“Betsy Kelso’s heartwarming and riotously hilarious book…(will) leave the audience absolutely breathless with hearty laughter…David Nehl’s spunky melodies are catchy and the lyrics so gut busting that you’ll need to see the show more than once to catch all the jokes because of how much you’ll be laughing.” —BroadwayWorld.com
It is mid-November in Texas, but it is Christmas time in the Armadillo Acres Trailer Park and El Paseo Arts Foundation is taking us there for a visit on Tuesday and Wednesday, November 17th and 18th at the South Padre Island Convention Center. It’s a delightful way to kick-off the holiday season. Audiences so enjoyed El Paseo’s of the original Great American Trailer Park Musical that the Arts Foundation is returning to the trailer park for more. While sequels often fall short of original productions, most people seem to agree that The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical turns out to have even a larger dose of heart and humanity than the original. The script by Betsy Kelso and music and lyrics by David Nehls, provide both some hilarious and heartwarming moments, and the musical brings enough holiday cheer to brighten the Scroogiest of hearts.
The returning characters in the sequel are the enthusiastic and Christmas-happy trio of female narrators: trailer park manager Betty (Liz Mueller), the now-widowed Linoleum or “Lin” (Carolyn Porter), and the naïve, single mother “Pickles” (Julie Boughter). As they were in the original show, these three veteran trailer park denizens are the story-tellers for the audience. They recount the unusual happenings during a very special twelve days before Christmas at Armadillo Acres. They also occasionally step in to a scene to play some hilarious other roles in the story, and they work as the backup singers for many of the songs which range in style from Rock and Roll, to Country, to Blues, with a sprinkling of some beautiful romantic ballads.
The new characters in the story are Rufus Jeter (Dave Boughter), who works several unusual jobs and who loves Christmas as much as the three girls. He works with them to help decorate the trailer park for Christmas in hopes of winning the $10,000 grand prize offered by “Mobile Homes and Gardens”. There’s also Darlene Seward (Kat Lillie), the trailer park’s resident Scrooge who hates Christmas and revels in antagonizing Rufus and the rest of the Christmas-loving residents. Finally, there’s Darlene’s sleazy boyfriend, Jackson Boudreau (Rick Alf), the scheming villain of the piece, who is a money-mad, egotistical owner of a chain of pancake houses called “Stacks” that are something of a cross between IHOP and Hooters.
Normal relations at the trailer park are turned upside down when Darlene gets an electrical shock during one of her tirades. The shock knocks her out and she wakes up with a case of amnesia. She can’t remember who she is and she has turned into a wide-eyed, awestruck Christmas enthusiast. She immediately joins in the decorating efforts even as she struggles to recover her memory, and she finds herself strongly attracted to her neighbor Rufus.
The girls and Rufus try everything they can think of to keep the new Christmas-loving Darlene from returning to her old self during the twelve days remaining till Christmas. One of the funniest scenes in the show includes the girls appearing as the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Recent Christmas Past and the Ghost of Christmas Present. Betty even makes a special appearance as the ghost of Darlene’s former fiance, the biker, Hank. Then on the Eve of Christmas, Jackson Boudreau returns from a business trip and he and his “waitresses” at Stacks tell Darlene that she is really a Christmas hatin’, in fact almost everything- hatin’ kind of woman. The confused Darlene thinks that Rufus and the girls have lied to her. She is “shocked” back to her former self. It sure looks like any hopes of winning that “Mobile Homes and Gardens” prize are gone, as well as any chance for a romance between Rufus and Darlene.
But, hold on, don’t give up hope – there’s still Act II to give this show a happy ending, even if it takes some pretty amazin’ supernatural events to end the Armadillo Acres Christmas Curse, stop the bulldozers, and set everything right by the time the midnight church bell chimes.
The atmosphere and spirit of the show are enhanced by the set and décor that fill the stage with an explosion of colors and all kinds of kitsch. Costumer Joan Ciarroco has outdone herself with some eye-popping and whimsical costumes. The creative cast and crew have crafted some outrageously tacky Christmas decorations to adorn the trailers and the Christmas tree that sits center stage, and to a certain extent acts as a central character in the show.
Musical Director, Mary Hartman, has done a wonderful job with some challenging music, and the talented cast with wonderful voices, captures the beauty of the harmonies, the tempos of the different rhythms and the lyrical quality of the ballads. Choreographer, Stephanie Wilson has added some clever stepping appropriate to the musical style of each of the numbers. Brett Marshal on piano and Marvin Miller on Drums provide the live musical accompaniment for the show. Director, JoAnn Evans, has the simplest task of just bringing all the elements together. It all becomes a glitter and tinsel strewn, bawdy, jug-of-joy-filled, holiday gift from El Paseo Arts to its audience. It has such an upbeat ending that audience members won’t be able to keep from smiling and feeling energized and excited about the upcoming holiday season.
The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical may well turn out to be your favorite holiday confection of the season so it’s a production that you don’t want to miss. Unfortunately, this is one holiday show that is not for young children as it contains adult language and content.
Seating is limited and there are only two performances so don’t wait until the last minute to get your tickets. Each evening performance begins at 6:30 p.m., with complimentary hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar, catered with a trailer park theme by PadreRitaGrill. Curtain goes up on the musical at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for the performances are $30 per person/$25 for El Paseo Arts members. Tickets are available for purchase at Paragraphs on Padre Bookstore on the Island, the Art Gallery in Lighthouse Square in Port Isabel, and online at elpaseoarts.org or facebook.com/ElPaseoArtsTX. For additional information about the show, you may contact El Paseo Arts at (956) 943-4700.