"In The Great American Trailer Park Musical," explains actor-director Barry Martin, "the show takes place in the town of Starke, Florida, which apparently really exists. But it could be set anywhere that the trailer-trash subculture exists—which is pretty much everywhere."
The gleefully trashy musical, created by David Nehls and Betsy Kelso, was an off-Broadway hit when it first appeared in 2005, inspiring the New York Sun to call it a "cross between South Park and Desperate Housewives." When Martin was asked to direct the show for the Sixth Street Playhouse, where it opens a four-week run this weekend, the opportunity offered a marked departure from the classic musicals and serious dramas he'd previously been associated with.
"Something about it just appealed to me," says Martin. "I'm from the Ozarks, and I had a sister who lived in a trailer park in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, so I've got this stuff in my bones."
The Great American Trailer Park Musical features a stellar cast of local performers, including Taylor Bartolucci (dazzling in last year's Kiss Me, Kate) as Pippi, a stripper on the run hiding out at the low-rent Armadillo Acres trailer park after fleeing her outrageously obnoxious, possibly homicidal ex-boyfriend Duke (Mark Bradbury, recently in The Producers).
Her presence at the park stirs up the longtime locals, including hapless tollbooth collector Norbert (Craig Miller, Sixth Street's artistic director) and his wife, Jeannie (Julianne Lorenzen, Marvelous Wonderettes), who's been agoraphobically confined to their trailer ever since a mysterious event several years ago. Acting as a kind of gossipy Greek chorus are the neighbors Betty (Daniella Innocenti Beem, Drowsy Chaperone), Lin (Shannon Rider, Legally Blonde), and Pickles (Alise Girard and Natalie Herman).
"My main job in directing this cast," says Martin, "was to create an environment where they could all just do their thing. The people we lined up for this show are so good and so funny, directing them turned out to be unbelievably easy."
For the show, the intimate Studio Theater is being transformed into a run-down Southern trailer park, complete with a six-foot-high loft where a live rock band accompanies the musical mayhem.
"This is a quintessentially American story," says Martin. "I've been asked if the play is too shocking to bring kids to. You should definitely leave the kids at home, but I wouldn't actually call this show 'shocking.'"
Adds Martin, "It's too goofy and ridiculous to be shocking."
'The Great American Trailer Park Musical' runs Thursday–Sunday through Sept. 30 at Sixth Street Playhouse. 52 W. Sixth St., Santa Rosa. Thursday–Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 2pm matinee. $20–$25. 707.523.4185.