Theater Review: ‘Pump Boys and Dinettes’ serves it up at The Pines
The Pines Dinner Theatre is serving up rousing country rock music in its production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes,” a toe-tapping, hand-clapping musical that got its start by chance, and wound up receiving a Best Musical Tony nomination. The story of that journey is hard to separate from the musical itself.
“Pump Boys and Dinettes,” written by a six-member performance group with the same name as the musical, premiered on Broadway in 1982. The playwrights-lyricists-composers were Jim Wann, Cass Morgan, Debra Monk, Mark Hardwick, John Schimmel and John Foley, who directed and starred in the original production.
The show started out as a two-man act, featuring principal author and composer Jim Wann. He and piano player-actor Mark Hardwick were performing at the Cattleman Restaurant, New York City, and they would write and play songs that embellished on their experiences there.
When Hardwick came in one night wearing a dark blue trouser outfit with an oval patch over the pocket with his name on it, Wann went out and bought the same. And, so, the “Pump Boys” were born.
From there, it was only a matter of time before the “Pump Boys” repertoire expanded and morphed into a full-blown musical about four guys who work at a gas station, and two waitresses (the Cupp Sisters) at the Double Cupp Diner, somewhere in North Carolina.
“Pump Boys and Dinettes” continues through Aug. 18 at The Pines Dinner Theatre, Allentown. The opening night, July 13, performance was seen for this review.
Pines Music Director Stacy Bechtel not only has a winning score to work with, she also has remarkable performers who can sing and play instruments with equal proficiency.
The music is mostly from the country rock-pop genres of the 1960s and 1970s. The Pump Boys perform on guitars, piano and bass. The Dinettes (waitresses) add rhythm and percussion with a selection of kitchen utensils. They add vigorous tap dancing along the way.
Sean Carroll (Jim) is the pivotal character and storyteller. He is at his best all the time: singing, playing his acoustic guitar and offering homespun comments. ”The best thing about working is giving you something to look forward to.” says Jim.
Alex Burnette is terrific as L.M., the piano and accordion player whose piano stool gyrations and playing style is reminiscent of Jerry Lee Lewis and rockabilly. His solo, “The Night Dolly Parton Was Almost Mine,” showed off his versatility and the more vulnerable side of his character.
The Cupp Sisters, played by Melanie Wilson (Rhetta) and Abigail Garrigan (Prudie), act and harmonize beautifully. Their duet on “Sister” is noteworthy with its ending question, “Will we ever be children again?”
Don Hart (Eddie) doesn’t sing or talk, but plays a mean guitar.
Director-choreographer Oliver Blatt packs the stage with amazing performers in a highly-entertaining vehicle to showcase their talents.
Tickets: Pines Dinner Theatre box office, 448 N. 17th St., Allentown; pinesdinnertheatre.com; 610-433-2333