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"The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical," November 20 - December 19, Trustus Theatre, 254-9732.
"Miracle on 34th Street," December 3-13, Sumter Little Theatre, 775-2150.
"Jingle ARRGH the Way," December 4-13, Columbia Children's Theatre, 691-4548.
"Christmas Belles," December 4-13, Chapin Theatre Company, 240-8544.
"The Odd Couple (The Female Version)," January 15-24, Workshop Theatre, 799-6551.
"Nice Work If You Can Get It," January 15-31, Town Theatre, 799-2510.
"Dr. Doolittle, Jr.," January 29 - February 14, Village Square Theatre, 359-1436.
"The Mountaintop," February 11-21, Sumter Little Theatre, 775-2150.
"Elephant and Piggie: We Are In A Play," February 19-28, Columbia Children's Theatre, 691-4548.
"The Honky Tonk Angels," February 19 - March 6, Town Theatre, 799-2510.
"Scapin," February 19-27, USC Longstreet Theatre, 777-2508.
"Still Life," February 25-28, USC Lab Theatre, 777-2508.
Press Releases for Current Shows
Camden Community Theatre
Center Stage Youth Theatre
Chapin Theatre Company
Columbia Children's Theatre
On Stage Productions
Ritz Theatre of Newberry
SC Shakespeare Company
Stage 5 Theatre
Sumter Little Theatre
Village Square Theatre
Trustus Theatre's “The
Review by August Krickel
There's something to be said for truth in advertising. If
you look at the festive poster outside Trustus Theatre proclaiming its latest
production, you'll see a woman entangled in Christmas lights, sporting a Dolly
Parton-style blonde wig topped a pair of tacky antlers; she's wearing assorted
dime-store jewelry, and is trying to strike a sexy pose while simultaneously
blowing a huge bubble of bubblegum. Upon beholding this sight, you're likely to
exclaim either "Oh my God, that looks funny as hell!" or "Oh my
God, that's dreadful - it looks like it's straight out of some trailer
park!" Both are actually true, and as the title above her head confirms, you’ve
arrived at The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical (TGATPCM.)
And the title quite accurately sums up the nature of the evening's
entertainment. So if that hasn't scared you off, then by all means, read on.
Directed by Larry Hembree, who confesses in the program
notes to spending part of his childhood living in a trailer, TGATPCM is
a sequel to a similarly-titled show (just drop the word "Christmas")
that was such a big hit for Trustus in 2010 that it was successfully revived
the next year. Both shows came close to selling out, and so it was only a
matter of time until the holiday-themed sequel, with music and lyrics by David
Nehls and book by Betsy Kelso, was bound to turn up. No knowledge of the
original production or plot is necessary, however, as this work stands on its
own concrete blocks. The setting is .... ok, spoiler alert here: the setting is
in a trailer park, at Christmas. Armadillo Acres, in northern Florida, to be
precise, and everyone is full of holiday spirit (which is actually homemade "keg-nog.")
Even the meth lab is cooking ham instead of crystal, says resident manager
Betty (Vicky Saye Henderson.) She and gal pals Lin (Abigail Ludwig) - short for
Linoleum because her mama gave birth to her on a kitchen floor - and teenage
single mom Pickles (Katie Leitner) are all agog upon learning that their
trailer park is in the running for a big cash prize from Mobile Homes and
Gardens Magazine for best holiday decorations.
Good-natured doofus Rufus
(Kevin Bush) goes all out every year, festooning his trailer's facade with as
much kitschy goodness as can be found on sale at the 99-cent store. Yet
the nemesis on his premises is grumpy next-door-neighbor Darlene (Caroline
Jones Weidner), a singlewide Scrooge who naturally hates Christmas. Just
as surely as a good ol' boy is likely to shout "Hey y'all, watch
this!" before coming close to killing himself, we know that Darlene will
follow some journey similar to Scrooge's, emerging as a better neighbor and a
better human being. There are added complications involving Darlene's sleazy
boss and boyfriend Jackie (Matthew DeGuire), possible eviction of the main
characters from the trailer park, and even a vengeful spirit/demon on the
loose, but the real reason for this show's existence is to enable some trashy
and campy characters to make silly jokes about the holidays from their unique
viewpoint, and to sing some pretty songs in the same vein. As above, the
title explains exactly what you're getting, so you're unlikely to be
disappointed - just as long as you make sure to reflect on the title and all
that it implies.
