ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Pump Boys and Dinettes
Pump Boys and Dinettes is a homespun musical originally written and performed off-Broadway in 1981 by John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan, John Schimmel and Jim Wann. One year later it moved to Broadway. Directed at City Center by Lear deBessonet, the mood remains old-fashioned high-energy and familiar tales sung and danced by the company. The Pump Boys are actor/musicians like Hunter Foster as Jim (guitar) leading a quartet with highlighted moments for Jordan Dean as Jackson (guitar), Randy Redd as L.M. on piano and accordion, and as Eddie, Lorenzo Wolff (bass). The Dinettes, Rhetta Cupp (Katie Thompson) and her sister Prudie Cupp (Mamie Parris) keep the beat with the closest kitchen utensils, spoons, pie pans, pots and plastic plates. Everyone joins together for most numbers on Donyale Werle's overloaded set, which is one big old patchwork of colorful country bric-a-brac, from Christmas lights and posters to a lighted Schaefer beer sign. Who cares if the gas station is supposed to be on one side of the highway and the Double Cupp diner on the other. No problem. Here they just join up.
This is a revue with no story to talk of and it runs briskly for 90 minutes with an intermission. This break is more of a time-filler but it gives the ebullient cast a few minutes to rest and includes a raffle where one lucky winner from the audience is called up for his prize. It's a selection from four air fresheners and on this evening, a young pianist from Boston was the winner. Jim's half-hearted invite offered him a chance to play but this pianist plays musical theater, so Jim hurried him off with, "We don't want any musical theater here."
There is plenty of rockabilly, some country-and-Western, 70's rock and odes to plaintive Tammy Wynette sentiments, like Mamie Parris's lament about her long lost love, "The Best Man." Sister Thompson's Rhetta shows no mercy in her demand to "Be Good or Be Gone." There is a dose of nostalgia in Hunter Foster's memories of "Mamaw" and home-grown honesty in "Sisters" ("I never did know you") by Thompson and Parris. The octane lifts with wishes for a "Vacation" in Florida and pianist, L.M., Randy Redd is an audience grabber with "T.N.D.P.W.A.M." ("The Night Dolly Parton Was Almost Mine"). Redd also shines extolling the manly values of a "Farmer Tan."
Costume designer, Clint Ramos, dressed the Dinettes in cute turquoise dresses with pink trim and white aprons with ample pockets, handy to illustrate their rendition of "Tips." The mechanics wear blue-and-red and choreography by Danny Mefford keeps everyone moving to DeBessonet's precise pace.
All this makes for a polished production that is fun to look at but at the end, it is merely pleasant to hear. With the exception of Randy Redd's vocal deliveries about a bad tan and Dolly Parton, and his vibrant piano energy, the company does not ignite the stage. With no plot, they reveal little depth, coming across as stereotypical rednecks and wise-cracking waitresses. Too few of the lyrics sustain story-telling emotions and story-telling is the heart of country music. Finally, how much do you care about the love of fishing, catfish and home-baked pies?
It's fast, colorful and it's light listening but Pump Boys and Dinettes, is probably is not moving up the highway to Broadway.