‘Pump Boys’ back for record fourth run

Gary Linehan, The Union Democrat /

The Double Cupp Diner sits on the side of the road "somewhere between Frog Level and Smyrna, N.C."

But from Friday through July 27, the diner - the setting of "Pump Boys and Dinettes" - will relocate to East Sonora as Sierra Repertory Theatre stages another rendition of this popular musical.

It's the fourth time Sierra Rep has done this show, and director Brian Swasey - who directed last summer's "Respect: A Musical Journey of Women" - promises to deliver everything "Pump Boys" is known for: memorable characters, toe-tapping music and fun.

"The songs are fun, the characters are fun," said Swasey, who will travel from his home on the East Coast to helm the production. "They're just everyday kind of folk giving us a glimpse into their lives."

"Pump Boys" is the ultimate musical tribute to life on the roadside. There's a gas station, where Jim, Jackson, L.M. and Eddie occasionally do auto repairs, fueled by beer and music.

There's the diner next door, run by the Cupp sisters, sassy Rhetta and sweet-tempered Prudie.

There are six performers, each of whom sings, dances and plays an instrument - guitar, bass, piano, even wooden spoons. The show features a variety of musical styles, including country, rock and folk.

Swasey's favorite songs? "Highway 57," named for the road the diner is on, and the hilarious "Be Good or Be Gone."

To bring the show to life, Swasey searched for actors who are also musicians.

"Actors who play instruments well are really challenging to find," he said. "And for this show they have to be singers as well. There are some difficult harmonies, some a capella. We needed some serious singing musicians."

Playing Jim will be actor and guitar player Ben Williams. Sierra Rep's own Ralph Krumins ("Buddy Holly") will be Eddie, Paul Wyatt will play Jackson and Gary Lynn Floyd will play L.M. Max Harrison Comanse plays drums in the band.

Rounding out the cast are Karen Volpe playing Rhetta and Ashley Whiting as Prudie.

"Pump Boys" is a Sierra Rep tradition, the only show the theater has staged four times. This summer's rendition will be different than previous SRT versions, promised Dennis Jones, the company's producing director.

"It will be completely reimagined," he said. "We want it to be a new experience for the audience. We want them to be excited about seeing it again."

Some of the most enjoyable aspects of the show will remain. There will be on-stage seating for audience members. In past productions people have been able to sit in diner booths and be served by Rhetta and Prudie.

And, of course, there will be the rollicking music that made the show famous. Among the song titles: "Vacation" and "Farmer Tan."

"The music is terrific, it's really fun," Jones said. "There's a joy of life about the show that I think is really invigorating. We still put on the song 'Vacation' whenever we leave town for a break."

"Pump Boys and Dinettes" opens Friday and runs through July 27. Most Thursday and Friday performances begin at 7 p.m., Saturday evening shows begin at 8 p.m. and Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees begin at 2 p.m.

General admission ranges from $26 to $32. The show is rated PG.

For more information or reservations, call Sierra Rep's box office at 532-3120 or visit www.sierrarep.org.

The Union Democrat
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