BWW Reviews: PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES Makes a Pit Stop at Cape Playhouse
Pump Boys and Dinettes
Book, Lyrics and Music by John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan, John Schimmel, and Jim Wann; Scenic Designer, Vicki Smith; Costume Designer, Devon Painter; Lighting Designer, Christopher S. Chambers; Sound Designer, Ian Hildreth; Resident Stage Manager, Paul Peabody; Advance Stage Manager, Veronica Aglow; Musical Director, Nathan Dame; Choreographed by Peggy Hickey; Directed by Mark Cuddy
CAST (in alphabetical order): Farah Alvin, Travis Artz, Nathan Dame, Johnny Kinnaird, Erin Maguire, Jonathan Spivey
Performances through August 16 at The Cape Playhouse, 820 Main Street, Route 6A, Dennis, MA; Box Office 508-385-3911 or www.capeplayhouse.com
It may be set in a North Carolina roadside diner and gas station, but Pump Boys and Dinettes feels like it belongs on the stage of the big old barn that is The Cape Playhouse on Route 6A in Dennis, MA. Ignoring the fourth wall at the outset, the cast welcomes the audience and talks directly to them throughout the show, going as far as inviting everybody onto the stage for pie at intermission and sending the Dinettes into their midst to sell postcards and collect tips. It's a fun, homey night at the theater that entertains with lots of hot licks offered up by the guitar players, but never breaks a sweat.
Producer and Chief Executive of the Playhouse Mark Cuddy directs Pump Boys with a light touch and a fast pace, making sure that the conversations that serve as filler between the musical numbers don't lag. The book is secondary to the country and bluegrass music played with brio by Johnny Kinnaird (Jim) on guitar, Travis Artz (Jackson) on guitar and mandolin, Jonathan Spivey (L.M.) on upright piano and accordion, and Nathan Dame (Eddie) on bass. Farah Alvin (Prudie Cupp) and Erin Maguire (Rhetta Cupp) play some nifty percussion with kitchen tools, and Alvin takes a turn on both piano and guitar, but mostly they provide terrific vocals with a side order of sass. The Dinettes also perform an agile tap dance ("Drinkin' Shoes") choreographed by Peggy Hickey at the end of the first act.
Vicki Smith deserves accolades for her evocative scenic design, splitting the stage between the counter and red leather-topped stools of the Double Cupp Diner and the grungy garage where the Pump Boys ply their trade. The colors and tone of the lighting are altered to fit the various moods of the songs and the book segments are brightly lit (designed by Christopher S. Chambers). Costume Designer Devon Painter puts Prudie and Rhetta in matching orange waitress uniforms, and dresses the guys in an array of hats, jeans, t-shirts, and flannel. The performers wear head microphones and Ian Hildreth's sound design finds a good balance for the instruments and vocals.
Pump Boys and Dinettes was created by half a dozen friends struggling to get their acting or musical careers going in New York City. Jim Wann and Mark Hardwick were performing as a duo before being joined by Cass Morgan and Debra Monk (who also baked pies to sell at intermission), and then added John Foley and John Schimmel to complete the ensemble. After playing Off-Broadway in 1981, the show transferred to Broadway for a successful run of 577 performances and earned a nomination for the 1982 Tony Award for Best Musical. This production was originally produced by Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, New York, and hews to the tried and true format of the original. It's hard to resist the rockin' music, the folksy charm, and the good home cookin' of the engaging Pump Boys and Dinettes.
Photo credit: Ken Huth Photography (Johnny Kinnaird, Jonathan Spivey, Nathan Dame, Travis Artz)