Geva stages 30th anniversary of 'Pump Boys and Dinettes'

05:00 AM, Sep 08, 2013

From left, Travis Artz, Johnny Kinnaird, Erin Maguire, Farah Alvin, Nathan Dame and Jonathan Spivey star in Geva Theatre Center's 'Pump Boys and Dinettes.' (CHRIS HOLDEN/Photo provided by Geva Theatre)/


Written By Debbie Waltzer

If you go

What:
Pump Boys and Dinettes.
When: Previews at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. Saturday. Opening at 8 p.m. Saturday, with shows through Oct. 13.
Where: Geva Theatre Center, 75 Woodbury Blvd.
Cost: Tickets start at $25.
For tickets: (585) 232-4382 or gevatheatre.org.
See page 9C for other concerts, exhibit openings and arts events to attend.

A lot has been written about Pump Boys and Dinettes since its Broadway premiere in February 1982, but the late Mel Gussow, a 35-year drama critic for The New York Times, probably put it best.

Pump Boys and Dinettes is as refreshing as an ice cold beer after a bowl of five-alarm chili,” he wrote.

Indeed, this show is a whole lot of fun. I first saw it when Geva Theatre Center brought it to town in 1987 (with a subsequent return in 1991).

Honestly, I didn’t remember much about the plot, but the music and lyrics were hysterical, and I laughed my head off throughout the show.

You’ve got four guys who work at a filling station, two women who run a diner across the street and enough sweetness, double entendres and humor to warm the entire state of North Carolina on a chilly day in February.

The play started as a two-man dinner theater act. Slowly, friends were added, including Rochester native Cass Morgan, and word-of-mouth grew. Soon Morgan, the original two, Mark Hardwick and Jim Wann, as well as John Foley, Debra Monk and John Schimmel, had put together a show featuring original music on off-Broadway. The Broadway run ensued, as well as a tour after that. Morgan will be at the Geva production opening night.

Ever since I arrived at Geva in 1995, all I heard about was Pump Boys and Dinettes,” says Mark Cuddy, artistic director.

Since a New York City revival didn’t materialize in the spring, Geva’s production, which opens the regional equity theater’s season, starting Tuesday, serves as the show’s 30th anniversary run.

Cuddy is directing a cast of six that he selected from a field of 150 actors who auditioned in New York City over the course of four days earlier this summer.

The six — gents Nathan Dame, Johnny Kinnaird, Jonathan Spivey and Travis Artz, and ladies Farah Alvin and Erin Maguire — arrived in Rochester on Aug. 20 and have been logging long rehearsal days since.

And they’re having a ball.

During a recent rehearsal, while drilling tricky rhythms in the musical number “Tips,” Alvin and Maguire — as sisters Prudie and Rhetta Cupp, respectively — kindly inform their customers that compliments are lovely, but all that really matters at the end of a good diner meal is a hearty tip.

Cuddy’s got more fun rolled up his sleeve. Before the show and during intermission, audience members will be able to come right up onstage and buy a beer or glass of wine from the Pump Boys and a nice slice of pie and a hot cup of coffee from the Dinettes.

This show is all about enjoying life as it comes,” Cuddy says. “Stop and smell the roses. Things will get done. This car will eventually get fixed.”