Review “Pump Boys and Dinettes” (Porchlight Music Theatre): Fun-Loving, Shoulder-Shimmying, Broad-Smiling (Mask-Wearing) Night Out!

Friday, November 5, 2021 Permalink 0

Porchlight Music Theatre  launches its 27th Mainstage season with Pump Boys & Dinettes.

Just off Highway 57, the vibe is upbeat and casual! The premise of the show is a bus broke down. The stranded bus riders aka ‘the audience’ are greeted by the friendly staff at a random gas station and diner. The fourth wall completely disintegrates as the ensemble polls guests to determine ‘who likes catfish and spaghetti?’ and ‘who wants chocolate pecan pie?’ The enthusiastic welcome immediately sets an amusing tone to sit back, relax and be thoroughly entertained by the colorful locals. 

PUMP BOYS & DINETTES is more revue than musical. Creators John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan, John Schimmel, and Jim Wann developed their characters through songs. Although a loose narrative weaves the concert together, the true storytelling happens in the songs. Under the mastery of both Director Daryl Brooks and Music Director Rob Reddrick, this stellar ensemble embrace their personas and serve up a hearty helping of tasty treats. 

The song list is a compilation of playful and soulful. And this harmonious cast (Rafe Bradford, Shantel Cribbs, Ian Paul Custer, Frederick Harris, Melanie Loren, Billy Rude) hit all the right notes with plenty of personality. The Pump Boys is almost like a barbershop quartet but without the straw hats and matching outfits. Their crooning sound is unified and spirited. Most everyone gets a moment to shine in a solo. Harris stood out in dual performances. First, he shuts down customer flirtation with a sexy yet forceful “Serve Yourself.” Later, he charms with a delightfully effervescent “T.N.D.P.W.A.M.”    

Cribbs and Loren as the Dinettes transfix with their moxie in “Tips.” The hysterical number is choreographed to synchronized perfection by Rueben D. Echoles. These ladies have lots of sassy moves and powerhouse voices; Cupp in “The Best Man” and Loren in “Be Good or Be Gone.” They then come together in a tender-hearted “Sister” duet. The touching song follows the plucky “Tips” number adding surprising depth to the characters. Cluster also has a similar connection with his tearful ode, “Mamaw.” 

And nod out to the design team (Sydney Lynne-scenic, Denise Karcewski-lighting, Caitlin McCarthy-properties) for a phenomenal job of dingy-gas-station-meets-shiny- diner on one stage! The look is doubly epic given the amount of detail diversity for both settings. Organized clutter and crap everywhere!! 

There is plenty to love about this show. Traveling down to Highway 57 is a carefree pandemic road trip worth taking! PUMP BOYS & DINETTES is THE destination for a fun-loving, shoulder-shimmying, broad-smiling (underneath the mask-wearing) night out!   


Running Time: One hour and forty-five minutes includes an intermission

The Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn

Created by John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan, John Schimmel, Jim Wann

Directed by Daryl Brooks

Music direction by Robert Reddrick

Choreographed by Rueben D. Echoles

Thursdays at 7pm 

Fridays at 8pm

Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm 

Sundays at 2pm

Thru December 12th

Buy Tickets 

Production Photos by Chollette

For more Chicago theatre information and reviews, please visit Theatre in Chicago

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