This show is trashy, tacky, vulgar and crude. And every moment is a guilty pleasure of hilarious entertainment.
Studio Players' summer offering, The Great American Trailer Park Musical, by David Nehls and Betsy Kelso, is one of those shows that exhaustively lampoons its topic, held together by a wisp of a plot as an excuse for a bunch of cornball jokes and derivative song types. But in this show, all the jokes are truly funny, the songs are really good, and the performers make you care even while mercilessly mocking themselves.
The triumvirate of director Tonda-Leah Fields, music director Jessica Slaton and choreographer Clemmy Ann Bastin have marshaled all the comic and creative resources at their disposal to make the bawdy shenanigans of the trailer park denizens pop off the stage. An excellent four-piece band provides onstage accompaniment and more lowbrow flavor.
Joy Davis (Betty), Pamela Perlman (Lin), and Ellen Kerr Jenkins (Pickles) play the three dirty-minded trailer park mavens with gleeful abandon, cracking up the audience with line after line. They also expend a ton of energy singing and dancing backup for the other characters, and providing humorous cameos.
What would a trailer park be without its resident slut? Heather Parrish tramps it up to the hilt as Pippi, the new stripper in town. Parrish possesses an amazing, powerhouse voice, and when she unleashes it in her opening number, The Buck Stops Here, bumping and grinding on a pole, the whole audience is transformed into a cheering, leering mob of horny rednecks — no kidding.
There is at least one dangerous man in every stripper's life, and in Pippi's it is her stalker boyfriend Duke, played all seedy and sweaty by the manic Nick Swarts. His featured number, Road Kill, is one of the high points, or should I say low points, of this show.
Ah yes, a trailer park needs one good boilerplate of adultery, fulfilled in this show by Pippi's seduction of her hapless neighbor Norbert, whose wife Jeannie is terrified of crowds and consequently hasn't left the trailer in 20 years.
Debilitating psychological disorder? Check.
Jason Meenach brings great comic timing to the role of Norbert, especially in his many one-line retorts. But he also brings out his vulnerable side as the character faces his own inadequacies in dealing with a wife he loves but can't help and a girlfriend he likes but also can't help.
Jennifer Roth Parr is one of the best pop singers in the region, and she works her usual magic with the ballads, but her best songs in this show are the scatological torch song Flushed Down the Pipes — backed by the toilet-brush wielding trio of Perlman, Davis and Jenkins — and her rocking mental breakdown Panic.
Again, it's not meant to be serious drama at all, but Parr is not altogether convincing in her agoraphobic scenes. She seems too pretty and put-together, too "with it," to have been cooped up in her trailer for two decades of compulsive fear.
But looking for dramatic truth, or even theatrical excellence, in a show like this is like trying to find a city boy with a mullet. This is meant as riotous, ribald entertainment and little more. The choreography could be tighter, the singing could be more in tune and the harmonies cleaner. The characters could be less cartoonish.
But none of that would improve this show. It is perfect as it is: a very raunchy, very rowdy celebration of low-life America.
Tedrin Blair Lindsay is a musician, theater artist and lecturer at the University of Kentucky.