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The Great American Trailer Park Musical

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Small, old, pink and green trailers, tackily festooned with Christmas lights and television antennae, dwell permanently underneath a collection of signs that proclaim such attractions as “Florida Souvenir Land,” “Happy Hooker Bait & Tackle,” and “Blue Ball Day, Sat. Sept. 5.” Web folding chairs by pool steps await bathers at Armadillo Acres. It is 2003 in this trailer park in Starke, Northern Florida.

Three bleached blondes, frowsy and hot, all poor and one PG (or is she?) scoot into their seats and collar themselves with tinfoil solar reflectors. Thanks to scenic designer Ian Wallace, The Great American Trailer Park Musical, San Diego Repertory Theatre’s current production, is funny and engaging before anyone says a word or sings a note.

It gets even better. The trio of middle-aged girlfriends sings David Nehls’ witty, smart score with a gleeful gusto that carries through the final scene. The backstage quartet of local professional musicians rocks the house, and Betsy Kelso’s clever, on the ball book rallies an eclectic ensemble. Meet Linoleum (Leigh Scarritt), born on a kitchen floor; Pickles (Kailey O’Donnell), perpetually pregnant in a hysterical way; and Betty (Melinda Gilb), a perfect caricature of a trailer park matron.

Linoleum’s man is on death row, escaping the chair only because of the capricious nature of the area’s electricity. Pickles’ mister is a traveling dinner theatre actor. The only man about the place is Norbert (David Kirk Grant), a toll collector married to Jeannie (Courtney Corey), her high school’s prettiest geometry student (Put that in a yearbook today!). That was before their only child was kidnapped on an innocuous outing. Nowadays, Jeannie is agoraphobic, so caged inside the couple’s knick-knack stuffed trailer that Norbert cannot coax her past the doorway, even with the lure of Ice Capades tickets for their upcoming 20th anniversary date.

Never mind, for Pippi (Jill Van Velzer), a sexy stripper showing off the Disney character’s brilliant locks (sans pigtails) and adventurous spirit, is on the run from her mad, magic-marker-sniffing  boyfriend, Duke (David McBean), and needs some attention beyond what she receives from the regulars at the Litter Box Show Palace down the street. Norbert finds her irresistible, and the resident community is all agog over the scandal.

Aghast and titillated, and sometimes joined by the two illicit lovers, they sing their stories and sentiments in tuneful numbers ranging from the wacky “It Doesn’t Take a Genius” to the hilarious “Flushed Down the Pipes” to the wacky “Road Kill” to the tender “Owner of My Heart.”

Alina Bokovikova’s madcap costumes, Lonnie Alcaraz’ bold lighting, and Tom Jones’ gutsy sound design all blast out the storyline’s imaginative melodrama with fast paced humor and cleverly interpreted invention. Javier Velasco’s zippy choreography is simply delightful.

Thanks to the enthusiastic tempo of this production, sharply set and astutely maintained by director Sam Woodhouse, the music and the story carry the day in the arms and on the voices of a deftly capable cast. These characters deserve a break and may not get it. Nevertheless, surprises abound. In the end, one cannot help but care about these people, wacky as they are,

The lyrics of the final number, “Make Like a Nail and Press On,” pay tribute to a sub culture of America that is too often brushed aside. Call them white trailer trash, if you will, but these folks could also be salt of the earth, testaments to the endurance and value of friendship and community in a turbulent time. Taking it seriously need not spoil the fun, for this is one entertaining show.

“The Great American Trailer Park Musical” plays on the San Diego Repertory Theatre’s Lyceum Stage in Horton Plaza through December 4.

Performances are: Thurs through Sat. at 8 p.m.; Sun at 2 p.m. Some performances on selected Sun., Tues, Weds.

Tickets are $37 to $57, with $18 Student Discount and discounts for groups, seniors and military.

Recommended for ages 14 and up.

Reservations: or (619) 544 1000.



Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.