Pump Boys & Dinettes; Papermill’s Pleasant Romp
By Bob & Sandy Nesoff
Pump Boys and Dinettes, Paper Mill Playhouse’s current production is definitely not “Les Miz,” and it isn’t the upcoming “West Side Story.” What it is, is a very pleasant evening of musical romp that offers no mental challenges, but is an evening of enjoyable entertainment.
Granted, “The Book,” as a plays plot is known, is about as thin as the former model, Twiggy.” It has no beginning story line, no middle and no unanticipated ending. But the talented sextet of entertainers gave the Paper Mill Playhouse audience an evening of relaxation and terrific music.
The scene is a gas station and dinette somewhere in North Carolina. The no-name gas station is situated adjacent to the Double Cupp Diner in what could be a double entendré aimed at the two Cupp sisters who own the eatery.
If you enjoy country music, this is your show. If you were not a fan of the genre, you’ll leave a convert.
Originally an off-Broadway show in the early 80s and then made the transition to Broadway for a respectable run.
James Barry, the guitar strumming lead-at least he seems to be-delivers a trend whereby cast members are the actors, singers and musicians. And they pull it off.
Barry, as Jim, moves around the stage, climbs atop a bass fiddle and then, for some reason, makes it to the top of the scenery. Frankly, much of the action on the stage leaves the audience wondering “Why?”
But that’s necessary if you aren’t going to simply have singers and musicians standing in front of a mic and performing. The audience didn’t seem to mind and enjoyed the performances.
This was a true “country” performance with guitars, bass fiddles, pianos, acoustic and electric guitars and…pots and pans, knives, forks and spoons and other kitchen implements of some use or other, all put into a musical set.
Ed Sullivan would have loved the performances for his top rated variety show.
Alysha Umphrees as Rhetta Cupp, shows off dance moves that jiggle and shake while her “sister,” Prudie Cupp (Julie Foldesi, is a more reserved, but not less talented entertainer.
Since there were six Pump Boys to only two Cupp sisters, the guys got more stage time than the girls. That was unfortunate because Umphrees and Foldesi had a lot to offer.
That doesn’t mean that Barry and his cohorts at the gas station, Gabe Bowling, Sam Weber and Jason Ostrowski were any less capable. They all took disparate tunes and moves and melded them into an evening of pleasant entertainment.
The show runs through May 1 at the Millburn theater with tickets prices beginning at $32. Where else can you get a Broadway quality show for that price?
The show’s schedule is: Wednesday 7:30 p.m.; Thursday at 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Saturday 1:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 7 p.m.
Check out Papermill.org or call (973) 376-4343 for tickets and information.
Upcoming in June is the theater’s final production of the season, West Side Story. Next season, beginning in September, promises a high octane slate of shows: The Producers, The Bodyguard, A Comedy of Tenors, Million Dollar Quartet and Mary Poppins. It’s best to reserve your seats now.