BY SANDY STAGGS
You will swear you have heard these songs before, says Pump Boy Mark Spung-Wiles of the country rock score of “Pump Boys and Dinettes, the newest musical opening this weekend at Mill Town Players in Pelzer.
“They are original to this show but they have such a familiar feel,” he says.
Co-star Hannah Morton concurs: “All of the songs sounds like songs you have heard your whole life, but you don’t know any of the words.” However, she guarantees “you will be singing those tunes when you leave the theatre.
With titles like “Highway 57,” “Fisherman’s Prayer,” “Mamaw,” and “Drinkin’ Shoes,” “Pump Boys” is more musical revue than actual story, with characters reliving memories or making comments about Southern living in a small, desolate town.
Written by John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan, John Schimmel and Jim Wann, and calling themselves by the same moniker, this concoction of all things Southern “Pump Boys and Dinettes” premiered on Broadway in 1982, (Flat Rock Playhouse aside), the show has not been mounted in the Upstate for years.
Set on Highway 57 in Grand Ole Opry country in Tennessee, the Pump Boys work at a gas station next to the Double Cupp diner run by sister “Dinettes,” Prudie (Kelly Davis) and Rhetta Cupp (Morton).
“There is no real plot,” Spung-Wiles says, “but there are some monologues here and there and the songs do have innuendos in them which make them fun.”
Spung-Wiles plays the super nerdy Allen and reveals that he gets testy with customers in “Serve Yourself,” has “Farmer Tan” and a strange obsession with Dolly Parton. And he has more surprises in store which I will not spoil here.
Directed by Reed Halvorson with musical direction by Joshua C. Morton, “Pump Boys and Dinettes” is one of those musicals that requires double and triple threats actors, because the cast also plays the music in the show: Austin Finley and Austin Smith on guitar David Sims on bass, Kip Brock on drums, and David Watson rockin’ the keys.
Though she only gets to play kitchen utensils in this musical in a number called “Catfish,” Hannah, a veteran actor and musician of many music shows and musicals in the Upstate, says she was attracted to the concept of the actors playing the music live.
“It’s so nice to be around people you love and having fun interacting with the cast and the audience,” says Hannah, who gets plenty of stage time with songs a heartfelt duet with Davis about the siblings growing apart, and an acapella ditty called “Vacation,” where she will “take you to church.”
“Pump Boys and Dinettes” runs March 29 through April 14 at the Historic Pelzer Auditorium, 214 Lebby Street in Pelzer. Tickets are only $12, with discounts for seniors, military, and students, and can be purchased online at www.milltownplayers.org, by calling (864) 947-8000, or at the door.