1/10/2013 - Six trailers, a pink flamingo, a few lawn chairs, cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, scattered piles of garbage and a string of jalapeno pepper lights: That’s the set of — what else? — The Great American Trailer Park Musical. Add four mullets, lots of disco hair, stuffed animal roadkill and toilet brush microphones, and you’ve got a pretty good feel for the Palace Theatre’s latest production.
It’s been coined “South Park meets Desperate Housewives” and is a brand-new concept for the Palace Theatre.
“For this show, we’re really going over the top. We usually try to do at least one show each season that’s at least a little bit out of the box, which is why we think people will like this,” said Kerri Christopher, director of public relations.
The production is set in a trailer park called Armadillo Acres in Starke, Fla. Jeannie, the heroine of the story, has been unable to step out of the trailer since her infant son was kidnapped 20 years ago. Meanwhile, her toll-collector husband, Norbert, finds solace with a runaway stripper, Pippi, who moves into the trailer next door to hide from her “gun-toting” boyfriend Duke. Scattered between the lines, there’s ‘80s nostalgia, spray cheese, roadkill, hysterical pregnancy, a broken electric chair, discos and adultery.
It’s not a show for kids; there’s a lot of adult language and adult comedy, with plenty of Saturday Night Live type humor in it, Christopher said.
What’s refreshing about the production is that Director Carl Rajotte has enabled actors to explore their characters through improvisation, both in rehearsals and in certain segments of the production itself.
Jenna Kantor, who plays Betty, owner of the trailer park, leads the improv. A little about Betty: She’s very proud of the trailer park that she owns, but one thing she hates is being called white trash. She’s not white trash, she says, because she works on her tan every day. She fashions big, blonde hair, plaid, cut-off shorts, high heels and, most notably, butt stuffing and a push-up bra.
Kantor says that there are segments in the first act where there is no set dialogue; one segment will be like a country trailer scene from Whose Line is it Anyway, actors feeding off one another to keep it fresh and exciting.
“The girls do not know what I’m going to do. I don’t know what they’re going to do. It’s nerve-racking in the best way,” she said.
The cast has been working together (see their rehearsal process on palacetheatrenh.wordpress.com
) to create the characters they play, from watching Beavis and Butt-Head and Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion to talking with a country accent outside of rehearsal. (“I actually have to watch myself sometimes when I go out,” she said.)
“When I started working with my acting coach using these crass words, I felt uncomfortable at first,” she said. Now it’s no matter. “And it’s hysterical; I never had the opportunity to explore a character so opposite of who I am.”
Kantor is a Palace Theatre regular, as are a few other cast members. You may remember her as Paulette in Legally Blonde, Velma in Chicago or Maria in Lend Me a Tenor. Alongside her, you might remember Jamie Bradley (Norbert), who played William Barfeé in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee; Merrill Peiffer (Pippi), who played Irene in Crazy For You a few years ago; and Isaak Olson, who played Scrooge’s nephew Fred in A Christmas Carol.
It’s fun, Kantor said, and, she joked, with a thick, Southern drawl, “You’ll learn about a kind of culture that’s very eye-openin’.”