose of sheer seasonal silliness in its no-holds-barred production of the Maine premiere of The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical, running through December 21st.

For this “all new, all trailer park” holiday extravaganza, Technical Director and Set Designer Karl Carrigan spares no expense in providing all the perfectly reflective frills and glitz of Armidillo Acres, North Florida’s premier mobile living community, where everyone is filled with warmth—and beer.

Betty, Lin and Pickles (Jennine Cannizzo, Rebecca Rinaldi and Alyssa Rojecki, the stars of the original show, The Great American Trailer Park Musical, presented by City Theater in its 2011 season) are back in full bling and with the help of new neighbor Rufus Jeter, a redneck with a heart of gold (Brian McAloon), they attempt to get Darlene Seward, the trailer park Scrooge (Carolyn Glaude) to decorate her trailer so the park can win $10,000 in the Mobil Homes and Gardens trailer park decorating contest.

But Darlene hates Christmas (“Christmas Is For Dummies”). Fortunately (it’s a trailer park comedy, come on), she is accidentally electrocuted, causing her amnesia and revealing a sweet, Christmas-loving personality. The cast races to win the decoration award before Darlene remembers her true personna, dancing and prancing through cat-fights and fist-fights, childhood memories, dreamy visits from the Ghosts of Christmas Past (and Recent Past) and a whole lotta feudin’ brewed up by Jackson “Jackie” Boudreaux (Caleb Lacy), the boyfriend-bully-of-a-boss Darlene forgot about.

What transpires is nothing short of a Christmas miracle. In the end, hearts are mended, people are changed and the “lady on the mud flap” continues to shine her light on the good folks of Armadillo Acres. (Oh…about the coveted award? You’ll have to find out for yourself.)

The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical is written by Betsy Kelso, with music and lyrics by David Nehls and, as one would expect, is chock full of relentless campy humor, wild zingers that make you wonder what you really heard, zany characters rich with quirks, and unapologetic shtick that assaults and delights every criteria of entertainment expectation one might have as they read the PlayBill waiting for curtain.

But with all the wackiness and absurdity this production offers, it takes a truly professional and focused cast to avoid the potential and selfish temptations to over-play and the comedy.

“It is a balancing act,” said Director Linda Sturdivant in describing how to get an actor to give 100% without going overboard. She instills confidence in the players to explore their creative limits and to ultimately find that zone where they can maintain control and seriously make the comedy work—a skill this cast intuitively achieves.

Jennine Cannizzo (Bad Ass Betty…can I say that in a review?), Rebecca Rinaldi (Lin—short for Linoleum because she was born on the kitchen floor) and Alyssa Rojecki (Pickles—in real life one of the hardest working and dedicated young ladies of local theater destined for success) worked so brilliantly well with each other, off each other and sometimes against each other, all with such amazing transparency, well-defined attitudes and instinctual comedic timing…

…As did Brian McAloon (Rufus) and Caleb Lacy (Jackson). These two Southern boys had no problem spewing their mirthful manic machismo while pulling off one of the worst yet hysterical drag scenes in City Theaterdom. They were a show-within-the-show, each individual powerhouse talents, and almost dangerous when on stage together.

Threading all these characters was Carolyn Glaude (Darlene) who put forth some amazing work in perhaps the most challenging and demanding role of the show. She easily handled her Jekyll and Hyde character with impressive mannerisms and fun clean changes. (Yes, she resembles Bette Midler—“I get that a lot”— but is even closer to Molly Burnett’s “Melanie” on Days Of Our Lives).

Trash and splash aside, the biggest selling point of the show is the accumulative quality of singing talent in this small cast. Each one of these singers is solid and compelling on their own, but when combined the result is exponentially enthralling and most entertaining.

Except for a couple of well-placed torchy ballads, the music is bouncy, bluesy, country and clever…like watching a live Weird Al Christmas concert featuring all the B-side holiday hits performed by cast members from The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, Carol Burnett’s “Mama’s Family” and Saturday Night Live.

Music Director Kevin Smith drives the pit with his usual flair and finesse, successfully alternating between powering the cast and gently supporting the singers when needed. The use of electric guitar is interestingly quite prevalent in this production—from a distorted rock feel, to ethereal effects and incidental music.

In addition to Smith who fluently directs and covers the keyboards, the pit includes City Theater monsters Jimmy McGirr on bass and Bill Manning on percussion, and Brian Callahan on guitar, and first weekend substitutes Jeffery Coggins and Cameron Lopez.

“Christmas In My Mobil Home,” “12 Days Of Amnesia,” “Baby I’ll Be Your Santa Claus,” “Christmas Leather Love,” and “Black and Blue On Christmas Eve” are just some of the titles from the show.

“This show is good for whatever ails me,” said Director Sturdivant. “No matter what else is going on, I know I am going to laugh.”

She’s right. If you’re looking for laughter and mayhem and a show that’s never been done in Maine theaters, The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical should be a-top your shopping list. (But you may want to leave the little ones at home. Due to adult themes and colorful language, the show is not recommended for children under 16).

The show runs through December 21st, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM, Sundays at 2 PM. All tickets are $20. FMI call 282-0849 or visit www.citytheater.org.

Support your entertainment appetite and local arts. The Journal Tribune did. They are the sponsors of this production.

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–Louis Philippe

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