The Great American Trailer Park Musical (Waterloo East Theatre)

Kirk Jameson directs this revival of David Nehls and Betsy Kelso’s musical

The cast of The Great American Trailer Park Musical
The cast of The Great American Trailer Park Musical
© Garry Lake

Judging by the recent successes of Bat Boy, Xanadu and The Toxic Avenger at Southwark Playhouse, there is considerable enthusiasm over here for campy, zany, small scale American pop/rock musicals. Add now to that list Betsy Kelso and David Nehl's ribald, raucous The Great American Trailer Park Musical, currently splitting ears and sides in the cramped confines of Waterloo East. As a first time visitor to this venue I wondered if the trains rattling overhead might prove a distraction while the performance was in progress. I needn't have worried: this show is deafening.

Set in (where else?) a Florida trailer park, presided over by a trio of not-very-self-effacing divas (Michelle Bishop, Jodie Steele and the redoubtable Rosemary Ashe – all belting their faces off, all clad in eye-wateringly bad taste gear, all excellent) as a sort of demented Greek chorus, the story features a kidnapped baby, a stripper on the run and an agoraphobic housewife who hasn't left her trailer in years. The plot isn't exactly taxing but unusually the programme features a synopsis, perhaps in anticipation of the fact that the dreadful sound design reduces about 40 percent of what is said and sung to complete unintelligibility.

Aurally the show is relentless: the female voices are magnificent but are required to belt constantly, which soon becomes exhausting to listen to, despite the quality of the talent involved. A bit of light and shade really wouldn't go amiss.

Overall, the piece isn't as funny as it thinks it is (the humour seldom rises above the level of "Rendezvous?….that's French for 'fucking'") and the characters are so broadly drawn that it is impossible to care about what happens to any of them. The music is moderately tuneful if not particularly memorable, and I can't really comment on the lyrics as I often couldn't hear them. The "It's Raining Men"-style Act One closer "Storm's-A-Brewin" is rousing, and Jemma Alexander's agoraphobic Jeannie's big Act Two number "Panic" almost stops the show.

In Kirk Jameson's fast-paced, almost perfunctory, staging, the cast are a game, talented bunch. Alexander is a delight, Sabrina Aloueche has a hell of a voice and gives the show what little heart it has as the lovelorn stripper, Adam Vaughan is likeable as put upon toll collector Norbert, and Josh Dever's sharpie-sniffing redneck is a lot of fun.

The press night audience loved it, and I wonder if it's the kind of show that improves in direct relation to how much you've had to drink. I just felt that beyond poking fun at some of the more outlandish inhabitants of the trailer park, the authors didn't really have anything else to say and insufficient real wit to compensate. Can't fault that cast though.

Duration: 1 hour 50 minutes including interval.

The Great American Trailer Park Musical runs at the Waterloo East Theatre until 5 June 2016.