"The Great American Trailer Park Musical" is "a story of love and loss and midlife crisis," opening Thursday at Sumter Little Theatre. And truly, as Director Traci Quinn describes it, the musical comedy set in Armadillo Acres, a trailer park in Starke, Florida, has all of those - and then some.
There is an agoraphobic wife, Jeannie (Alyssa Gibbs), married for 20 years to Norbert (John Michael Osteen), a toll booth collector, who's naturally vulnerable to runaway stripper Pippi (Cierra Stewart), because Jeannie won't leave the trailer to go anywhere or do anything with him. But there are, of course, complications when Duke (Morgan Wood), Pippi's Magic Marker-sniffing, pistol-toting ex-boyfriend, arrives at Armadillo Acres to win her back.
And - the last thing you'd expect to find in a Florida trailer park - there is what Quinn calls "three women, also residents, who serve as a sort of Greek chorus with a double-wide vibe. ... They (Rachael Horne, D.D. Martin and Ariel Wilkie) advance the story by gliding in and out of everybody's lives, past and present."
Quinn said the play's lines and the lyrics of the songs are "hilarious, and some of the language is 'colorful.' It's basically about friendship."
The music, she said, runs the gamut of genres, with song titles like Jeannie's "Immobile in My Mobile Home" and "This Side of the Tracks" with Norbert and Pippi.
"It's great," she said. "There's disco, blues, Southern rock, a couple of really sweet ballads."
Although she's directed many shows at SLT, this is Quinn's first musical.
"I'm really excited to work with (musical director) Linda Beck and (choreographer) Libby Singleton," she said.
"The characters are real people. The play is not farce but farcical, it's hilarious, and it's got a lot of heart and honesty."
Quinn said SLT has made musical comedies featuring mostly men over the past few seasons, so "this time it's nice that (SLT board) has selected a musical with more singing roles for women."
Everybody sings in "The Great American Trailer Park Musical."
Wilkie plays the 17-year-old Pickles, who believes "people have good hearts. There's genuine love in the trailer park. It feels like they've known each other forever," and despite her age, Pickles still knows everyone's back story.
Lin is "tough, real," Martin said of her character. "What you see is real, genuine characters in this show."
Horne said her character, Betty, "is the leasing manager of the trailer park. She's a mother figure, who makes sure everyone's all right.
"There's something interesting, dynamic, about everyone" at Armadillo Acres.
Gibbs, who played Truvy in SLT's "Steel Magnolias," described Jeannie as "a smart, irreverent agoraphobic who has a great selection of bathrobes ... loves TV and loves shopping on QVC."
Jeannie is best friends with the three girls, the Greek chorus, especially Betty (Horne), who was her first friend when she and Norbert moved to Armadillo Acres.
"This will be a new approach for this theater," Gibbs said. "It's really an ensemble piece. We couldn't do it without each other."
Linda Beck is music director and plays keyboard, David Shoemaker designed the set and lighting and also plays drums in the band, Colby Rearden is stage manager, Sylvia Pickell is costume designer and wardrobe mistress, Michael Bacon is sound technician, and Darren Polutta plays upright bass.
Beck said the songs will be a high point of the show, describing Horne's voice as "rich, thick, chocolate pudding. The music is good, very poignant ballads. Everyone has worked hard to overcome obstacles, and that will make it a tight show."
Sumter Little Theatre presents "The Great American Trailer Park Musical" Thursday through Sunday and again Oct. 26 through 29. Sunday shows begin at 3 p.m., all others at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for students, seniors and military. The show is recommended for those 18 and older. For more information, visit www.sumterlittletheatre.com or call (803) 775-2150. SLT is located at 14 Mood Ave.