Believe it or not, there are two holiday shows set in trailer parks this year. North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre’s first-time production of “The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical” competes with the ninth annual “A Trailer Park Christmas” at Durham’s Common Ground Theatre.
Like Durham’s sweetly nutty production, this North Raleigh show avoids ridiculing mobile home living, although the script’s crude sexual references and coarse language seem out of place in an otherwise warmhearted variation on “A Christmas Carol.”
The Scrooge here is Darlene, who doesn’t like her neighbors or their cheap holiday decorations. When she discovers that Rufus next door is mooching her satellite TV, she gets an electric shock disconnecting the wiring. This causes temporary amnesia, turning her into a Christmas-loving freak.
Neighbors Betty (the sassy park manager), Lin (her dead husband’s ashes always with her) and Pickles (nicknamed for her serial hysterical pregnancies), decide to take advantage of Darlene’s new outlook. They visit her as ghosts of Christmas past and present, but the future gets clouded by sleazy restaurant owner Jackie, who threatens to buy up the trailer park, putting a chill on holiday spirits.
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Betsy Kelso’s script and David Nehls songs poke gentle fun at mobile home living and supply clever jokes in “Twelve Days of Amnesia” and “Black and Blue on Christmas Eve.” Although the show is not a great one, the right cast and crew can make it a fun evening.
Melanie Carviou’s Darlene has the show’s strongest singing voice and sense of comedy. Alex Matsuo (Betty), Bonnie Webster (Lin) and Lauren Knott (Pickles) have their moments but at Saturday’s performance had tentative timing. Danny Dove’s Rufus is an endearing soul, the actor needing a bit more confidence in his solos. Jon Todd knowingly projects Jackie’s smarmy character.
This community theater has demonstrated admirable strengths in staging musicals, but there’s much to overlook to enjoy this production. Director Judy M. Dove instills the right satiric mood but the whole show seems under-rehearsed and misfires often. Craig Johnson’s four-piece band has spirit but is constantly too loud to hear lyrics. Tim Wood’s rough set design makes entrances and exits unnecessarily awkward.
Still, the production provides an amusing alternative to standard holiday fare, if not judged too harshly.
What: “The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical”
Where: North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre, 7713-51 Lead Mine Road, Raleigh
When: 8 p.m. Dec. 10, 16-17; 3 p.m. Dec. 11, 18
Info: 919-866-0228 or nract.org