BWW Review: PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES Serves Up High Octane Fun at Sacramento Theatre Company
In a place somewhere between Frog Level and Smyrna, NC, lies the Double Cupp Diner and Pump Boys Filling Station. Go on in and grab yourself a piece of pie! Rhetta and Prudie will take good care of you while Jim, L.M., Jackson, and Eddie top off your car. If you're lucky, you may even bear witness to some of the toe-tapping tunes they belt out. Though it's a lesser-known show, Pump Boys and Dinettes was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Musical and four Drama Desk Awards in 1982. It's more concert than musical, but the country/rock/blues score promises to give you a surprisingly entertaining hour and a half full of corny jokes and energetic performances.
Sam C. Jones tackles both the job of musical director and the role of Jim, leading his fellow actors/musicians while playing guitar in his Elvis-esque persona. That he does so effortlessly and skillfully is no surprise, as he enchanted audiences most recently in Sacramento Theatre Company's hit take on Disaster! He also recently released his first album, "Call Your Friends," which was accompanied by sold-out shows in Sacramento and Davis. Jim's partner in business and hijinks is L.M., played by newcomer Brady Wease. Wease brings the skill and verve of his experience playing Jerry Lee Lewis in Million Dollar Quartet, replete with the athletic piano playing reminiscent of "Great Balls of Fire." In his number, "Serve Yourself," he hilariously laments being attractive to women. In "The Night Dolly Parton Was Almost Mine," which reached number 67 on the Hot Country Songs charts, he fondly remembers the time in which the title explains it all. Jackson, a Pump Boy who is slightly daft, is played by a Dolly Parton show alumnus, Darrell Johnston. He was featured in A Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol in St. Paul, MN. His turn in the ode to "Mona" captures Chuck Berry's Johnny B. Goode, much to Prudie's dismay. Rounding out the Pump Boys is Michael LaPlante as Eddie, the most reserved of the bunch. Maybe it's because he's thinking of missing his grandma, as he shows us in the tender-hearted "Mamaw."
As for the ladies-not only can they cook up a storm, they can sure sing! Sidney Raey-Gonzales' Prudie longingly tells of her love for Jackson in "The Best Man," while he cluelessly goes about doing things that make you think she may be better off getting a pet. Rebecca Mason plays her sister, Rhetta, whose heartfelt anthem on dating, "Be Good or Be Gone," puts Jim right in his place and ensures that he'll never choose fishing over a baseball game again. The women hit it out of the park (except for the frantic gum chewing) with their hilarious homage to the servers' lifeline, "Tips," and give the females of the audience sage life advice like "every girl wants a man with a farmer tan" with L.M. in "Farmer Tan."
I'll admit that when I heard this was a show billing itself as a country music musical, I was skeptical. Going in with a half-open mind, I was blown away by the sheer talent of the performers, the passionate energy, and, quite frankly, the car freshener giveaway. Which I didn't win. Which makes me want to go again. You should, too.
Pump Boys and Dinettes plays at the Sacramento Theatre Company through February 16. Tickets may be purchased at the box office at 1419 H Street, Sacramento, or by calling (916) 443-6722. They may also be found online at www.sactheatre.org.
Photo credit: Cindy Lawton