By Kathy Richards
Set in a gas station and diner, the “Double Cupp Diner,” on Highway 57 somewhere between Frog Level and Smyrna, NC, “Pump Boys and Dinettes” stars four gas station attendants (L.M., Jackson, Jim, and Eddie) and two waitresses (Prudie and Rhetta Cupp) who perform onstage with guitars, a piano, bass and, yes, even kitchen utensils. The music is a quirky, highly imaginative blend of country, rock-a-billy, swing, rock and roll, and jazz. Best of all, this terrifically fun national tour is set to make a pit stop at the Van Singel Fine Arts Center Jan. 26.
On February 4, 1982, “Pump Boys and Dinettes,” boasted as the “friendliest, happiest show in town,” opened on Broadway at the Princess Theatre. There had been nothing like it before and audiences and critics fell in love with its downhome, earthy celebration of friendship and the simple things in life. With songs that celebrated the gifts of friendship, vacations, hard work, fishing, and color TV, “Pump Boys and Dinettes” garnered three Tony Award nominations and two Drama Desk Award nominations. One of the songs from the show, “The Night Dolly Parton Was Almost Mine,” reached number 67 on the Hot Country Songs charts.
“Pump Boys and Dinettes” was created by two friends, Jim Wann and Mark Hardwick, who experimented with the concept while playing five nights a week at a New York steakhouse. The idea took off from there and with the help of contributors and fellow performers; John Foley, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan, and John Schimmel, they made their way from Off-Broadway to the bright lights of Broadway and on to London’s West End. Subsequent productions have been seen across the country including long runs in Chicago and Minneapolis, and an award-winning run at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.
“Pump Boys and Dinettes” will be at the Van Singel Fine Arts Center Jan. 26 at 7:30 p.m. Reserved seats are $42.50 for adults and $22.50 for students (high school and younger). Reserve tickets in person at the Van Singel box office or by calling 616-878-6800, Monday through Friday, noon to 5 p.m. or by visiting www.vsfac.com.
The Van Singel Fine Arts Center sits at the east end of the Byron Center High School complex, located at 8500 Burlingame SW, at the corner of 84th Street and Burlingame Avenue, in Byron Center, just 1.5 miles west of US-131. The Van Singel features free, easy parking and curbside handicap parking is available.