Geva Theatre Center's PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES Continues Through 10/13
Geva Theatre Center invites Rochester to join in the down-home country fun of Pump Boys and Dinettes with book, lyrics and music by John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan, John Schimmel and Jim Wann and directed by Mark Cuddy, with choreography by Peggy Hickey and musical direction by Nathan Dame. Pump Boys and Dinettes begins performances on September 10 and runs in the Elaine P. Wilson Mainstage through October 13.
Welcome to the Double Cupp Diner, way down on Highway 57 between Frog Level and Smyrna, where the cherry pie is fresh, and the waitresses are like the coffee - hot! The boys from the gas station next door play a high-octane blend of country and bluegrass packed with entertaining toe-tappers about life, love, and good times. Come on in and let good American folk melt your troubles away with a generous serving of great music and foot-stomping fun.
Pump Boys and Dinettes began as a two-man act at the Cattleman Restaurant in New York City in 1980. Jim Wann, one of the creators, recalled: "I was a scuffling songwriter/guitarist and Mark Hardwick was a piano player/actor. ... Mark and I were unemployed and happy to take a job playing five nights a week in the Cattleman Lounge, attached to a restaurant on one of the darker blocks west of Grand Central. Our mission was to play country standards to entertain the "tired businessman" who had come for the drinks, the steaks, and the waitresses in classic Western saloon girl attire. On slow nights we'd play original songs I was writing for Mark's emerging comic persona.... Mark came in one night wearing a matching dark blue twill shirt and trouser outfit and I went out and bought one just like it. By and by we had oval patches over the pockets with our names in them. ... So we became guys who worked at the gas station. ... Our imaginations were taking over and our Pump Boys repertoire began to grow." It became so popular that the show was expanded to incorporate two women (the Dinettes) and two more actor/singer/musicians. In 1981 it premiered Off-Broadway at the Chelsea West Side Arts Theatre in a production starring the five creators: John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan (a Rochester native whose most recent Geva appearance was in The Music Man in 2010), John Schimmel and Jim Wann. It transferred to the Princess Theatre on Broadway in 1982 where it ran for nearly 600 performances. Pump Boys and Dinettes was nominated for the 1982 Tony Award for Best Musical as well as four Drama Desk Awards including Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Lyrics and Outstanding Music. It has been performed all over the world, including London's West End where it ran for over a year.
Geva's production will uniquely feature an interactive environment. Prior to the show and during intermission, patrons will be able to purchase beverages and desserts right on the set. "Part of the charm of this musical is the country welcome that emanates from the stage," states director Mark Cuddy, "and the way audiences fall for the characters in the gas station and diner. I thought, 'well, let's show some real hospitality by inviting folks onstage to buy their concessions. You never know who you'll be rubbing elbows with'."
The cast of Pump Boys and Dinettes are consummate musicians as well as singers and actors and will all be making their Geva Theatre Center debuts. Farah Alvin (Broadway's Nine, The Look of Love, Saturday Night Fever, Grease! and A Christmas Carol) and Erin Maguire (Forbidden Broadway and the New York cast of Five Course Love) are the percussion-playing Dinettes; and Johnny Kinnaird (Broadway's Million Dollar Quartet), Travis Artz (Off-Broadway's The Awesome 80's Prom), Nathan Dame (the national tour of The Addams Family), and Jonathan Spiveyare the Pump Boys, playing rhythm guitar, lead guitar, bass and keyboards respectively.