Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Kensington Arts Theatre The Great American Trailer Park Musical

By • May 19th, 2009 • Category: Reviews
The Great American Trailer Park Musical
Kensington Arts Theatre
Kensington Town Center, Kensington, MD
$20/$17 Seniors and Students/$13 Kensington, MD residents or Children under 13
Playing through May 23rd
Reviewed May 17th, 2009

I went into The Great American Trailer Park Musical at Kensington Arts Theatre expecting the worst…clichés, stereotypes, caricatures, and redneck jokes galore. I got all of that…but in one of the funniest, most professional productions I’ve seen in many years. Director Evan Hoffman (who is a veteran performer himself) has put together a dream cast…not a weak link among them.

What happens when you put an agoraphobic wife, a toll booth collector, and a stripper on the run in a Florida trailer park? This show. It’s an outrageous musical that somehow manages to make jokes fresh, be gratuitous without going too far, and keep everyone laughing long after the music stops. The music is good…the lyrics/script are exceptional.

Kat Brais as Betty is in her element, displaying fantastic rock musical vocals and perfect comedic timing. Her counterparts Lin (Katie McManus) and Pickles (Jaclyn Young) are also wonderfully suited to their roles…the three of them get a chance to solo as well as act like a Motown style girl group…with phenomenal success.

Highlights of Act I include “Flushed Down the Pipes, The Great American TV Show,” and “The Buck Stops Here”…and then when “Storm’s a Brewin'” gets underway in Act II, you know you best hang on for a wildly hilarious ride. “Road Kill” brought down the house, and then a poignant trio between the three lead characters showed off true vocal prowess and emotional range. I’ve actually seen all of these performers in much more traditional “musical theatre” roles before…and each one blew me away with their versatility in a totally different style.

Jennifer Lambert and Patrick McMahan, fresh off their triumphant turns at MCP as Evita‘s Eva & Juan Peron, play infatuated stripper Pippi & toll collector Norbert. Lambert shines in every number, convincing the audience that she’s an exotic dancer (her pole dancing moves are slick) as well as a tough cookie with a good heart. Her tremendous rock vocal range is in full effect here, yet she also has moments of true beauty in country style numbers. McMahan displays a lot of depth as a simple working class guy torn between loyalty to his wife and the semblance of normalcy he finds with Pippi. He also has an amazing voice.

Malinda Ellerman is heart-breaking and witty as Jeannie, Norbert’s agoraphobic wife. Her voice is rich and beautiful and she finds the charm in her daily struggle to be an ordinary person.

John Loughney gives a side-splitting turn as Duke, Pippi’s crazed ex-boyfriend. He was extremely funny and inventive, turning something that could have been a one dimensional role into a truly unforgettable character.

Even the silent ensemble roles played by Mark Hidalgo and Darnell Morris are made memorable.

The choreography (Catherine Oh) is creative and tightly executed. The costumes (Gayle Negri) are vivid and so completely on the money for each scene. Music Director Brian Victor has his performers using their ranges well and staying musical within the realm of comedic singing. The lighting (Kevin Boyce) and sound (Kevin P. Garnett) is impressively done and as thoughtful and unique as the production itself. The set itself (Evan Hoffman) has a life of its own, with the flat trailer fronts strewn with twinkle lights and crushed beer cans. The production staff has left no redneck detail overlooked…pink plastic flamingos hang from the ceiling and lawn chairs are in the aisles. Even the gals at the concession stand sport pigtails and pregnancy bumps.

While the orchestra overpowered the actors a bit in the beginning, they struck a great balance halfway through and kept up with the challenging music with agility.

What else can I say? I can’t imagine this show being topped by a paid production…this one was brilliantly cast, directed, and executed. It’s a breath of fresh air that doesn’t take itself seriously and provides a terrific respite from the woes of today. Go get your ticket along with your “horse devoors” while you can!


  • Jeannie Garstecki: Malinda Ellerman
  • Norbert Garstecki: Patrick McMahan
  • Pippi: Jennifer Lambert
  • Duke: John P. Loughney
  • Betty: Kat Brais
  • Lin: Katie McManus
  • Pickles: Jaclyn Young
  • Ensemble: Mark Hidalgo
  • Ensemble: Darnell Morris
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5 Responses »

  1. Thanks for the awesome review McCall. We have had a blast with this show. I hope is shows!!!

  2. Thank you for the wonderful review, McCall!

    I just wanted to point out that our show closes May 23 (this Saturday!) and not June 7th, as the link at the top mentions. Only one weekend left!

  3. We’re so glad you enjoyed the show, McCall! IF ONLY we were running until June 7 — unfortunately, we have 3 more performances. Come on out this Thursday, May 21, Friday, May 22, or Saturday, May 23 at 8:00 and take a load off!

  4. I apologize for the error in the dates I listed, it was my mistake. I have fixed that on the review. Mike

  5. I want to add my congrats to the brilliant and hysterical cast! I had a blast ,and wish my schedule allowed for a return visit. I’m having a hard time choosing among the many great performances from this outrageous production for my next Scene Stealers article. Oh, heck, I’ll pick all of you! So many spine tingling harmonies and great singing. Don’t miss this show! Well deserved great review!