'The Great American Trailer Park Musical' shines at Theater Barn


NEW LEBANON, N.Y. -- Director Bert Bernardi has a way with the offbeat "style" musical. Count "Urinetown" and last season's absolute charmer, "The Drowsy Chaperone," among his notable successes at The Theater Barn.

He's back this summer with "The Great American Trailer Park Musical," lesser known than either "Urinetown" or "The Drowsy Chaperone" but a pure delight nonetheless

While its immediate predecessor on the Theater Barn stage, "Five Course Love," never let you forget how clever it was trying to be, "The Great American Trailer Park Musical" goes about its business with barely a nudge or a wink in sight.

Composer-lyricist David Nehls and his collaborator, book writer Betsy Kelso, acknowledge a variety of genres with a playful nod or two as they go about their cheerful way.

Set chiefly in a trailer park in Starke, Fla., the plot involves a toll collector named Norbert (a thoroughly engaging and appealing Shaun Rice); his agorophobic wife, Jeannie (an equally appealing and endearing Katie Clark), who has gone no further than the top step outside their trailer in the 20 years since their infant was kidnapped but is now determined to overcome her fear in time for her approaching 20th wedding anniversary; and Pippi (Mary Kate Morrissey), a stripper on the run from her cheese-spray sniffing hound of an ex-boyfriend, Duke (a spot-on Jordan Wolfe), who is having an affair with the affable but frustrated Norbert. Guiding us through this are Betty (Jerielle Morwitz), the trailer park's landlady, and her gal pals, Pickles (Victoria Broadhurst), and Lin (Caitlin Lester-Sams), who have more than their own share of problems.

Nehls' songs are bright and evocative and Kelso's writing has a keen sense of style and omits, qualities that also characterize Bernardi's staging and direction.

The show's first half -- which culminates in the buoyant "Storm's A-Brewin' " -- moves with a breezy, almost audacious, self-assurance" that nearly dissipates in the second half. Still, even then, no pretenses here, just solid talent, especially Rice; tuneful music cheerfully and confidently rendered; and, for all its double entendre and suggestiveness, good, clean, witty fun. Nice!



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