IF YOU GO
■ What: "Pump Boys and Dinettes."
■ When: 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, April 11-12, April 25-26, May 2-3; 7 p.m. Thursdays, April 24 and May 1; 2:30 p.m. Sundays, April 27 and May 4; no shows Easter weekend.
■ Where: Chattanooga Theatre Centre, Circle Theatre, 400 River St.
■ Admission: $12.50-$25.
■ Phone: 423-267-8534.
Pull into Circle Theatre and let the pump boys fill 'er up with rowdy, rocking music when "Pump Boys and Dinettes" opens Friday, April 11, for three weekends at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre.
The musical stars four guys who work at a gas station that's right next door to the Double Cupp Diner, run by sisters Rhetta and Prudie Cupp. The six friends get in a little good-natured ribbing on each other while singing and dancing virtually nonstop for 90 minutes. It's a salute to the simple Southern life -- think Andy Griffith's Mayberry as a musical.
This cast features a combination of new and familiar faces to a CTC stage. J.D. Botner is a Center for Creative Arts student making his CTC debut, while John Echols and Andrew Chauncey are familiar faces to local theatergoers. Christopher Campbell is the fourth Pump Boy, while Tinamari Coleman and Emma Wiseman Collins play the Cupp sisters.
The guys sing and move seamlessly between multiple instruments, including guitars, standup bass, piano and accordion. Coleman and Collins tap, sing and add unusual rhythm instruments to the musical mix such as a cheese grater, salt shakers and salad bowls. Lindsay Fussell's clever choreography adds to the homespun charm of the musical.
"The 50 best singers in town could have shown up and I couldn't use them because they have to play one or more instruments and play and sing nonstop for an hour and a half," says director Allan Ledford of his multitalented cast. "I was concerned about finding cast members who could do this show. I couldn't be happier with these six."
Ledford played the role of L.N. when the show was performed at the CTC 25 years ago. It has been revived for this season as part of the theater's 90th anniversary celebration. The musical is also being revived in New York City this summer for five shows July 16-19 at the New York City Center.
"Pump Boys and Dinettes" was written by a performance group of the same name that included Chattanoogan Jim Wann along with John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan and John Schimmel. The six wrote the musical, then directed and starred in the Broadway production.
The show opened in 1982 on Broadway and ran 17 months. It was nominated for a 1982 Tony Award for Best Musical and for four 1982 Drama Desk Awards, also including Best Musical. A year after closing on Broadway, "Pump Boys" opened at the Piccadilly Theatre in London's West End.
The CTC cast is evenly balanced vocally, and the guys will impress theatergoers with their skills on multiple instruments -- especially pianist Andrew Chauncey, who tears up the keyboards on more than one occasion.
"Pump Boys and Dinettes" will be presented weekends in the Circle except for Easter weekend.
Contact Susan Pierce at email@example.com or 423-757-6284.
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...