Set in Armadillo Acres, a red neck-populated Floridian mobile home community that lives up to every cliche about trailer trash, this bawdy musical about love and devotion springs to life like a popup camper. David Nehls and Betsy Kelso’s slice-of-America show was the hit of New York’s 2004 Music Theatre Festival and went on to popularity playing Off Broadway and countless regional theatres.
Toll collector Norbert and his wife Jeannie’s 20-year marital problems stem from her agoraphobia and obsession with cleaning. But complications arise when Pippi, a sexily bodacious stripper-on-the run from Duke, her younger abusive, huffer boyfriend, moves into the park and starts practicing “love thy neighbor” with Norbert. Add to the mix a sassy Greek chorus comprised of Betty, the trailer park’s gossipy manager, Lin (Actually Linoleum, named for the floor on which she was born), whose man awaits execution on death row and Donna (“Pickles”), a bubbly, hysterically pregnant unwed teenager. The three women provide narration, commentary and background information while playing several minor characters. The result is a cartoon of a summer musical offering light-hearted sex, violence, profanity and hilarious songs that hit all the right notes.
The whole dang cast is a hoot and each of the five women can belt out a song with the best of them. Christina Hall’s Jeannie and Bri Schumacher’s Pippi are both funny, yet sincerely touching. Danni Smith’s Betty, Ashley Braxton’s Lin and Jennifer Wisegarver’s Donna are terrifically strong, broadly comic actor/singers. As Norbert and Duke, Jonathan Hickerson and Alex Grelle are simply terrific. And under John Glover’s capable direction, Tom Coppola’s terrific choreography and Allison Hendrix’s expert musical leadership (her four-member trailer park band is pitch perfect!), there is no more purely entertaining summer musical comedy playing “This Side of the Tracks.”