‘Pump Boys and Dinettes’ serves up non-stop, high-octane fun

By David Lampe-Wilson
© 2015-Telegraph Publishing LLC

Weston Playhouse serves up a heapin’ helpin’of piping-hot, southern-fried jubilation with its opening production Pump Boys and Dinettes, an unpretentious evening of song, dance and musical fun.

From left, Joe Iconis, Jason SweetTooth Williams, Eddie Lorenzo Wolff, Seth Eliser, Grace McLean and Molly Hager light up the stage and the audience in Pump Boys and Dinettes. Photo by the Weston Playhouse.

From left, Joe Iconis, Jason SweetTooth Williams, Eddie Lorenzo Wolff, Seth Eliser, Grace McLean and Molly Hager light up the stage and the audience in ‘Pump Boys and Dinettes.’ Photo by the Weston Playhouse.

The show, seen during a preview performance, has a slim thread of a plot that runs through it, but that never gets in the way of the foot-stompin’ fun. It’s a swift evening of high octane tunes and down-home country, rock and blues celebrating life’s simple pleasures – romance and friendship, food and fishin’, Winnebagoes and farmer tans – and it’s served up like a good breakfast special — fast, hot and sizzling. Soon the audience is clapping along and singing, and the roof nearly bursts off the auditorium.

The Cupp Sisters – Rhetta and Prudie – sling hash, sing songs and look for romance while the boys in the gas station next door play guitar, piano and a whole lot more. You walk away from this production impressed by its multi-talented cast of actor/musicians, who can belt out a song, tap dance and play every instrument under the sun … and can do it all at the same time.

Pump Boys and Dinettes found its life in the mid-‘70s and anyone with his ear to the ground and living in Manhattan at the time could find its creators road-testing their material in venues around the city until it emerged in full flower off Broadway in 1981, only to migrate to the Main Stem in 1982 where it was nominated for a Tony Award as Best Musical.

The tone of the evening is set by Jason SweetTooth Williams as pump boy Jim, who welcomes the audience to the show with a ready smile and warm nature. In no time, we meet the energetic Seth Eliser as Jackson, riffing on his guitar; Joe Iconis who, as the shy L.M., handles the keyboards; and silent Eddie, the bass player (Lorenzo Wolff). Molly Hager and Grace McLean bring high enthusiasm and winning vocals to the stage as the Cupp sisters and, when necessary, fill in with the band on ukelele, saxophone, drums or wooden spoons.

Director Tim Fort keeps this simple evening careening from song to song, in a continuous wave of fun. He’s ably assisted by Terrie M. Robinson’s brief bursts of choreography.

Kudos to all for the visual production: Scenic designer Russell Parkman melds two locations onto the tiny Weston stage and it never seems unbalanced or overcrowded; Stuart Duke’s lighting keeps the visuals popping; Ilona Somogyi’s costume design is straightforward and colorful; Ed Chapman’s sound design never overwhelms.

So, head on down to the rural South where there’s no such thing as self-serve gasoline and where the gals of the Double Cupp Diner serve up a piping hot cup of sassy. Pump Boys and Dinettes is a great start to the Weston Playhouse Mainstage’s new summer season.

Pump Boys and Dinettes continues through July 11 at The Weston Playhouse, 703 Main St., Weston. Performances: Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 2 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m. For tickets and information, call 802-824-5288 or click here.

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeIn the ArtsReviews

About the Author: After 30 years as a theater critic and arts editor for a Connecticut daily newspaper, David Lampe-Wilson transplanted to Vermont with his wife and two cats.

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