Theatre review: Pump Boys and Dinettes at SART

The Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre of Mars Hill has found itself displaced by on-campus construction this Summer, so the company is taking its production of Pump Boys And Dinettes on the road. The Highway 57 musical delight visits three local high school auditoriums: Enka, North Buncombe and Owen.

This foot-stomping, knee-slapping, good time show shares more than just a taste of sentimentality for the era of gas-and-go diners. The half-gas station and half-diner set that greeted the audience upon entry is a perfectly designed throwback by Richard Seagle. The cast is already on stage, doing daily routines and working the crowd.

Once the lights go down and the music starts pumping through the speakers, the cast launches into tall tales and Southern-fried songs. The stage is filled with musicians who sing and play the entire show. It’s more concert than stage play. Light characterization and heavy smiles from deftly delivered jokes rule the day with this show. This is the sort of show that you might expect to find if you wondered out of the sun and heat at Dollywood, into a theme park musical extravaganza.

The talented cast, led by Lyn Nyhart as Jim, keeps the music and laughs on high speed. Jim is the lovable guitar-playing good ol’ boy type, who leads the audience along. Joel P. Rogers plays LM, who co-owns the garage. Rogers also plays piano, directs the show, and leads the tight band, featuring Christian White and Justin Mabry on bass and drums, respectively. Beverly Todd and Kelly Christianson are the Cupp sisters, Rhetta and Prudy, who run the diner, as well as sing the kind of songs that would make Tammy Wynette proud. They also skillfully play the pots and pans as percussion. Todd especially has a couple of show-stopping moments. Cameron Gregg is Jackson, the young guitar-player who is sweet on the check out girl at the local mercantile.

The audience is cheerfully invited in for a couple of hours — one lucky audience member even won an air freshener for their car as part of an intermission raffle.

Pump Boys And Dinettes continues its run at North Buncombe High from Friday, July 10 to Sunday, July 19, and Owen High from Friday, July 24 to Sunday, August 2. Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. $20-25.

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About Jeff Messer
playwright, actor, director and producer, Jeff Messer has been most recently known as a popular radio talk show host. He has been a part of the WNC theatre scene for over 25 years, and actively works with and supports most of the theatres throughout the region. Follow me @jeffdouglasmess

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