Playhouse opens with nostalgic diner musical

By BRUCE J. SIWY
Daily American Staff Writer
7:29 p.m. EDT, June 8, 2013

See full article at www.dailyamerican.com

JENNERSTOWN — The Mountain Playhouse opens this season with a play for the working man (or woman) — tales of fishing, beer drinking and the American road.

"Pump Boys and Dinettes" kicks off June 18 at the historic Jennerstown theater. It will be the seventh production of this show for director Larry Tobias, who said the comedy musical was an easy sell to the Mountain Playhouse Board of Directors.

"They have grown an audience for these types of shows in the area," he said, noting that this performance includes numbers reminiscent of classic Willie Nelson and Lynyrd Skynyrd. "It's very familiar to all of us."

This play is the first of six scheduled for the 2013 Mountain Playhouse season. The season was first announced in November, which marked the first time since 2008 that the theater was able to release its summer schedule prior to Christmas.

Producer Teresa Stoughton Marafino said they had been tentative over the past few years due to concerns about the playhouse's debt.

But three years into a five-year repayment plan, she said, the theater is right where it should be financially.

"We're on track," Marafino said.

With "Pump Boys and Dinettes," Tobias said theatergoers can expect a good time out of the gates for 2013.

"It (was created) in a bar in New York City amongst a group of friends who were playing regular Tuesday night gigs," he said.

According to Tobias, this group of guys started out by writing country-rock numbers about life as a gas station attendant. Another dynamic was added to the concept when one of their wives joined in with accompanying songs about waitressing roadside diners.

"It has a universal appeal," he said. "The characters are easily identifiable . . . (and) there's a nostalgia built into the piece."

The play was written by John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan, John Schimmel and Jim Wann and premiered on Broadway in 1982 at the Princess Theatre. It went on for 573 performances and closed in 1983, earning a Tony Award nomination for Best Musical of 1982.

"It was a pretty big success," Tobias said. "Since that time it has been a regional theater go-to play with theater musicians

"Pump Boys and Dinettes" will feature veteran performers Tobias, Carrie Tillis, Amanda Ryan Paige, Chris Blisset, John Ozinga and Martin Landry. It will mark the first time this crew has done the show as a unit.

Subsequent shows in this season's comedy-heavy lineup are: Neil Simon's "Comic Suites" (July 9-21), "Squabbles" (July 23-Aug. 4), "Sin, Sex and the CIA" (Aug. 6-18) "Let's Murder Marsha" (Sept. 17-29) and "Church Basement Ladies, A Second Helping" (Oct. 1-13).

Marafino said "Comic Suites" a "greatest hits" collection of her favorite scenes from the overall "Suites" series. Her selections and title were approved by Simon himself.