there's not a weak link in the cast, and if you've seen other musicals in
Columbia, many of the best featured some or all of these performers in various
combinations; many of those shows owed their musical excellence to music
director Randy Moore, whose local credits include Godspell, Evil Dead the
Musical, See Rock City, [title of show], and The Producers. Here, Moore
leads a four-piece band that is appropriately and hilariously enclosed in
chicken wire. Believe it or not, the score isn't really country music, not even
country-tinged rock. Instead, it's mainstream, contemporary, nearly-schmaltzy
Broadway pop, but sung by the cast as if it's country music. In other
words, everyone uses heavy Southern accents, and Bush in particular employs a
sort of nasal twang to give his numbers an extra countrified sound. Bush is
almost unrecognizable under scruffy whiskers, a camo hat, and jeans held
together by duct tape, and he effectively uses his lower register in both
speaking and singing to create a very different character from those he's
played before. Still, his duet with Weidner, "Christmas Memories," is
quite sweet and pretty, and could just as easily be some unreleased Carrie Underwood/Garth
Brooks collaboration. "Black and Blue on Christmas Eve" is another
appealing tune, but here Bush delivers the song entirely in character - and his
character happens to be falling-down drunk. Bush commits to the concept,
and manages to make the song work, while still remaining believable as a good
ol' boy who's one bottle of cheap gin over the line. Weidner's solo
"My Christmas Tin Toy Boy" similarly shows off her attractive
voice. DeGuire gets to swagger Elvis-style in "Baby I'll Be Your
Santa Claus," and generates plenty of laughs as the proprietor of Stacks,
a breakfast franchise that combines the business models of IHOP and
Hooters. Henderson, Ludwig, and Leitner get no real solos, but have the
bulk of the comic lines, and serve as a sort of Greek Chorus for the trailer
park and as backup singers for their castmates. Henderson is probably the
funniest, Leitner the cutest and most energetic, while Ludwig has less business
on stage, but seems the most natural and convincing as a down-home honey.
Nehls' score is derivative, probably intentionally so, and I caught melodic echoes of everything from stage musicals like Pump Boys and Dinettes (which this show is somewhat reminiscent of) and Big River, to Meat Loaf's "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" and Charlie Daniels' "Uneasy Rider." But those homages tie in with the show's overall raison d'etre, which counts on the audience being familiar with the stock characters and situations we're seeing. Sound by Baxter Engle and lighting by Bill West-Davis are excellent, and are used effectively at some crucial moments in the proceedings. Brandon McIver's set isn't fancy, but c'mon - it's supposed to be a trailer park, and it does indeed look like one. One excellent detail I spotted was that the interior of Rufus's and Darlene's trailers can be seen when they open their respective front doors, rather than just simple black masking. Kelso's book is chock-full of good one-liners, but when she tries to tell the story and advance the plot, it doesn't always work. As long as most of the characters are onstage and singing, all is well, but if one or two characters find themselves alone, there are deathly silences and pauses. This certainly isn't the fault of the actors, and not really the director either, although both need to work to tighten up these moments. Essentially the script is a series of amusing vignettes, and Kelso just hasn't managed to weave them together to create a really coherent and compelling narrative. Then again, she probably wasn't trying to. TGATPCM premiered only a couple of years ago in Texas, and has been making the rounds of regional theatres ever since. A complex storyline isn't why audiences are flocking to this piece across the country - it's the title, pure and simple, and all that the title implies: the chance to enjoy some light holiday entertainment that is a subversive, irreverent, raunchy twist on traditional, wholesome, family-themed Christmas shows. Let's be frank - for me, and for most of the audience, the production's highlight was the first-act finale... "F*ck It, It's Christmas." (That really is both the song's title, and its catchy refrain.) If that doesn't tell you what to expect, nothing will. The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical runs through Saturday, December 19, with multiple matinees and rare Wednesday night performances, but some performances are already close to being sold out. Also take note that there are performances at 8 PM both Saturday Nov. 28 and Sunday, Nov. 29, i.e. the weekend right after Thanksgiving (Friday the 27th is also already sold out.) Visit http://www.trustus.org or call 803-254-9732 for ticket information.
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