By Lorraine Wardle
To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Easy Street Productions has staged a revival of the show that put it on the map. “Pump Boys and Dinettes,” the production that famously ran for 200 performances over two years at the Uptown Theater, returned to Youngstown on Friday night.
The faithful fans of Easy Street flocked to the Ford Family Recital Hall to be a part of the reunion. To describe the packed house that greeted the return of Youngstown’s original dinettes and pump boys as an appreciative audience would be an understatement.
The audience buzzed with anticipation long before the show began and greeted the actors with a standing ovation. They clapped to the music and tapped their feet. Some even sang along with the songs.
It’s easy to see why local theatergoers love this production. The play is full of catchy songs and cute characters, as well as audience interaction, which they seemed to adore. Of course, it never would have been successful in the first place without the amazing talent.
Part of what adds to the excitement of the revival is the fact that all six members of the original cast — Todd Hancock, Maureen Collins, Don Creque, Rick Blackson, Jeff Sanders and Robyn Elia McCamy — have returned to reprise their roles in the show. To the admiring audience, it feels like they never left.
Many in the audience were familiar with the show. One person told me, “I’ve seen it seven or eight times!” But some, like me, were seeing it for the first time.
So in case you didn’t know, “Pump Boys and Dinettes” takes place in a small southern town, at two adjoining businesses: the Double Cupp Diner and L.M. and Jim’s Garage. Sisters Prudie and Rhetta Cupp work at the diner, while the garage is run by friends L.M., Jim, Jackson and Eddie.
The group sings and dances through the night, interacting with the audience. The cast impressively plays all their own instruments as well as anything else you can imagine — pots, pans, a cheese grater, a fishing rod, even a fire extinguisher. Aided by Jeff Bremer on bass and Don Yellech on drums, they make beautiful music.
The cast is composed of essentially professional singers and musicians who give perfect performances. Hancock is the unofficial leader of the group and delights with his vocal talents and quirky characterization. Collins and McCamy are adorable as sisters who create beautiful harmonies. Sanders is cool as quiet guitar player ∫ Eddie, who also impresses on the banjo. Creque’s Jackson is cute and fun, and Blackson is endearing as nerdy L.M.
The production’s set is just as amazing as the cast. The authentic diner and gas-station settings were created from memorabilia provided by Jerry Dixey of Classic Automobilia, while Dave Terpak’s lighting design completed the professional-looking set.
“Pump Boys and Dinettes” continues tonight at 7 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2:30 and 8 p.m. and next Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at the Ford Family Recital Hall, 260 W. Federal St. in Youngstown. For reservations, call the Easy Street box office at 330-743-8555.