'Trailer Park' celebrates blue-collar American dream

The fourth time proved to be the charm rather than the proverbial third in getting rights for "The Great American Trailer Park Musical," which opens tonight at Cabaret Oldtown.

"I saw the show when it was still in a workshop version in New York and knew that I eventually wanted to do it — even before I had Cabaret Oldtown," says Christi Moore, co-owner of the intimate, second-floor theater that specializes in offbeat offerings.

"I applied for the rights three times but was turned down, first because it was still off-Broadway and then it was on a national tour. When our plans for another show fell through, I applied on a whim and — surprise — we were finally approved. It's such a fun and funny show I can hardly wait to show it off."

The show, which is set in a close-knit trailer park run by a nosy but good-hearted widow, celebrates blue-collar life by skewering stereotypes and showing the warm heart beneath the somewhat quirky and eccentric bubba facade. This version of the American Dream may involve Supercuts and the 99-cent store rather than Vidal Sassoon and Tiffany's but it is still alive and well. It's neither on the "wrong" side nor the "right" side of the tracks, just "this side."

The music and lyrics by David Nehls run the gamut from brassy ("This Side of the Tracks") to satiric ("The Great American TV Show") to haunting ballad ("You Are the Owner of My Heart").

Cabaret Oldtown veteran Angela Geer plays Betty, who has run Armadillo Acres since her husband died. She is an earth mother who unapologetically watches over, and meddles in, the lives of her residents.

Her two best buddies are Lin (played by Teri Adams, a guest actress from Kansas City) and Pickles (Kaye Brownlee). Lin, short for linoleum because she was born on the kitchen floor, has been trying to short-circuit Florida's electric chair by keeping all the appliances in their town on since her husband was confined to death row eight years before. Pickles, so-called because she constantly believes she is pregnant, is married to the son of a snooty family that won't accept her.

The three women act as sort of a down-home Greek chorus, keeping the audience up with all the comings and goings of their neighbors. Chief among them are Norbert (Dennis Arnold) and Jeannie (Cynthia Atchison), whose upcoming 20th anniversary is in danger because Jeannie refuses to leave the house since their infant son was kidnapped two decades before. Frustrated Norbert gives her an ultimatum that she must finally come out to celebrate their anniversary or the marriage is over.

Complicating things is the arrival of the newest resident, Pippi (Christi Moore, who also directs), a runaway stripper who is trying to hide from her crazy Oklahoma boyfriend, Duke (Nick Probst). She is befriended by neighborly Norbert, and their almost inevitable attraction to each other threatens a scandal of Jerry Springer proportions.

Providing accompaniment are Rich Bruhn on keyboards, Ron Smith on guitar, John Probst on bass and Steve Hatfield on drums.