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A little bit of country, little bit of jazz in latest CLO Cabaret

| Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Archie Carpenter
Drew Leigh Willams (from left), Jon Rohlf, Erika Strasburg and David Toole star in CLO Cabaret's 'Pump Boys & Dinettes.'

Music is the roadside attraction in the newest CLO Cabaret show.

“It's sort of Lady Antebellum meets Dolly Parton,” says Erika Strasburg, who takes on the role of Prudie Cupp in “Pump Boys & Dinettes,” running Jan. 26 through April 15.

“It's about four guys — they run a gas station — and then my sister and I, we're the Dinettes. We run the diner next door,” she says. “It's sort of about our simple life on the highway and what our days are like, love and adventure and all that fun stuff.”

Each of the Pump Boys plays an instrument — or two or three — and they provide the music for the show, which is more of a staged concert than a full-service musical. The country-fried show has been around about 35 years — it was nominated for a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award for Best Musical in 1982 when it played Broadway — but still holds up with it high spirits, good humor and range of music.

“Country is a lot of it, but there's elements of jazz in a limited way, and obviously blues and jazz have an interplay, and rock,” says music director Isaac Harlan, a Mt. Lebanon native, who came in from New York to work on this show.

“The boys are all playing electric guitar, acoustic guitar, banjo, ukulele, upright bass, electric bass,” says Strasburg, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University school of drama. “And my sister and I, we play the spoons and different forms of percussion that you find in the kitchen. That makes it even more fun.”

The cabaret theater is a terrific space to stage the show, allowing interplay between the Dinettes and members of the audience. Those folks are likely to be enjoying pecan pie and other Southern delights, which were added to the menu as part of the show's theme.

“There is a good amount of humor,” Strasburg says. “There's a lot of really fun numbers. We have a song about how much we love tips, and it's all sort of double entendre.”

Putting together the cast meant finding actors and singers who could also play music. Auditions were held in October.

“You want to get people you like being around,” Harlan says, “especially for a show that is so much improvisation-based and you're not able to latch onto some heavy script. It's really about the interplay between the band guys — and the ladies, too, of course.

“We have a cast that I feel good with,” he says. “And they get along and that's so essential for a show like this. I was pretty impressed with who we found.”

Sally Quinn is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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