A Schaefer Beer sign that that lights up is part of the elaborately cluttered set on the stage of New York City Center, representing a gas station and The Double Cupp diner across the way on Highway 57, somewhere between Frog level, and Smyrna, North Carolina.
Sisters, Prudie and Rhetta, work as waitresses at the diner, and Jim, Jackson, Eddie and L.M. work at the gas station. During the breezily enjoyable performance, the six colorful characters sing, play musical instruments, tell corny jokes, and address the audience. That’s Pump Boys and Dinettes.
Another great part of Donyale Werle’s marvelously detailed scenic design is the illuminated wall image of Dolly Parton, seen during the song, “The Night Dolly Parton Was Almost Mine,” which is one of many excellent original country/rock/pop songs that comprise the show’s lively score.
John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan, John Schimmel and Jim Wann, jointly created the book, music and lyrics for the show. It was first produced Off-Broadway, in Chelsea and later in Greenwich Village in 1981. It soon transferred to Broadway in 1982 where it ran over a year. The London production opened in 1984 and played for nearly a year. It was also produced around The United States, and was a big success in Chicago.
Now it is has been revived as part of New York City Center’s Encores! Off-Center series, which puts on past Off-Broadway shows for rediscovery. Based on its interesting history and entertainment value, Pump Boys and Dinettes is a grand selection.
Jordan Dean, Hunter Foster, Randy Redd and Lorenzo Wolff are The Pump Boys, and Mamie Parris and Katie Thompson are The Dinettes. All are not only terrific and personable performers, giving charmingly realized characterizations, but all wonderfully play instruments as well. Mr. Dean and Mr. Foster are on guitar, Mr. Redd is on the piano and accordion and Mr. Wolff is on bass. Ms. Parris and Ms. Thompson are on percussion, which involves them raucously banging pots and pans with spatulas at the diner. Austin Moorhead complements them on guitar.
The simple and accomplished direction and choreography by Lear deBessonet and Danny Mefford, respectively, give the show a briskly delightful pace and look.
Without a plot, the show affectionately and satisfyingly focuses on the jobs and lives of its highly likeable characters. There are pleasing numbers such as “Taking It Slow,” “The Menu Song,” “Tips,” “Vacation,” and “Farmer Tan.”
Besides a very pleasantly entertaining time, one lucky audience member wins a prize based on his or her seat number. The winner is called onstage to interact with the performers and claim the prize, an air freshener in their choice of flavor, which includes Christmas and bikini.
Pump Boys and Dinettes (July 16 – 19, 2014)
New York City Center, 131 West 55th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-581-1212 or visit http://www.nycitycenter.org