Somewhere on Hwy 57 between Frog Level and Smyrna is a little restaurant across from a gas station where the pie is fresh, the beer is cold, and the gas is cheap (if that’s even possible from our days). Such is the setting of the hit Off-Broadway musical PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES. And in its latest production of this feel-good musical, The Winter Park Playhouse delivers a good foot-tapping, knee-snapping good time.
With book, lyrics and music by John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan, John Schimmel and Jim Wann (who also happen to be the original Off-Broadway cast), PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES gives audiences a glimpse into the lives of the Cupp sisters, Prudie (Heather Alexander) and Rhetta (Rebecca Jo Lightfoot) who own the local restaurant “Double Cupp” on Highway 57 and their neighbors the “Pump Boys”, the LM brothers (Christopher Leavy ) and Jim (Ned Wilkinson) and fellow fat monkeys Jackson (Ken Tibeau) and Eddie (usually Nick Rosa, but Chris Mewhinney during our performance). The Pump Boys and Dinettes converse with the audience and sing about life on Highway 57 – tales of lost love, fishing, booze and working-class woes – while playing their own instruments (pretty well by the way) and singing through the country flavored score.
PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES relies on a small cast of solid singers and musicians, and in The Winter Park Playhouse’s production, they hit it big. As the Cupp sisters, Heather Alexander and Rebecca Jo Lightfoot are an absolute pleasure to watch perform – delivering tight harmonies and deft kitchenware percussion over an upbeat and fun score. Ms. Lightfoot in particular has a few opportunities to show off her outstanding vocals – especially in Rhetta’s sassy “Be Good or Be Gone” and my favorite “I Need A Vacation”. Ms. Alexander, who is also co-founder and executive director of Playhouse, also gives a strong performance. As for the “pump boys”, they provide the instrumental backbone of the show, with musical director Christopher Leavy on keys (and accordion) as the mysterious LM, Ned Wilkinson on lead guitar as his brother Jim, who serves as a kind of master of ceremonies. for the evening, the amusing Ken Tibeau as the beer-guzzling guitarist, Jackson, and Chris Mewhinney (at our performance) as the quiet but talented bassist, Eddie. The show also includes an intermission raffle to help fix Eddie’s Edsel (profits actually go to The Winter Park Playhouse’s educational initiatives) – allowing audiences to participate in the story. Overall, this cast feels like a family enjoying every minute of the show, from the opening chord to “Closing Time.”
Creatively, director (and choreographer) Roy Alan does a great job of moving the action from song to song and giving audiences a glimpse into the lives of these funny yet realistic characters. CJ Sikorski’s excellent scenic design brings smiles upon entering the theater and perfectly captures the southern charm of the Double Cupp restaurant and the fun but functional gas station where the gas station attendants “fix” the cars. Monica Titus’ costumes are perfectly aligned with the story – with Prudie and Rhetta’s bright red waitress uniforms standing out. Lighting design by Sarah Griffin focuses the action where needed, and sound design by J. Adam Smith ensures every note comes across clearly.
All in all, The Winter Park Playhouse’s production of PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES is the perfect way to close out its 19th season – with great music, house fun, and a musical that’s sure to please audiences. But here’s a “tip” – make sure you get to Winter Park before this lesser-known gem of a musical is gone.
PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES presented by The Winter Park Playhouse runs through June 12. Tickets range from $39 to $46 ($20 for industry, students, and active military). Performances are held at the Winter Park Playhouse, located at 711 Orange Avenue Suite C Winter Park, FL 32789. Tickets can be purchased by clicking the link below, visiting https://winterparkplayhouse.org/ or by calling (407) 645-0145.
All photos by The Winter Park Playhouse