BWW Reviews: Texas Repertory Theatre Invites a Grand Ole' Time with PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES
This summer the Texas Repertory Theatre Company serves up a slice of apple pie and southern charm with PUMP BOYS AND THE DINETTES. Prior to the show, I wasn't really sure what to expect. It certainly sounded like something that had country charm splattered all over it. Turns out, I wasn't too far off. Being born and bred in Texas along with an affinity for diners this was a great treat. Conceived, written and originally performed by John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan, John Schimmel and Jim Wann, it had a successful Off Broadway run before premiering on Broadway at the Princess Theatre in 1982.
The story takes you on down to two little country stops down Highway 57 in North Carolina. There you will come across The Double Cupp diner run by the Cupp Sisters (aka the dinettes) and the local service station run by the pump boys. Together, they welcome you to their neck of the woods with plenty of high charisma along with a propensity for churning out feel good tunes in the styles of good old country western, pop, rock, blue grass, and soul.
PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES is a musical gem. Not only is it jam packed with song and dance detailing the everyday ins and outs of the pump boy and dinettes' lives, but it also jam packed with musicians. That's right each performer is also a part of the band and make a fine addition to the juiced up musical atmosphere by strumming, humming or banging away on an instruments such as a piano, accordion, bass, an assortment of guitars as well as odds and ends such as kitchen utensils.
Steve Fenley (Jim) is delightful as the host of this country narrative. A bit rough around the edges, his presence is warm and inviting and it's easy to see why everyone likes him. Whether he's singing a funny story about fishing for catfish or a sweet one about his grandma, he serenades the audience on his guitar like it's nobody's business.
Adam Stout (L.M.) in his acting debut with The Texas Rep, plays his character with an honest demureness that does not hide the fact that he is a musical spitfire. He kept everyone jumpin' and groovin' with his magical piano and accordion playing fingers. His musical talent was a joy to be seen and full of energy.
Rodrick Randall (Jackson) also in his debut with The Texas Rep doesn't disappoint. His hearty sound and guitar playing struck some chords of gold. His cheerful presence added some great sweet as well as comedic moments.
Alongside the boys are the ever so charming dinettes. They graced the audience with big grins, cheeky looks, and a nice southern twang. Christina Stroup (Rhetta) was like a little energizer bunny. She was full of energy and on the go.
Lendsey Kersey (Prudie) was the calm to Stroup's ball of energy and by no means am I insinuating that she was boring. She was full of sass yet just the right amount of calm to balance Stroup out. After all, their characters are sisters so I thought this dynamic worked perfectly. Not to mention that they both put on a show for the audience whenever they picked up kitchen utensils and cranked out some wicked beats in musical accompaniment.
Not to be forgotten is the band. They are honorary pump boys Jonathan Means (Eddie) on bass and Nathan Mays (Scooter) on drums. Referenced to but not really heard from other than musically, they helped crank up the pizzazz with their well placed sounds and rhythmic beats.
The show did have a minor technical issue with sound. It seemed that the mics were having a bit of a problem and going in and out for some parts. I hope they are able to fix it right on up because some of the shows best vocal performances were a little harder to hear. That being said, don't let it deter you from going to see the show because in spite of the minor issues, all of the performers persevered through and still managed to blow me away with their vocals.
All in all, this little down home countrified musical filled with catchy tunes will for sure warm your hearts and send you off with a smile. Under the direction of Dan O'Brien and musical direction of Adam Stout, the small cast is certainly an affable bunch. Their camaraderie will make you feel right at home. So round up everybody in the car and head on over to The Texas Rep's production of PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES because it's a rockin' good time.
Catch PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES through August 3rd at the Texas Repertory Theatre Company. For tickets and more information go to www.texasreptheatre.org.