The Great American Trailer Park Musical
Musical in 2 acts: Music and lyrics, David Nehls, book by Betsy Kelso
Dodger Stages Theatre 1, Off-Broadway; First preview: August 20, 2005; Opening Night: September 27, 2005; Closed December 4, 2005: (121 performances)
A country-rock and blues musical about agoraphobia, adultery, '80s nostalgia, spray cheese, road kill, hysterical pregnancy, a broken electric chair, kleptomania, strippers, flan, and disco, The Great American Trailer Park Musical centers around regular guy Norbert and his agoraphobic wife, Jeannie, whose marriage is threatened by Armadillo Acres' newcomer, the hot young stripper Pippi. The trailer park also plays home to a Greek-chorus-like trio of women Linoleum, Betty and Pickles, each dysfunctional in her own right.
In present-day North Florida, in a town called Starke, in a trailer park called "Armadillo Acres" (though there are few armadillos and even fewer acres), Betty, Lin and Pickles sun themselves with complete indifference to ozone depletion. Ever hospitable, they set aside their large sun reflectors to welcome the audience, the "fourth wall" clearly not their style. Established now as our bottle-blonde narrators, "The Girls" also introduce Jeannie Garstecki, agoraphobic and unable to step outside her trailer, much to the exasperation of her toll-collector husband Norbert. Just another day; nothin' new, except for Pippi, a stripper-on-the-lam who teeters in on five-inch heels.
Once Armadillo Acres' newest tenant settles in, The Girls take us back to 1983, when Jeannie first met Norbert. From courtship to shotgun wedding to a really bad perm that distracted them long enough for their baby to get kidnapped - thus triggering Jeannie's 20-year stint indoors.
Twenty years later, with a milestone anniversary just one month away, Norbert is fed up with his wife's condition and heads out for a beer. He winds up at "The Litter Box Show Palace," the local strip club set up by The Girls, who now play "Men" cloaked in flannel and mullets. Not shy about being the new girl in town, Pippi slickly works the room because, after a string of dead-end cities and no-good men, The Buck Stops Here. But Pippi makes more than tips that night - she makes a friend in Norbert Garstecki who, just like she, is tired of collecting dollar bill after dollar bill (he in his toll booth; she in her thong). Sparks fly and it doesn't take a genius to see those sparks will ignite a hot affair behind Jeannie's back, who is now determined to get out of her trailer in time for her anniversary.
Three weeks later - with one week to go - she's made it to the bottom of her steps. Though delighted by this progress, Norbert has unexpectedly developed feelings for Pippi. In separate corners, he and Jeannie contemplate where they've been and where they're headed; Jeannie, fuelled by optimism; Norbert consumed by guilt.
It turns out that Pippi has stirred up trouble elsewhere back in Oklahoma City, she had done a moonlight flit, middle-of-the night-no-phone-no-forwarding-address style from her magic-marker-sniffing ex-boyfriend Duke, who is hot on the prowl to find her. He pays a visit to Pippi's friend Tina who works at the mall in a place called "Stand by Your Flan." Life imitates art with Pickles playing the dim-witted, but well-meaning cashier. Confused and unable to calm Duke with a cup of custard, she lets on that Pippi's in Starke with a new boyfriend. Duke waves a gun maniacally and he's off to find his woman.
Back at Armadillo Acres, Jeannie ventures out further - this time covering just enough astro turf to catch Norbert and Pippi doing you-know-what behind Pippi's trailer. Shattered, she runs back inside and passes out. Her oxygen-deprived brain assimilates the awful truth in a nightmare à la Sally-Jesse-meets-Jerry-Springer-meets-reality. When she awakens, all she has to show for getting out of her trailer is a broken heart. Her marriage, her hopes, her dreams are all gone.
As if things weren't stormy enough, it is hurricane season in Florida, and a there's a storm brewing for Norbert, in more ways than one. Jeannie kicks him out, insisting that she'd rather weather an imminent thunderstorm alone. He heads off to the local motel, filled with regret about the mess he's plainly made.
Beneath calmer skies in OKC, Duke hits the road - gun poised, markers sniffed. He also hits everything in his path, leaving a trail of road kill in his wake. Hopped up on permanent ink, he arrives in Starke and heads straight to The Litter Box Show Palace, obtaining information about Pippi's local address from the local strippers (Amber, Amber and Amber - colourfully embodied by The Girls). He just misses Pippi and Norbert, who are now at odds about the status of their relationship, as well as Norbert's occupation with Jeannie being alone in the trailer with the power knocked out by the previous night's storm. Jeannie, meanwhile, is reluctantly missing Norbert, but holding her ground as she packs the remainder of his belongings by candlelight.
On their way out of the electricity-challenged trailer park, The Girls take a much-needed break from their narrating responsibilities to wax lustfully about men and then head off to the motel. When Duke arrives at Armadillo Acres, Jeannie is the only one left. He holds her at gunpoint, and despite her lack of valuable information on Pippi, he takes a shine to her. He yanks her out of her trailer so they can enjoy cocktails and scheming, but she sprays him in the eyes with his aerosol can (turns out sniffing is just a gateway to huffing). Rejected and enraged, Duke storms off to Costco to buy cooking spray in bulk and Jeannie panic striken is left locked out of her trailer.
Once Pippi finds out that Duke is in Starke, she runs home to pack, finding Jeannie in foetal position outside. But by the time The Girls and Norbert (flowers-in-hand, ready to ask Jeannie's forgiveness) show up, Pippi and Jeannie are poised for an inevitable catfight, which is then interrupted by Duke's return, some gunplay and even childbirth. As the clock strikes midnight, a reconciliation and a big-hearted Finale happen just in time for Jeannie and Norbert's anniversary. Invigorated and inspired, everyone at Armadillo Acres resolves to make like a nail and press on …
...and surely prepaře themselves for the next new tenant.
- This Side of the Tracks - Norbert, Pippa
- Immobile in My Mobile Home - Jeannie
- Do Nuthin' Day - Norbert & Jeannie
- One Step Closer - Betty, Norbert, Jeannie & Girls
- The Buck Stps Here - Pippi with Lin and Men
- It Doesn't Take a Genius - Pickles, Betty & Lin
- Owner of My Heart - Jeannie & Norbert
- The Great American TV Show - Betty, Lin and Pickles
- Flushed Down the Pipes - Jeannie and Girls
- Storm's-A-Brewin' - Betty, Lin & Picles
- This Side of the Tracks (reprise)
- Road Kill - Duke & Girls
- But He's Mine/It's Never Easy Pippi, Jeannie & Norbert
- That's Why I Love My Man - Lin, Betty and Pickles
- Panic - Jeannie
- Big Billy's No-Tell Motel
- Finale - Ensemble
keyboard; guitar; bass; drums
Scenes and Settings
A Trailer Park in Starke, Florida.