'Pump Boys' promises heartfelt visit to simpler times
Those who long for the “good old days” of roadside dinettes and full-service gas stations will find much to enjoy in “Pump Boys and Dinettes,” the country-style musical that opens the summer season at the Mountain Playhouse in Jennerstown.
Drawing on the nostalgia of the 1950s through the early 1980s, the show centers on the musical aspirations of Eddie, Jim, L.M. and Jackson, four men who work at a rural gas station on Highway 57, and the two Cupp sisters, Prudie and Rhetta, who run the Double Cupp dinette next door. The four guys and two women form a country-western revue. The guys play traditional instruments while the gals play percussion on kitchen utensils.
“It shows vignettes of life along the side of the road in rural America, in a simpler, less complicated time than we live in now,” says director Larry Tobias. “It was a time when you could get your car fixed at a gas station and the waitress at the diner could fill you in on the local gossip.”
In addition to directing the show, Tobias plays Jim, one of the Pump Boys.
“I enjoy the interaction with the audience,” he says. “Everybody in the theater, including the cast, the crew, the audience and the theater staff leave the theater feeling better than they did before. It's very genuine, very heartfelt.”
Because every cast member must sing, dance and play musical instruments in addition to acting, Tobias had to assemble a cast of multitalented performers. “First and foremost, it is a country music musical, so I had to find people who are accomplished musicians,” he says.
One of those is Carrie Tillis, daughter of legendary country singer Mel Tillis. She plays Rhetta Cupp, a waitress with a sense of humor.
“She's got a lot of heart,” Tillis says. “She works really hard at her job and she's proud of what she does.”
This is Tillis' second time acting in the show, and she says that doing it again “was a no-brainer. It's well-written; it's a funny show. The characters steal your heart away from you with their humor.”
Although original country music is at the heart of the production, musical director Chris Blisset has found that the show's songs transcend the genre.
“It's a very pleasant mix of folk, rock and country. It's toe-tapping music,” he says. Two of his favorite numbers are “Mamaw,” which he describes as “a beautiful country ballad,” and “Drinkin' Shoes,” “a fun song about what we do on a Friday night.”
“You're going to leave humming the songs,” Tillis says. “That's what theater does — it transports us to another place for a few hours, and it's a good place.”
Cynthia Bombach Helzel is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Moon area pediatrician found dead in country club lake
- Trib Total Media puts 9 Western Pa. newspapers up for sale
- LaBar: The upgrade of The Wyatt Family in WWE
- Starkey: Steelers stopping themselves with suspensions
- Pirates turn nifty double play in 9th, edge Marlins
- Heyl: Vick haters’ Facebook bark much worse than their protest’s bite
- Pennsylvania warming to bring ‘profound’ changes, Penn State report says
- Steelers’ Martavis Bryant facing four-game suspension
- Some of the WPIAL’s top teams leaning toward two-back ground game
- Fix for issues vowed at Pittsburgh VA
- Nonprofit hospital titan UPMC’s income eclipses record