Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical - Minneapolis Musical Theatre at Camp Bar

Jodi Tripp, Betti Battocletti and Holli Richgels.
All photos courtesy of Unser Imagery.
Minneapolis Musical Theatre's tagline is "Rare Musicals. Well Done." Truer words were never spoken.

Watching MMT's The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical (now at Camp Bar through December 23), I was reminded of what I love best about MMT: No matter what they do, they always give 120%. They commit.

In The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical (let's call it TGATPCM), we travel to Armadillo Acres--North Florida's premier mobile-living community--to join the characters introduced in The Great American Trailer Park Musical. (Didn't see the first one? No worries, you can still follow the action.) There's some plot business about winning a decorating contest and amnesia, but the delight in this show is in the fabulous and endearing cast and the clever, hilarious songs.

Look at that gorgeous mullet.
Matthew Englund and Alex Kotlarek.
I looked at the cast photos in the program and was a little baffled. Who are these attractive, contemporary-appearing men and women? It's amazing what a very bad mullet wig (and a whole lot of commitment) can do. Betti Battocletti (Betty) plays the grande dame of Armadillo Acres with a will of iron and perfect accessories. Her two partners in crime, Jodi Tripp (Lin, short for Linoleum) and Holli Richgels (Pickles) are just as funny and winning, and the three sing beautifully--especially when they sing together.

I'm thinking of suggesting a new category to the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers for their annual local theater awards (coming soon--watch for them!): Most committed to a wig and facial hair.

Matthew Englund (Rufus) wears the hell out of his beautiful, blond mullet and acts with every inch of his body. Alex Kotlarek (Darlene) switches between being the wicked witch of the trailer park and a sweeter, amnesiac version of herself with ease and charm. She also gets the award for most amazing decolletage, which explains why Adam Rice (Jackie) is so devoted to her, what with his thriving 'breasteraunt' Stacks (it's a pancake place). Having just seen Rice in the fabulous Teenage Misery, it's lovely to have his fabulous voice added to this wacky mix.

Oh, cripes. Those OUTFITS!
Jodi Tripp, Alex Kotlarek and Holli Richgels
This cast works together beautifully. You can feel the genuine affection behind the tough talking Betty, Lin and Pickles, and when (amnesiac) Darlene starts to soften towards Rufus, they sell the chemistry perfectly.

Directed by Ryan McGuire Grimes, TGATPCM is set on a spare and appropriately tacky set, and the spareness allows the hilarity of the show, the wonderful performances, and the great music (music direction by Anthony J. Sofie) to come through clearly. And the costumes, by Kecia Rehkamp, are pitch perfect, down to the sheen of the leggings and the sag of Rufus's jeans.

TGATPCM is a delightful show for your holiday season. Not for the easily offended--there's a lot of creative swearing--although the characters transcend their stereotypical origins. The cabaret at Camp Bar is the perfect setting for this story about down-to-earth folks celebrating Christmas in their own way. If you haven't been to Camp, don't be intimidated by the presence of fabulous gays, Camp feels more like Cheers than any place I can think of. It's warm and friendly, and the bar is open for you to enjoy some adult-beverage holiday cheer with your entertainment. Support the fabulous Minneapolis Musical Theatre so they can keep bringing us these rare musicals, very well done.

So here's the thing: Listening to this show, both my sister and I were reminded of a song from one of our favorite Carols for a Cure collections. BTW, if you don't know, every year, the casts of Broadway shows record a show-themed holiday CD. These collections are wonderful and benefit the fabulous Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Carols for a Cure. Highly, highly recommended!

Anyhoo, my sister did a little research and discovered a connection between TGATPCM and Carols for a Cure. Here she is, going down a musical theater nerd rabbit hole.

MMT didn't include the show credits on their program, so this is from the official show website.
With Music and Lyrics by David Nehls and Book by Betsy Kelso, The Great American Trailer Park Musical began its journey as a series of staged readings and workshops, followed by a sold-out run at The New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF) in 2004, which led to the 2005 Off Broadway run. In 2013, the Christmas-themed sequel opened in Houston, Texas - The Great American Trailer Park CHRISTMAS Musical, also by Nehls and Kelso.
Buy this cd. It is AMAZING.
And we were right, the music did sound familiar. David Nehls wrote the music and lyrics to the gorgeous "Christmastime on Highway 13" (on Carols for a Cure: Volume 5). "Christmas in my Mobile Home" is on Carols for a Cure: Volume 7. It says it's from The Great American Trailer Park Musical, so I think it predates the Christmas show. "The Coming of Christmastime" (also performed in TGATPCM) was done by the Thoroughly Modern Millie cast on Volume 5.

Nehls wrote and arranged a lot of other songs as well as acting as the Musical Director/ Composer/ Arranger/ Musical Supervisor for Carols for a Cure for the years 1998-2005. If we'd known that, we probably would have known we'd like the show!

Another fun fact:

Impressive folks in the original off-Broadway cast of the first show. The original Off Broadway cast featured Marya Grandy (Linoleum), Linda Hart (Betty), Shuler Hensley (Norbert), Kaitlin Hopkins (Jeannie), Leslie Kritzer (Drama Desk Award Nomination for her role as Pickles), Orfeh (Pippi) and Wayne Wilcox (Duke).