Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Pump Boys & Dinettes

Playwrights: John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan, John Schimmel and Jim Wann.

Produced by: Miners Alley Playhouse

Venue:  Miner’s Alley Playhouse, 1224 Washington Avenue, Golden, CO

Running Time:  1 hours, 45 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission). 

Date of Performance:  Saturday, July 18, 2015.

Before we go into details about what to expect at Pump Boys & Dinettes, I have a few words on what NOT to expect:

1.  This show will never be confused with Shakespeare.

2.  It’s not going to teach you a valuable lesson about life.

3.  You won’t walk out of the theater wondering what the heck it was all about.

With those points in mind, here’s a quick summary of what you should expect:  

1.  Toe tapping, hand clapping country music.

2.  Witty banter about various subjects, including Winnebago camper repairs, fishing, farmer tans, relationships, and "the night Dolly Parton was almost mine."

3.  Laughter.  Lots of it.

In short, this is more performance art than story or plot, but those performances are more than enough to carry the day.  The music is written specifically for Pump Boys & Dinettes, so there’s about a 98% chance you’ve never heard any of it before.  That being the case, the music, by definition, must quickly engage the audience.  It does.  It not only engages the audience, but once it does, it won’t let go. 

I’m not a big country music fan, but I quickly found myself humming along, tapping my toes, and clapping with the beat.  The musicians/actors, known here as Pump Boys because they literally pump gas, are gifted at both acting and music.  The Dinettes (Jacquie Jo Billings as Prudy and Margie Lamb as Rhetta) are the waitresses who add the high notes and the sexual tension.  The set is the Double Cupp cafe, on Highway 57, right next to the service station run by the Boys.  

Pump Boys:  Daniel Langhoff (Jim), Mitch Jervis (Jackson), background:  Steve Klein (Eddie).

And these Pump Boys are a motley crew…

  • Mitch Jervis (Jackson) plays lead guitar and sexy gas pumper.  Yes…he’s the hunky one strutting, moon walking, and cutting up onstage, all the while playing a mean six string.  
  • Daniel Langhoff (Jim) joins Jervis with his rhythm guitar, giving his character Jim equal parts shyness and mischievousness.   
  • Barry Brown (L.M.) plays piano and accordion, and conducts the 5 piece mini orchestra.  Accordion, you ask?  Isn’t that an unusual instrument for country music?  Of course it is…but it works.  
  • Steve Klein (Eddie) plays bass and loveable sad sack.  He doesn’t have much luck with the women, but he’s a force of nature on the bass.  
  • Tag Worley (P.K.) rounds out the quintet on the drums/percussion, which at times includes keeping time with a drumstick and some hub caps.

Jacquie Jo Billings (Prudy), Barry Brown (L.M.), Margie Lamb (Rhetta).
The Dinettes will get you a cup of coffee with a side of sarcasm; they take no back seat to the guys.  Margie Lamb (Rhetta) is a sassy, saucy singer;  she means it when she sings Be Good or Be Gone.  There are serious consequences for standing her up to go fishing. 

Jacquie Jo Billings (Prudy) sings a soulful The Best Man, a tribute to one of the Pump Boys who is “the best man she never had.”  We’re not sure which one she is singing about, but she’s still carrying her torch.

Both Dinettes combine to make an economic and philosophical point in Tips.  They’re working gals, and they can’t pay the rent if you don’t leave at least 15%.  

Alann Worley’s choreography includes a tap number, and it’s a high point in the show for me.  These gals can dance; I’d like to see them cut loose with the tap shoes.  Unfortunately, the tap tune gives us just a taste of what Prudy and Rhetta can do with their feet.

Director Brenda Billings puts exactly the right touch on Pump Boys & Dinettes.  She focuses on the authentically American characters, but doesn't forget that this is a theatrical summer treat like sweet corn and cotton candy.  Billings sets a quick pace as the one liners zip around the stage between the songs, while each character is deftly developed into someone we’d love to sit down with at the diner.

Scenic Designer Kyle Scoggins has turned the small stage into two distinct sets, one for the diner and one for the filling station.  The details are very impressive, from the collection of beaten up license plates hanging in the filling station to the neon diner clock over the door.  

Musical Director Mitch Samu has a wealth of talent to work with; each Pump Boy is a master of his instrument(s).   When the music comes from the orchestra pit, the musicians are anonymous.  Samu has a fully functional musical ensemble in full view onstage, and the musicians do double duty as actors.  Those two roles work marvelously here; the music is never compromised by the script or the onstage antics required of those whose primary role is to get every note right.  

Pump Boys & Dinettes is a rocking good time.  It aims for the hearts, not for the stars.  The Boys and the Dinettes are old fashioned, folksy, and entirely genuine American characters.  They’re working people with more wisdom than they often get credit for.  The primary role of theater is to entertain us, and Pump Boys & Dinettes does exactly that.


There is ample free parking behind the theater.

Miner's Alley Playhouse has a celebrity bartender.  Cody Schuyler was nominated for Henry Award for "Outstanding Actor in a Play" in The Cripple of Inishmaan.  He's got a $4.00 melon based drink special he mixes for the Pump Boys & Dinettes show.  We tried it...and we recommend it.

This show closes on August 22, 2015.

PHOTO CREDITSMiner’s Alley Playhouse and Henry Award nominee Cody Schuyler.



We ate at the Sherpa House Restaurant, 1518 Washington Avenue in Golden, before the show.  It’s a short (5-10 minute) walk to or from the theater, or a 2 minute drive.  Sherpa House serves authentic Himalayan cuisine, including entrees using yak and eel.  The grounds and the interior are beautifully decorated with authentic Himalayan artifacts.  
Pork Momo.

I had the pork momo (dumplings), and that was probably the least adventurous item on the menu.  I’m not real fond of exotic dishes, but the momo was very good.  We had a table on the patio with friends, and the entire experience was delightful.  Sherpa House is an experience as much as a restaurant.  If you’re open to new dishes and dining options, Sherpa House is a great choice.


Director:  Brenda Billings

Assistant Director:  Jonathan Scott-McKean

Scenic Designer: Kyle Scoggins

Musical Director:  Mitch Samu

Lighting Designer:  Vance McKenzie

Sound Designer:  Jonathan Scott-McKean

Choreographer:  Alann Worley

Costume Designer:  Nicole M. Harrison

Stage Manager: Bryanna Scott


Jim:  Daniel Langhoff

Jackson:  Mitch Jervis

L.M.:  Barry Brown 

Prudy Cupp:  Jacquie Jo Billings 

Rhetta Cupp:  Margie Lamb

Eddie:  Steve Klein

PK:  Tag Worley

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