By Fran Syverson
The five Pump Boys burst onto the Sierra Madre Playhouse stage and right away the audience is toe-tapping along with the countrified music the boys are a-singin’ and
a-playin’. Keeping them company are the Dinette Girls, ready to serve the customers hot coffee along with the lusty tunes.
So starts the musical that’ll give your summer evenings just the right carefree, robust melodies to fill your heart with joy.
The Pump Boys and Dinettes hang out in a roadside diner somewhere between Frog Level and Smyrna on Highway 57 in North Carolina. The boys’ filling station is just next door.
Story line? Never mind. What little there is comes through the lyrics themselves. There’s a certain amount of guy-gal interplay, some action around the dinette counter, and some capers among the instrumentalists. Mostly the evening is just one good song after another. “No Holds Barred”—“The Night Dolly Parton was Almost Mine.” You’re not familiar with these songs? It doesn’t matter—you’ll enjoy them anyway because the cast is so obviously having fun singing and playing together.
Cori Cable Kidder returns to the Playhouse stage after her phenomenal run in the title role of Always…Patsy Cline in 2015. For that, you could close your eyes and believe she was the reincarnation of Patsy. This time, as she belts out “Be Good or Be Gone” with her usual gusto, she nuances it with a North Carolina drawl as Rhetta Cupp.
Her sister, Prudie Cupp, is the perfect match for Rhetta as they sing the brazen “Tips” followed by the sad and sentimental “Sisters.”
With five talented instrumentalists on board, you would expect to hear solo riffs from each throughout the evening. You will not be disappointed. Michael Butler Murray on guitar and dobro…Kevin Tiernan on bass…Jimmy Villaflor on guitar…Jim Miller on drums….and Sean Paxton on piano and accordion all have their turn. Paxton also serves as musical director.
In contrast to recent stark sets at the Playhouse, this one is very busy. Half of it is garage-like, with appropriate hubcaps and gas tanks sitting around. The other half is the dinette, with table, chairs and the necessary accoutrements for a dinette. Customers occupy one corner area. Jeff G. Rack must have had fun designing the set.
“Fill ‘er up?” The pump boys at the gas station wear the uniforms typical of 1972, when they still offered service. Likewise, the dinette gals in short, bright waitress outfits offer to fill customers with comfort food from the kitchen. Costuming is by Angela Nicholas.
This is Allison Bibicoff’s debut as director/choreographer of a production at the Sierra Madre Playhouse. Christian Lebano and Estelle Campbell are producer and co-producer, respectively. Chloe Madriaga is stage manager.
Pump Boys and Dinettes originated as a musical act in New York City. It segued into an off-Broadway show in 1981, then moved to Broadway in 1982 where it received a Tony Award nomination as Best Musical. Jim Wann is the main composer and writer, with John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan and John Schimmel of the original New York cast also contributing
This delightful summertime musical runs weekends through July 29. Curtain times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m.; Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.; and Saturday matinees at 2:30 p.m. on July 7, 14, 21, and 28.
For reservations or more information, phone (626) 355-4318, or visit the website, www.sierramadreplayhouse.org for online ticketing. Reservations for groups of 10 or more can be made at the same number. Admission is $45 general, $40 for seniors (65+), and $25 for youth 22 and under. The Sierra Madre Playhouse is at 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre. Free parking and restaurants are nearby.