Addison — The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical celebrates the last-ditch joys and bad-luck miseries of its self-proclaimed white trash, redneck characters, as they sing and cuss their way through a dozen pop-country songs and a funny pun-spun, potty-mouthed book. It’s all about gettin’ a buzz on for Christmas in Armadillo Acres, a piss-poor northern Florida trailer park, recreated in all its tacky, tinsel–strewn splendor by Rodney Dobbs at WaterTower Theatre. Who can resist third-hand mobile homes, a light-up baby Jesus and a nativity scene composed of garden gnomes and other yard ornaments? There’s even a mudflap woman atop the Christmas tree.
The current show is the spawn of The Great American Trailer Park Musical, with songs by David Nehls and book by Betsy Kelso, a WaterTower hit in 2007, directed by James Paul Lemons, the theater’s former associate artistic director, returning to direct the R-rated sequel. You gotta be in the right mood—“kegnog” helps—to groove on the closing Act I number, a rockabilly jingle called “F*** It, It’s Christmas,” about how the Christmas spirit survives trailer trash chaos.
The holiday spin-off features half the cast from the original show, replete with triple-teased hair and hip-swinging gusto. Sara Shelby-Martin returns as the bold and skanky Betty; Megan Kelly Bates is still wide-eyed and clueless as the Simple Simon single mom Pickles. Cara Statham Serber is a flirty, bad-ass blonde as Linoleum, so-named for her conception on the kitchen floor, outfitted in hot pink wedgies and shorts and wearing her death-row husband’s cremains in a huge locket hanging between her boobs. Trash rules in Derek Whitener’s bright and funny costuming.
This bouncy, brazen crew is the determined committee to see to it that Armadillo Acres wins the Mobile Homes and Gardens’ coveted Christmas Decoration cash prize for best of breed in northern Florida. Almost all the neighbors are pitching in to “deck the halls with plastic holly” and sugaring up on grandma’s bourbon jam. Even the meth lab dude in unit 33 is “cooking ham instead meth crystals.” Wow.
Ah, but some new characters have moved into the show. A Christmas-hating super-bitch named Darlene Seward (Amanda Passanante, a home-wreckin’ hussy in the original) refuses to let anybody in wreath-hanging distance of her plastic flamingo, and tells the gals they’re just a bunch of “ho-ho-hose bags.” Beautiful and with a big, radiant voice, Passanante has the swag to handle much bigger roles, and the acting skills to make the role of the bitchy Grinch with a heart of gold seem momently credible and not sticky sentimental as written. I would love to see this gorgeous dynamo in a Gilbert and Sullivan opera, some of which are listed in her program notes.
In a literally shocking accident, Darlene is stunned with amnesia, and suddenly loves Christmas. Looks good for Santa’s team, until Darlene starts figuring out who she really is. Then she recalls her childhood memories in a hilarious dream sequence where the gals appear as the ghosts of Christmases Past, More Recent Past, and Present. Pickles gets one of the show’s best laughs when she appears as the giggling Ghost of Christmas Past with tree-skirt wings and a quizzical question about how they can all be ghosts and also other characters. Betty’s quick response: “The beauty of a dream sequence is we don’t have to explain that shit.”
The two men in the show are also new characters. Gregg Hullett is a virile pelvis-pumpin’, butt-pinchin’ Jackson Boudreaux, an entrepreneur with a simple business philosophy: “People like pancakes, people like boobs—who needs an MBA?” (The philosophy driving the shows’ creators?) All the girls work at Stacks, Jackson’s pancake house, a double- whammy version of Hooters featuring big-breasted waitresses wearing aprons embellished with two stacks of pancakes. The explicit costumes alone make this the show’s most proudly tasteless number. Now that’s theater!
Tony Daussat is a weighty and deliberate Rufus Jeter, Darlene’s sweetie-pie neighbor who loves her for her real self. Yep. The rivalry gets so nasty, poor Rufus ends up tanked on kegnog and singing the blues on Christmas. “Ol’ Saint Nick has been a real prick to let that woman get me down,” he wails in a bluesey-woosey voice.
Musical director Mark Mullino’s band, an energetic cast with strong singing voices, funny-ha-ha costumes and a seriously tacky set design make this riotously raunchy show more fun than a trailer full of pink flamingoes.