The set-up: The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical is the holiday show that should come with a warning label. Or perhaps, retitled as the Great American Trailer TRASH Christmas Musical. To give you a heads-up of sorts, the signature number in this sad-sack production is the Act I closer, where the blue collar characters sing about how to deal with their failed lives. The song is called, "Fuck It, It's Christmas." Need I say more?
The execution: Absolutely critic proof, this show is so low-rent, it should be free. It is tasteless and devoid of imagination and real wit - except for the silly Dream Ballet Sequence, which is genuinely funny. Spawned from its lame firstborn, The Great American Trailer Park Musical, this Stages world premiere will no doubt become the season's cash cow - its run is almost sold out. There's no stopping this juggernaut and futile to try. Like tanks in Tienanmen Square, these TV sitcom-inspired shows keep on rolling, flattening everything in their path.
If you must submit to its dubious charms, there are two substantial reasons: the set and the actors.
If the shelves at Walgreen's and Arne's seem depleted of Christmas decorations, do not despair, all the wares are on scrumptious display though, over, around, and above Jodi Bobrovsky's tacky design for Armadillo Acres, the Florida trailer park of the title. Miles of lights, garish tinsel, a treetop star made out of a truck mudflap, and enough plastic flamingos to start a faux nature conservancy, are just some of the visual surprises. This is the only genuine wit evident in the show. The set's an eyeful and thankfully keeps surprising, because it's the only thing you really want to look at. When the show bores, as it does constantly and relentlessly, just look around. Contemplate the mailboxes, the garden gnome, the tangle of wires, the corrugated siding, the perfect screen door. It's a wonderland of sleaze.
When your eyes tire, turn to the sextet of brave actors who plow through this mire with fierce determination and unstoppable gusto. To be sure, they're better than the material, but they're on a sinking ship and must bail furiously to keep this ratty new tub afloat. Pros through and through, their comic instincts and an unfailing sense of the absurd manage to bring a sparkle - no matter how faint - to the cartoons they play. Ivy Castle, Carolyn Johnson, and Susan Koozin, reprising their characters from TGATPM, throw themselves into their skin-deep characters with demonic glee. They literally bounce as they revel in the script's inanity, tossing out knowing winks to the audience as if life preservers, but they give this insipid script everything they've got. If we ever found ourselves in Armadillo Acres, we would want these three actors as neighbors. If it's possible, they turn trailer park trash into gloriously goofy art.
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Josh Morrison, as male chauvinist Jackson Beaudreau; Corby Sullivan, as sweet, stupid Rufus; and Chelsea Ryan McCurdy, as mean Darlene who's literally shocked into sweetness, complete the cast and keep the plodding action moving as smoothly as it does.
For those who care, the slim book is by Betsy Kelso and the slimmer music and lyrics by David Nehls, creators (and I use the word advisedly) of the original TGATPM. You should remember these names in case another musical by them crops up. You have been warned.
The verdict: If you can still get tickets, enter at your own risk.
TGATPCM runs - like prunes, the authors might say with an adolescent smirk - through December 29. Purchase tickets online at stagestheatre.org or call 713-527-0123. $31-$89.