Sunday, February 5, 2012

Theatre Review: Pumps Boys at Broadway Rose

      Lisamarie Harrison and Andrew Maldarelli in Pump Boys and Dinettes at Broadway Rose Theatre.     
      Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

  Pump Boys and Dinettes a classic 'good time'

     Review by Tina Arth and Darrell Baker

           Broadway Rose Theatre Company’s current production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes” is classic “good-time” musical entertainment. Theater goers seeking existential angst and harmonic dissonance may wish to look elsewhere – but for the rest of us, it’s an evening well-spent.
          One of the advantages of a show written to evoke a simpler time and place is that it is essentially timeless. The set captures perfectly the ambience of a roadside diner attached to a gas/station garage deep in the Carolinas, where the “wimmin’ work hard and the men folk hardly work.” The relationship between Rhetta and Prudie Cupp, the Dinettes, and their Pump Boy neighbors is sketched by a smattering of dialogue that loosely binds the show’s twenty songs. These well-crafted songs, which run the gamut from blues to country with a pervasive rockabilly influence, don’t just tell the story – they ARE the story.
           The six cast members deliver engaging vocals, with uniformly tight harmonies – and they also provide the instrumentation. The Pump Boys display their musical virtuosity on bass, lead, and rhythm guitar, keyboard, and accordion, supplemented by the Dinettes’ enthusiastic use of spoons, ratchets, wrenches, even a support post for percussion.
          Barney Stein (the show’s musical director) captures the character of L.M. with two great numbers – the bluesy “Serve Yourself” and the irrepressible “Farmer Tan,” which also puts his dance background to good use. Sharon Maroney (Prudie) expresses the plight of a middle-aged waitress living off tips and dreams in the middle of nowhere with the plaintive country ballad “The Best Man.” Jim (Stephen Flakus) is equally poignant in “Mamaw,” which takes him back to an idealized childhood. The a cappella harmony in “Fisherman’s Prayer” is a beautiful blend of the Pump Boys’ voices, while Prudie and Rhetta (Lisamarie Harrison) express their characters and vocal prowess in “Tips” and “Sister.” Lisamarie gives an especially powerful delivery of “Be Good or Be Gone.” Like Prudie, Jackson (Andrew Maldarelli) yearns for love – in his case, it is a Woolworth’s cashier named “Mona” who has stolen his heart. Bass player Eddie (Sean Vinson) continues the country western tradition of the silent, slightly dim yokel. His superb work on the bass guitar belies the allegation that he is a product of inbreeding from nearby (and much detested) Smyrna.
     For an opening night performance, glitches were few and far between. During the first act, the volume of the instruments competed with the vocals, and sometimes the vocals lost. However, this was effectively corrected at intermission, and it in no way interfered with the audience’s enthusiastic appreciation of the production.
     “Pump Boys and Dinettes” is playing at the Broadway Rose New Stage through Sunday, March 4th.

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