PROVO — Single Wide is an original “country/pop” musical about a group of single women living in a trailer park and their struggles to survive. The book was written by George D. Nelson, who also directed the show, with music and lyrics by Jordan Kamalu. It was workshopped last semester by a BYU playwright/dramaturg/actor class and is still a work in progress.
Single Wide revolves around Katy (Cassie Austin), a single mother and her son Sam (Matt Miner) who live with Katy’s mother Amanda (Emily Castleton). When a new handsome and single guy, who’s name happens to be Guy (Tyler Hatch) moves into the park, he quickly becomes the focus of all the single women as they try to get to know this reserved yet mysterious young man. Guy befriends Sam, and through Sam’s friendship, he begins to date Katy. When Guy rescues Fossie (Kassandra Haddock) from her drunken boyfriend Bodie (Gabriel Spencer), he quickly becomes the “park hero.”
Katy, the central protagonist of the play, who had a ten year old boy named Sam, both of whom were abandoned by her son’s father (presumably when she became pregnant). Though Katy hopes and dreams of getting out of the trailer park, she feels trapped to provide for herself and her son, and has lost hope in finding a good man. Her mother, Amanda, whom Katy lives with, is an older version of Katy who also tries to support her daughter and grandson through an online pet accessories store that she runs. The next-door neighbors included Flossie (Kassandra Haddick), the “trailer park tramp” whose self worth is determined by the men she brings home and ends up in co-dependent relationships with these abusive men. Adding further color to show are the nosy neighbors, Ali (Rachelle Elbert) and Freddie (Twyla Wilson) who love being involved in all the gossip. Guy, the “new guy,” comes back from Afghanistan and keeps to himself, making his back-story is ambiguous and unclear.
There is not a whole lot of plot in Single Wide, though the musical lasted near two hours, and the characters were basically stereotypes. Consequently, I felt that I knew these stereotypes within the first ten minutes, and little more was revealed about them as the show progressed. None of the characters really changed or grew from the beginning to end, which made me wonder why two hours was spent examining their lives. It took nearly an hour and half to lay out this exposition I stated in one paragraph. Moreover, I found the plot predictable and largely uninteresting. A conflict finally emerges in the last 30 minutes of the play: Guy and Katy begin to date, mainly as of result of how impressed Guy is with what a good mother Katy is to Sam. Flossie, who is use to getting every man she sets her sites on, becomes jealous when Guy ignores her advances and pursues Katy instead. When guy goes out of town unexpectedly Flossie tricks Katie into believing that she (Flossie) has been with Guy, making Katy think that Guy is just like all the other men she has dated.
Despite the simplicity of the plot, the score did have some fantastic music, written with a contemporary musical theatre feel. I enjoyed many of the numbers, which had rich harmonies and beautiful melodies. “Find My Way” was a moving ballad, and my favorite number of the show was “Forgotten How to Cry.” Some fun comedy numbers included “Lovebird Fever,” “Pet Shop,” and “Should Have Chosen Me.” Kamalu is a gifted composer who was able to bring a variety of musical styles to extenuate both the comedy and drama of the show. However, many of the songs did little to advance the storyline, and felt very repetitive. Little new information was revealed about the characters in many of the songs, and the characters did not learn anything new about themselves, which is so important in musical theatre. Rather a scene would happen and then the same information that was already revealed was then sung about for several minutes, making the show freeze or become indulgent, rather than moving the play forward. This happened in scenes leading into “Done with Men,” “Man For Me,” and “Misunderstood,” among others. And though I enjoyed many of the songs, I became eager and restless for the show to continue. At least half or more of the songs could have been trimmed or cut and the plot would have moved more quickly without losing information.
The actors across the board were fantastic, though, with standouts including Tyler Hatch as Guy, Matt Miner as Sam and Emily Castleton as Amanda. Though all the actors deserve praise, as each one had an amazing voice, and delivered Kamalu’s score with near flawless execution, under the music direction of Amanda Crabb. The band performed the score flawlessly, and the actors and band were in tight balance through the entire show. I was also impressed with both the country/vocal stylizing as well as the southern and gritty dialects delivered by the cast.
However, my main complaint with the actors was that I did not believe these characters were battered women living in a trailer park. Their refined nature and finesse, made me feel that they could be my next-door neighbors in suburban Lehi. Though the dialects were strong, the physicality, line delivery and interactions of the characters collectively were far from “trailer trash” or “battered women” that I have seen firsthand. Lisa Stoddard’s choreography was nice, and brought life to many of the scenes. I especially enjoyed the choreography in “While You’re Young.” Miner and Hatch executed this number with excellent precision, and the partnering techniques were impressive to watch. However, I found the lyric dance number in “Just Takes One” stylistically to be out of place and an odd choice to tell the story, though it was executed very nicely.
My overall analysis is the book would benefit from some rewrites to flesh out the characters and give them more development. The musical numbers need some slicing and revising so that each number progresses the story and reveals new information. And lastly, the conflict must happen much earlier in the show. As of right now, Single Wide feels like a Sunday Night Hallmark movie, rather than a thought-provoking drama. But there are some great performances in this production and some truly beautiful songs, which makes me excited to see where Single Wide will go from here.