Pump Boys & Dinettes at the Porchlight is 90 minutes of fun.
Saturday at 4:47 pm
It’s time to turn on the theater lights, and Porchlight brings back one of the longest-running shows in Chicago Theatre history with its 27th season of Pump Boys & Dinettes. Straightaway from Highway 57, we stop at the Double Cupp Diner of Prudie and Rhetta, where the Cupp sisters offered fresh-baked pies and cakes with a cup of Joe and where Jim, Jackson, Eddie, and L.M work in a gas station garage near the diner.
Written by a performance group of the same name, Jim Wann and Mark Hardwick recreated their days of two friends who worked at The Cattleman restaurant. Being unemployed, they found jobs at the Cattleman Lounge, playing country songs for entertainment. They played original songs and incorporated matching outfits into the show that featured guys working at a gas station. But, as the Pump Boys began to envision bigger dreams, their fortunes changed for the worst as the Cattleman management released the guys from their employment. That history was the birth of the musical of the Pump Boys & Dinettes that included musical creators John Foley, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan, and John Schimmel.
Porchlight’s Pump Boys & Dinettes musical is 90 minutes of singing with a bit of storyline to boot. The love between the Pump Boys & Dinettes is contagious, and the singing will have you jumping out of your seats. Hearing the talented Frederick Harris as L.M sing, “Serve Yourself,” was a treat, and Harris captivated and tickled the audience with “The Night Dolly Parton Was Almost Mine,” a song that reached number 67 on the Hot Country Songs. The Cupp sisters did a beautiful, touching duet, “Sister,” that tugged at the heartstrings; however, the song that stole the night by Shantel Cribbs and Melanie Loren was “Tips.”
That withstanding, the original songs were engaging but most didn’t reach the audience, and it would be sacrilege to argue with the longest-running shows in Chicago history. Still, I would have loved to hear some memorable oldies added, which would have helped even a season audiences unfamiliar with this play get into the groove. Also, the wireless instruments dampened the great musical sound production and needs to be either tweaked or changed to have all instruments connected directly to an amp. Nevertheless, the singer and harmony of the Pump Boys and the Dinettes were exceptional and a delightful evening.
Daryl Brooks is the breakout director in Chicago and brings a particular zeal to this play, relatable to his small-town values. Brooks’s wisdom and the love of theater bring energy and the fever of excitement, which is witnessed in this play, elevating the cast performance.
This year’s theme seems to be acknowledgment, as Steppenwolf and Porchlight recognized the land where their theater lay, where homes of the Council of Three Fires people, including the Ojibwe, Potawatomi, and Odawa.
Let’s Play Recommends Pump Boys & Dinettes at Porchlight Music Theater.
Porchlight Music Theatre
Pump Boys and Dinettes
Created by John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk,
Cass Morgan, John Schimmel, and Jim Wann
Directed by Daryl Brooks
October 30 -December 12, 2021