In order to accurately and compassionately tackle the characters portrayed in “The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” its co-director Jackie Santoro was determined to avoid stereotypes.
“I felt protective of those characters, and direction could take them in so many different ways, but I wanted them to be lovable and come across as trailer trash without coming across as a caricature,” she said.
“Trailer Park” is a comedy – and comes with all the baggage of audience assumptions about the genre. But Santoro insists that it is more than that, which is the reason the show was chosen from among dozens of other options for the Players to perform.
“We read probably about 45 plays to choose from, and I can’t tell you how many musicals, but this was a no-brainer,” she said.
With names like Linoleum, Pippi and Duke, it might be easy to make assumptions about the show’s characters and their backgrounds. But as the Island Players prepare to put the show on for area theater-goers, they are taking careful steps to not only inhabit these characters, but have fun with them.
Sheri Munshi, who plays agoraphobic trailer park resident Jeannie, said the character and the show are new territory for her.
“It is so funny,” she said. “It’s so different than anything I’ve done before. All of these characters have amazing backstories, people can see a little bit of themselves in these characters.”
Munshi said “Trailer Park” might venture off the path from what people are used to watching in the theater, but that’s what makes it worth seeing.
“What I love about this show is that it’s different from the typical kind of show around here,” she said. “Hopefully, we can draw in a new audience to the theater, people who might not have thought they even enjoy theatre.”
Santoro described the music in the show as quintessential Southern – country, bluesy and even selections of rock and pop. This would require a wide range of vocal talent from a normal group of people, but she made it clear that this is not a normal cast.
“This cast is so vocally talented that I just sit there and beam watching them rehearse like a proud mom,” she said, laughing. “A cast that is a small cast like this – you really get to showcase the talent.”
Whether attendants live in a trailer park or a gated mansion community, Santoro explained, each community has its quirks, and each deserves empathetic representation.
“The inhabitants are wacky but they’re true to life,” she said. “The characters might be a little larger than life, and we might all have perceptions of trailer parks, but in the end the reality of the show is lifting up and accepting your community with all of that dysfunction.”
“The Great American Trailer Park Musical” will play at the Casino from Oct. 4 to 5 at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 6 at 3 p.m., Oct. 10 to 12 at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 13 at 3 p.m., Oct. 17 to 19 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 20 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 for students 18 and under, $15 for military and $25 for adults and can be purchased at the box office or theislandplayers.com.