The Great American Trailer Park Musical Kicks Off 80th Season at Pit & Balcony

September 30 - October 9th

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Theatre,   From Issue 733   By: Robert E Martin

29th September, 2011     0

Director Jim Gaertner and his cast of seven are bringing the South here to Saginaw at the Pit and Balcony Community Theatre. Kicking off the theatres 80th season September 30th, audiences can enjoy The Great American Trailer Park Musical.  

The play, originally penned by David Nehls and Betsy Kelso, is a comedic musical that, as the title suggests, takes place in a “trashy” Florida trailer park. Pippi, a stripper from Oklahoma, is a new resident in the trailer park and her arrival brings chaos in the form of a murderous ex-boyfriend, Duke. Featuring a cast of only seven, the play nonetheless has a wide range on the compass of characters, with three female actors playing multiple parts.  

Jim Gaertner, the director, is a long time community theatre veteran. He got his start as a teenager in 1955 performing in various productions at the Pit and Balcony. He notes that he's worked in  “every position you can imagine”, from “performer, director, even janitor”. A former high school teacher, now retired, Mr. Gaertner has long been a staple in various community productions in the Great Lakes Bay region. He brings a lifetime of experience and enthusiasm in community productions.  

Possessing a fondness for musicals, Mr. Gaertner was immediately drawn to the musical aspect of the Great American Trailer Park Musical when he was approached by Pit and Balcony about directing a production.  This will be his third time directing a show for P&B. 

He explains how there were a number of challenges to adapting this play to a smaller venue like Pit & Balcony. The set design presented one of the biggest challenges in producing the play, yet was accomplished with a focused attention to the architectural detail of Southern Florida trailer parks with a visual aplomb resplendent in all its pink flamingo glory. Plus, The Great American Trailer Park musical features numerous locations, and adequately presenting these was trickier than expected.  

He notes that casting was also something of challenge, with auditions being held in August and lower turn-outs than expected. In spite of this, Mr. Gaertner stressed the “excellent quality” of the resulting cast members. He pointed specifically to the challenge of three of the female performers having to play multiple roles. 

Fittingly, as a musical, this production features a wide range of musical numbers with very little actual spoken dialogue. Mr. Gaertner describes the music as “very country”, a genre that distinguishes the play from other musicals. It doesn't feature country music exclusively; some blues and also a bit of rock are thrown in for additional flavor.  

All of these genres should appeal to Michigan audiences looking for something with a little “down home” flavor to it. The show also promises to deliver a lot of laughs and features a lot of audience participation and inclusion by the performers. However, it does feature some “adult” language, so parents are advised to leave the kids at home. The Great American Trailer Park Musical is aimed squarely at adults.  

The Pit and Balcony Community Theatre has been entertaining audiences of the Great Lakes Bay Region for over 80 years. This is due in large part to community support that is still very much needed.  Jim Gaertner and his cast are clearly passionate about community theatre, all being volunteers who are “doing it for the love of performing”.  

The Great American Trailer Park Musical is certain to deliver both catchy tunes and some solid laughs, all at a great price. Performances are slated for September 30, October 1st & 2ndand October 7-8-9, with music directed by Susan Sprigg.


This is Ray Bolda's first contribution to The Review.  He is a student intern attending his Senior Year at Saginaw Valley State University.


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