BWW Review: PUMP BOYS & DINETTES Brings Bluegrass to the Burgh
A little country twang and some sweet pies are all this short musical comedy needs to charm to a little ol' Pittsburgh crowd. Pump Boys & Dinettes, as the title implies, follows the service guys of L.M. and Jim's Gas Stations and the waitress sisters at the Double Cupp Diner.
Highway 57 runs down center stage at the CLO Cabaret Theatre, but that does not stop the four pump boys on stage left and the two dinettes on stage right from crossing the road and interacting in nearly every number. Aside from loose relationships between L.M./Prudie and Jim/Rhetta, the review offers little to no plot, but a whole lot of music.
Individually, the vocalists each had strengths, culminating and ringing true in the song "Mamaw." The southern accents of the six actors varied wildly, though. Sometimes it felt like the show took place in North Carolina, Missouri, Texas, or somewhere in between. This led to some odd sounding harmonies in the country music.
Pump Boys & Dinettes is certainly not a large and lavish Broadway production, but there are commendable aspects of the show, like the song "Drinking Shoes." Featuring L.M., Prudie, and Rhetta, the song almost seems better named as "Dancing Shoes" with timely beats that require nimble feet.
Another great aspect of this show is the talented cast's ability to sing and play instruments. From bass to piano, and even some saltshakers, all cast members carry the beat from within.
This change from a more standard pit orchestra is appropriate for the more intimate space of the Cabaret. In any small theatre, adaptations are necessary, as not to deafen or blind the audience (Could you imagine if the full-scale Hedwig that was at the Benedum was at the Cabaret instead?); however, some aspects of this show did not fare well to these and other artistic choices.
Intentional white lighting flooded the stage frequently. Even when the dialogue took place in the diner, harsh white lighting shined on the actors. Although there were plenty of lights rigged in the theatre - and some on during these scenes - the few white lights outshined and overpowered them all.
As a whole, the show has minimal drama and is a clean show for the audience. Pump Boys invites some audience interaction, some southern hospitality, and some advice giving along the way. So if you go, enjoy, relax, and don't forget to give the wait staff a tip. (The cast won't let you forget that one!)
To see or not to see score: 5/9; Approved Show
Photo credit: Matt Polk