The philosophy expressed by good ol’ boy Jim (Brad Myers) about life at a roadside filling station and diner in rural North Carolina — where you can “Eat and Get Gas” — is simple: “Work won’t kill you, but worry will.”
The Carnegie’s production of Pump Boys & Dinettes works hard to appear effortless, and its effervescent cast chases away any worries you might have brought to the Otto M. Budig Theatre. The animated Myers, a big man who plays several guitars and a mandolin (he happens to be the lead guitarist with Ray’s Music Exchange), guides us through the evening with bits of narration. His business partner, L.M., is played by stellar pianist Steve Goers (also the production’s music director). Jon Kovach, looking like a lanky James Dean, is Jackson, an amiable lady’s man. They cruise through some fine Country numbers, including an excellent A Cappella rendition of the seriocomic “Fisherman’s Prayer.”
The “boys” are balanced by Sara Mackie and Lisa DeRoberts as the Cupp Sisters who operate the “Double Cupp Diner” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).
They get their own turns in the spotlight, especially some breathtaking vocal fireworks from Mackie on “Vacation,” a mundane subject performed with Gospel flourishes.
That number is followed by the entire ensemble singing “No Holds Barred,” as they head south to Florida in a Winnebago — represented onstage by Goers’ piano with everyone piled in behind him. Director Jared Doren has given the show numerous inventive visual flourishes, and choreographer Patti James keeps the Cupps moving, especially for the first act closer, “Dancin’ Shoes,” in high-stepping cowboy boots.
Ron Shaw’s set features the garage on the left with the front end of a red sports car poking in and an old Coke bottle dispenser rusting away. On the right is the down-home diner with a lunch counter, stools and an antique cash register. Posters and neon for gasoline, tires, coffee and pie plaster the walls. And there’s a shrine to a Country music star J.M. met one night.
There’s no drama in Pump Boys & Dinettes. In fact, there’s not even a plot. Just a stage full of singers and musicians portraying folks having a good ol’ time. I bet you’ll join right in.
PUMP BOYS & DINETTES, presented by the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center, continues through April 29.