POSTED ON MAY 18, 2011:
A doublewide dose of character in an unusual cabaret/theater combo
If The Great American Trailer Park Musical is anywhere near as funny as its director, Chris Crawford, describes it to be, then you're gonna walk out in pain. Good pain. You know, the kind that stretches your face and stabs your sides because you've been laughing too hard and too long.
Written by David Nehls and Betsy Kelso, the story is about Norbert (John Knippers) and Jeannie Garstecki. He's a tollbooth collector; she's an agoraphobic who hasn't left the trailer in 20 years -- ever since her baby was kidnapped outside of a Super Cuts.
But she promises him she'll get out of the trailer long enough for them to attend the Ice Capades. It is their 20th anniversary, after all.
Norbert and Jeannie are at the height of their frustrations with each other when Pippi (Amanda Neely), who's on the run from her girlfriend-beating, magic marker-huffing ex, appropriately named Duke (Seth Harmon). Naturally, Norbert and Pippi hit it off, and an affair commences.
On the day Jeannie finally works up the courage to leave her trailer, she discovers her husband's infidelity and retreats completely back into her agoraphobia.
What happens afterward is a complete hilarious surprise, Crawford promises.
"It's a love triangle -- well, it's not a triangle," he said. "What's more than a triangle? Like, a love square? It's a love square. It's really bizarre. But it's a love story."
A love story told by a trio of trailer park matrons: Bad Ass Betty (Kara Steiger); Linoleum (Lisa Stefanic), so named because she was born on her parents' kitchen floor; and Pickles (Tabitha Littlefield), who's 17 and suffers from hysterical pregnancies.
Crawford has looked forward to producing the musical since he and Courtneay Sanders founded their theater company, The Playhouse Tulsa.
"I got the soundtrack, and I mean every song -- hysterical," Crawford said. "And then they would hit you with this ballad, and it was like, 'Oh my gosh, these are real people.' And you know we're suckers for shows like that."
Crawford said he knew from first listen he wanted to cast Ungerman, a local cabaret favorite with a powerhouse voice.
"It's kind of exciting to merge the cabaret world with the theater world," Crawford said.
The two had discussed working together sometime in the future, when Playhouse has the means to produce mega musical Thoroughly Modern Millie, with Ungerman singing Mrs. Meers, the evil owner of the Hotel Priscilla.
But when Crawford heard the Trailer Park soundtrack and read the script, Ungerman's name immediately sprang into his head.
"I told her, I said, 'I have a title for you, and I'll bring you the script and the CD. It's The Great American Trailer Park Musical.' And she said, 'Oh honey, yes.'
"I'm thrilled to work with her. She's just a riot."
And while Playhouse's cast, like it does with every performance, plans to portray the humanity of the show's characters, as well as the shtick, they're having plenty of fun with the shtick.
"Usually the material we pick doesn't really allow for moments like that, so we embrace them when we come to them," Crawford said.
The Great American Trailer Park Musical plays Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 19-21, at 7:30pm and Sunday, May 22 at 2pm in the Tulsa Performing Arts Center's Liddy Doenges Theatre, 110 E. Second St. Tickets are $25 at the box office or tulsapac.com
Music to Our Ears
Tulsa Camerata, a progressive, musician-driven chamber music organization, is rounding out its inaugural season with Igor Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale, featuring Dan McGeehan and Portico Dans Theatre, Thursday, May 19 at the Cascia Hall Performing Arts Center, 2520 S. Yorktown Ave.
The concert highlights "the eclectic mix of programming and broad-ranging artistic collaborations that we hope will characterize Tulsa Camerata for many seasons to come," said a Tulsa Camerata representative in a press release.
"We will be playing the striking octet for winds, brass and double bass by the iconoclastic French modernist composer Edgard Varèse, which we contrast with one of Mendelssohn's lesser-known contributions to the string quartet repertoire.
"A string quartet arrangement of Frank Zappa's seminal rock instrumental 'Peaches En Regalia' is the musical lynchpin of the evening, as all of the other composers on the program each had an influence on Zappa's music."The main event is Tulsa Camerata's presentation of Stravinsky's complete melodrama 'The Soldier's Tale,' which tells the story of a young man who sells his soul to the devil, with unfortunate results, through music, dramatic dialogue and dance.
The concert will be conducted by Norman Wika and will feature Winona Fifield on violin, David Carter on clarinet, Richard Ramey on bassoon, Jason Dovel on trumpet, Alexandra Zacharella on trombone, Jesus Villareal on double bass and Steve Craft on percussion.
Tulsa Camerata was formed last year by four local musicians "to enrich the cultural life of their community through chamber music concerts and educational programs," the company's website says.What sets it apart from other arts and music organizations is its "unapologetically eclectic and unique voice."
The Soldier's Tale begins at 7pm, and tickets are $15. More information is at tulsacamerata.org.
Heller Theatre continues its run of Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde by Moises Kaufman May 20-21 at 7:30pm and May 22 at 2pm at the Henthorne Performing Arts Center, 4825 S. Quaker Ave.
Kaufman, author of The Laramie Project, brings to life poet and author Oscar Wilde and the public trials that ruined him. Wilde, on trial for "gross indecency," was at the height of his fame as the author of The Importance of Being Earnest and The Picture of Dorian Gray. He first treated the trials as if they were theater, but later found himself fighting for his freedom and his life. Using real quotes and transcripts from the courtroom, Gross Indecency shows a man having to defend himself -- and his art -- against a society's intolerance.
The cast includes T. J. Bowlin, Patrick Hobbs, Ron Friedberg, Victor Muse, Marcus Wohl, Paul Henry, Christopher Clark, July Mvnte, and Tim Krenz. Julie Tattershall directs.
Tickets are $10 and may be reserved by calling 918-746-5065.
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