Pump Boys and Dinettes | The Playhouse at Westport Plaza

No matter how you slice this musical pie, you are in store for a fun night of down-home fun and toe-tapping entertainment.

Emery Entertainment brings Pump Boys and Dinettes to the Playhouse at Westport Plaza for a limited run. Debuting on Broadway in the early ’80s, the show was created by a performance group with the same name. Bordering more on a musical revue rather than a full-fledged musical, the show does have a simplistic plot wrapped around the numerous original songs. No matter how you slice this musical pie, you are in store for a fun night of down-home fun and toe-tapping entertainment.

The story spotlights the lives of six characters who live in a small town down South just off Highway 57. Jim (Chet Wollan), L.M. (Brandon Fillette), Jackson (Steven Romero Schaeffer), and Eddie (Ed Avila) work at the local gas station, while Rhetta (Jessica Bradley) and Prudie (Candice Lively) run the local dinette called the “Double Cupp Diner.” While the story highlights all the local ladies fawning over Jackson and L.M.’s dashing good looks, a budding romance between Jim and Rhetta and a group vacation to Florida, the real star of the show is the amazing amount of original musical material performed throughout the show.

While the bulk of the songs fall in to the country and rock milieu, the cast really shine when they put all their emotions into the slower, soulful songs. Each of the performers’ vocal deliveries are first-rate. Lively lit up the stage with her million-dollar smile and infectious energy during “The Best Man.” When she performed songs with Bradley, such as “Tips” and “Sister,” their combined talent was irresistible. Bradley stood out for her soulful performance of “Be Good or Be Gone,” a personal highlight of the night.

The men of the show equally shone with their talented vocal performances. Schaeffer rocked out during his “pump” rock moment in “Mona,” while Fillette created magical moments during “Serve Yourself” and “The Night Dolly Parton Was Almost Mine.” Being a massive Parton fan, I was tempted to abscond with the amazing poster of the singer, which was the crown jewel of the scenic design.

While all the singers in the cast were exemplary, Wollan’s performances nearly stole the show. Despite being from Minnesota, Wollan nailed the “aw, shucks” aspect of his performance by serving up vulnerability and genuine charm. No matter if he was singing with the company or solo as in “Mamaw,” Wollan delivered a very impressive, emotionally real performance.

While they shined vocally, the fact that everyone in the cast played musical instruments was equally impressive. Fillette wailed on the piano, Avila rocked a funky bass, and Schaeffer and Wollan both excelled in playing guitar and drums at various points. Not to be outdone, Bradley and Lively created their own drum sets out of kitchen pots and pans. Lively doubly impressed me with her performance of the spoons. Any musician who can create a moment onstage with just spoons will always steal my musical heart.

While Pump Boys and Dinettes may be been created over 30 years ago—arguably the best decade of all time—the show goes to prove that good music never goes out of style. While this cast comes from all over the U.S., they appear to have been playing together for years. They are a united, talented musical troupe who give this aged production a breath of fresh air. Do yourself a favor and mosey on down to the Playhouse at Westport Plaza before this charming production packs up and heads out of Dodge—or, well, St. Louis.| Jim Ryan

Pumpboys and Dinettes plays at The Playhouse @ Westport Plaza through Sunday, February 19. For show times and ticket information, visit www.westportstl.com.

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