Huntington Beach Independent

On Theater: A redneck romp on a Costa Mesa stage

By Tom Titus

June 8, 2016, 3:52 PM

If you stand and cheer while applauding performers at the end of "The Great American Trailer Park Musical" ... you might be a redneck.

Apologies to comedian Jeff Foxworthy, but that's the most accurate summation of the current production at the Costa Mesa Playhouse. The show elicits more than a few yee-haws during its 90-minute running time while exaggeration is not a sin but a virtue.

This rowdy, countrified package from Betsy Kelso (book) and David Nehls (music and lyrics) receives a rousing production from director Cathy Petz and musical director Stephen Hulsey. Yet one important aspect, vocal clarity, often is overlooked.

Two explanations arise. First, the performers press so diligently for the proper down-home accents that their words may be garbled and, secondly, the enthusiasm of the four-piece combo accompanying the musical segments can drown out the dialogue.

Yet the spirit of the show remains intact, as three brassy ladies of Armadillo Acres spin the tale of a marriage in trouble after the arrival of a glamorous stripper poses a threat to an agoraphobic housewife.

The trash-talking trio of Shannon Page, Montica Kirsch and, particularly, Emily Price are the show's true stars. They function as major characters and as backup singers on the level of the threesome in "Little Shop of Horrors."

Playing the frustrated couple whose marriage is approaching the rocks on the eve of their 20th anniversary are Jon Sparks and Elizabeth Bouton. Her reluctance to leave their trailer leads to his attraction to the pole dancer, beautifully enacted by the enticing Erin Bartosch.

A seventh character, brashly portrayed by Jonathan Haidl, is over the top even in this bizarre show, but his role is clarified in a plot that goes back to the ancient Greeks.

Price illuminates her character of a woman who was born on the kitchen floor and hence christened Linoleum, and who pines for her husband, a death row tenant at state prison. Page skillfully handles most of the narration, while Kirsch is cute as the teeny bopper Pickles, so named because of her hysterical pregnancies.

Energy and interpretation propel "The Great American Trailer Park Musical," a show that's more fun than it has any right to be, unfolding on the stage of the Costa Mesa Playhouse.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater.


What: "The Great American Trailer Park Musical"

Where: Costa Mesa Playhouse, 611 Hamilton St., Costa Mesa

When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays through July 3

Cost: $22 to $20

Information: (949) 650-5269 or