“The Great American Trailer Park Musical” is the theatrical answer to that timeless question: Who wears short shorts? Clearly, it’s the ladies of Armadillo Acres, the fictional Florida trailer park in which resides a gang of low-income Caucasians — aka white trash — who love their ranch dressing, their Jerry Springer and their array of tacky lawn ornaments.
It’s all in good fun, however, and Penobscot Theatre Company’s production of “Trailer Park Musical,” which opens in previews on Wednesday, is a splashy, campy riot. Rather than exploiting the socioeconomic status of its characters, it finds the silliness and sweetness in them, and celebrates them.
The music draws together rockabilly, disco and country into one high-energy, hilariously fun whole, telling the story of a husband and wife — the agoraphobic housewife Jeannie and the schlubby toll collector Norbert, played here by longtime PTC actress A.J. Mooney and visiting actor Kendall Lloyd. The pair’s lives are disrupted when sexy stripper Pippi (Crystal Mosser, also visiting) moves into their trailer park, pursued by her violent ex-boyfriend (Dominick Varney). A Greek chorus of trailer park divas, played by local actresses Christie Robinson, Brianne Beck and Heather Libby, move the story along.
Nathan Halvorson is back to direct his first show at PTC since last spring’s “The Underpants.” He’s also back to fill in for the rest of the year as interim producing artistic director, as current artistic director Scott R.C. Levy’s last day in Bangor is Tuesday, May 31, after which he’s leaving the theater after six years for a new position in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“This show has been one of the most fun, laid-back shows I have ever worked on,” said Halvorson. “Every day is just a riot. I can’t remember the last time that every person in the show has gotten along so well and has had this much fun. I think the show itself lends itself to that kind of atmosphere. It’s just fun.”
Halvorson flexes his choreography muscle for “Trailer Park,” especially during the disco showstopper, “Storm’s a-Brewin’,” which comes complete with balletic leaps and lifts and dance floor hustle. Costumes, by Lex Liang, are as trashy and colorful as you might expect, from jumpsuits to cut-off T-shirts to leopard print. Liang also designed the set, a delightful combination of vinyl siding and chain link.
It’s a fitting end to this season, which has spanned the gamut from the Broadway slapstick comedy of “The 39 Steps” to the thought-provoking American classic “To Kill a Mockingbird.” PTC has seen a lot of changes in the six years of Levy’s tenure, from the renovation of the Bangor Opera House’s facade to the large increases in audience size for shows, including the blockbuster hit musicals “Forever Plaid” and “Plaid Tidings.”
“I think there’s a palpable energy in the building that wasn’t here when I arrived, and I think that’s true of Bangor as a whole,” said Levy. “The future of Bangor is nothing but bright. The cultural scene is so much more vibrant now than it was six years ago. I think what we do here and what I did here was a part of that.”
In particular, Levy is proud of shows “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Tuesdays With Morrie” and “Night of the Iguana.” He professes a love for both campy musicals and intimate, character-driven dramas.
“There’s nothing I wish we hadn’t done,” he said. “I really am happy with everything we’ve done. I’m glad we got to do a show like ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch,’ that kind of pushed some boundaries, and then I’m glad we got to do something like the ‘Plaid’ shows that were such crowd-pleasers.”
Levy’s new job in Colorado is as director of the Colorado Springs Theatre Company, one part of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, which also includes a museum and fine arts school. Colorado Springs is a city of about 400,000 people, so it’s a change in size and resources for Levy.
“It’s a new adventure in a new region of the country, and my experience in Bangor is only going to help what I do in Colorado,” he said. “I’m already wearing my cowboy boots. They’re more comfortable now.”
Levy and his wife, former PTC education director Joye Cook-Levy, leave next week with their two children, Ellie and Gabe, both of whom were born in Maine. Cook-Levy’s position will be filled in the interim by area actress and teacher Jasmine Ireland, who will direct this summer’s youth theater productions, and who will oversee the Northern Writes New Play Festival, coming up in July. That their children were born in Bangor is one connection the Levy family always will have with the Queen City — along with their many friends they’ve amassed over the years.
“I know we’ll stay in touch with Bangor, and all the amazing people we’ve met,” he said. “That’s what’s great about social media.”
When Levy picked “Trailer Park” last summer as the season finale he didn’t know he was leaving Bangor — but he said he’s glad he chose it.
“I’m glad we’re ending on a romp,” said Levy. “Let’s go out on something light-hearted and fun.”
“The Great American Trailer Park Musical” opens in previews at 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, June 1 and 2. Opening night is 8 p.m. Friday, June 3. Shows run through Sunday, June 19. For information and for tickets, visit www.penobscottheatre.org or call 942-3333.