By Sue Suchyta
Take a walk on the other side of the tracks with the Downriver Actors Guild dinner theater production of “The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” featuring music and lyrics by David Nehls and book by Betsy Kelso.
The dinner theater, held at Biddle Hall, 3239 Biddle in Wyandotte, runs April 15, 16, 22 and 23, with a 6:30 p.m. dinner and a 7:30 p.m. curtain.
Dinner and show tickets are $28, with a $16 show-only option. For tickets or more information, call 734-407-7020 or go to downriveractorsguild.net.
Michele Devins of Southgate directs the show, with Jeremy St. Martin of Wyandotte as musical director, Deborah Aue of Taylor as choreographer, and Jeanne Edwards of Grosse Ile Township as assistant director. Peggy Partrich of Taylor and Brian Welch of Dearborn co-produce the show.
The cast includes Lucinda Chavez of Allen Park as Betty, Michael Suchyta of Dearborn as Duke, Leah Paige Cooley of Lincoln Park as Jeannie, Southgate residents Brianna Bielak as Pickles and Kenny Kono as Norbert, Melanie Aue of Taylor as Linoleum, and Kayla Aue of Novi as Pippi.
Set in Armadillo Acres, one of Florida’s “finest manufactured home communities,” the two-act musical follows Pippi, a stripper on the run from her marker-huffing, road-kill creating ex-boyfriend Duke, into the arms of Norbert, a bored tollbooth-collector ripe for a midlife crisis, and his agoraphobic wife Jeannie, who hasn’t left their trailer since their son was kidnapped 20 years ago.
Betty runs the trailer park with her sidekicks Pickles, known for her hysterical pregnancy, and Linoleum, whose husband is languishing on death row because the local power grid can’t support the prison’s electric chair, “Old Smokey.”
Devins said the adult musical has a strong cast and a lot of humor.
“It’s as white-trashy as it can possibly be,” Devins said. “There are seven phenomenally talented actor-singers in the show. It’s going to be a really entertaining show. People will laugh, they’ll cry, they’ll have a good time.”
Devins said the menu will tie into the show’s theme, with barbecue chicken, tater tots and potato salad.
St. Martin said the show’s music is fantastic, with great harmony and character work.
“What makes it so fun is these tropes that we see within our days, with Walmart people, what we think is redneck, I guess, and how’s it’s funny,” he said, “and yet there is a certain endearing charm about the whole thing.”
He said the strong cast has made his job as musical director easy.
“They have come in, they’ve nailed their music, with very little rehearsal time,” St. Martin said. “They’ve always been prepared and always been really enthusiastic about the music, so it’s been quite a pleasure.”
Cooley’s character Jeannie’s comedic schtick comes from her agoraphobia – she hasn’t left her trailer in 20 years, yet she still finds a way to be part of the action.
“The fun involves how remote is she from everybody else, and some of the comic timing, and things that go hand-in-hand with that,” she said. “Even though I am just in the trailer, part of the challenge is figuring out what it is that I can do to interact with the story as well.”
Cooley compared the show to crashing a redneck party.
“You can be who you are, you can be what you want to be, and so can the audience,” she said. “And that is something that we encourage as well.”
Kayla Aue says her character, a stripper on the run from a crazy ex-boyfriend, who has an affair with Norbert, the husband of the trailer park’s agoraphobic, played by Kono, is quite different from her own personality.
“I get to act very crazy-like, sexy, the ‘naughty girl,’ and I am totally not that,” she said. “I’m like the girl next door normally, but I get to be more daring.”
Kayla Aue last paired with Kono in “Beauty and the Beast,” with DAG in December, playing Belle to his Gaston.
“It’s totally different going from a Disney princess to this,” she said. “But it’s kind of funny, because me and Kenny get along really well, and we can react to each other really nicely, so we have that chemistry where it’s not uncomfortable.”
Kono said the show is laugh-out-loud funny and raunchy.
“It is a very smartly written musical about dumb people,” he said. “That’s the beauty of the script itself, which is what makes it so much fun.”
Suchyta said his character adds unique humor to the adult comedy.
“Duke is a marker-huffing, womanizer who comes to Stark, Florida, to track down his ex-girlfriend stripper,” he said. “You just have to amp it up and go as wild as you want.”
He said the show is very funny.
“It’s going to be a barrel of laughs, and they are not going to stop laughing,” Suchyta said.
NATIONAL TOUR OF ‘IF/THEN’ AT FISHER
The Fisher Theater hosts the national tour of “If/Then,” a new musical with a dual fast-paced storyline, complex yet very likable characters, and strong and engaging musical numbers.
The show runs through April 10, with performances at 8 p.m. April 5 to 9, at 7:30 p.m. April 10, and 2 p.m. April 9 and 10 at the theater, 3011 W. Grand Blvd. in Detroit.
Tickets range from $35 to $90. To order, call 313-872-1000 or go to broadwayindetroit.com, or contact Ticketmaster at 800-982-2787 or at ticketmaster.com.
When Elizabeth, a city planner, moves to New York City following a divorce, her life is full of possibilities. The musical follows her two distinct possible storylines – as “Liz” and “Beth,” with some overlap of friends, but very different outcomes, each very intense.
You almost need a score card at first to keep up, then you start to catch on to which version of her life — as “Beth” or “Liz” she is in for the moment as the scenes go back and forth in her life.
Jackie Burns is wonderful as the female lead, Elizabeth, and Anthony Rapp is great as Lucas. Tamyra Gray as Kate has so much talent and energy, and Matthew Hydzik as Josh is just yummy.
The music is captivating. Jackie Burns is Idina Menzel’s successor for many shows (i.e., Elphaba, “Wicked”), and is an amazing star in her own right.
You may want to read an online synopsis before you go, but “If/Then” is one musical you won’t want to miss.
McGRAW, O’NEAL REUNITE FOR A NEW LOVE STORY
Baby boomers who remember Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal from the movie “Love Story” have a chance to see the duo reunited on stage at the Fisher Theater April 12 to 17 in A.R. Gurney’s “Love Letters.”
To order tickets, or for more information, call 313-872-1000 or go to broadwayindetroit.com, or contact Ticketmaster at 800-982-2787 or at ticketmaster.com.
The chemistry is revisited 45 years later, and even though both have gray hair, and O’Neal uses a cane, this new vehicle for the two covers a 50-year relationship through letters, revealing choices and regrets. In “Love Letters” the two stars become young again, and work their stage magic as their characters’ lives unfold.