In Cripple Creek, Mountain Repertory Theatre has fun with a dive into America’s seedy underbelly
Adultery in a 1980s Florida trailer park featuring a stripper on-the-run makes for campy musical theatre in Cripple Creek. The Great American Trailer Park Musical runs through Nov. 3 at the historic Butte Theatre — a well-synched and snappy show long on vocal talent and short on drag.
Powerhouse vocals fill the renovated Opera House in a cleverly staged fictitious North Florida trailer park called Armadillo Acres, where the Park’s residents display hard-luck, shady backstories with irreverent pride.
The two-act musical follows long-term Park residents Jeannie and Norbert Garstecki (Kelli Dodd and Levi Penley) as they prepare to celebrate a marital milestone in their lackluster marriage. Sounding like a country-western song, the drama amps up with the arrival Pippi, (Brittany Ambler) a provocative stripper who has designs on the sex-starved Norbert.
The musical is more music than dialogue — which caters to the collective vocal talents of Trailer’s troupe, from the show-opener “This Side of the Tracks” to the big first-act finale “Flushed Down the Pipes” complete with toilet bowl brushes as dance props.
The seven-member cast are part of the Mountain Repertory Theatre, the venue’s resident professional company since 2018, producing seven shows in this second season and offering 165 performances during its May-December run. Many of Trailer’s cast are MRT vets from last season, showcasing their diversity as actors.
A talented trio double as narrators and Park residents as they toy with the audience and each other for added laughs. Led by the Park’s matriarch, Betty (Sarah Smith), the ladies bellow out their backstories from hysterical pregnancies to conjugal visits to the nearby prison.
Smith, flanked by Donna (Emma Thoeni) and Linoleum, (Melanie Hollenstein) are all making memorable MRT debuts. They never break character, from their physical antics to over-the-top facial expressions. Smith shows-off her impressive pipes in range and volume, while Hollenstein manages the small stage with graceful agility in her dance sequences. Thoeni gets the best quips as she skillfully lands subtle innuendo in touting her unmet needs. To say the show is PG-13 is accurate: its raunchy innuendo subtle and costuming more modest than anticipated.
The show’s real sleeper is Tyler Hecht, as Duke, the jilted boyfriend who comes looking for his Pippi. The show’s smallest part but a larger-than-life character, young Duke really shakes things up. Arriving onstage liked a lightning strike, in one scene the MRT newcomer replicates enraged driving with an office chair and hand-held steering wheel while singing “Road Kill,” as he makes his way to Armadillo Acres and stuffed animals are tossed into the audience. Channeling Jim Carey-like antics, Hecht infuses the second act with unbridled energy and unexpected plot twists.
The show’s musical success hinges on the talents of pianist Arthur Bosarge as the single musical accompaniment to the show. Bosarge has taught and performed in multiple venues and genres of music and musical theatre — and it shows in Trailer Park with perfect timing, pitch and sheer talent.
The show’s set is stagnant and options for front-of-the-curtain scenes could have added to visual variety. The Butte house has charming but limiting sound accouterments; no Madonna-like mics here so old-school rules apply: speak-up and sing loud!
With its period chandeliers and Victorian-era wallpaper, the Butte’s stage is also small, without an orchestra pit– but the old Opera house has history. First opening in 1896 as the Butte Concert & Beer Hall, the Bennet Avenue charmer has a storied past from furniture store to skating rink and even weapons cache. And the MRT actors keep the folksy traditions alive, commiserating with patrons after the show and even staffing the bar at intermission.
Don’t miss Trailer Park at the historic Butte: Step back in time to witness modern debauchery — on wheels.