Thursday, October 13, 2016

"Pump Boys" more a concert than musical with great hard-working cast

Cast of Pump Boys and Dinettes (Mark Kitaoka)
Pump Boys and Dinettes
Village Theatre
Issaquah: through October 23, 2016
Everett: October 28-November 20, 2016

Village Theatre has a feel-good show for you to hoot and holler with and enjoy their kick-ass cast of seven. For Pump Boys and Dinettes, director Brandon Ivie assembled a bunch of mostly-local actor/singer/musicians to pluck and strum their hearts out in a fun outing of this feels-like-a-country-concert musical.

There really isn’t a story here, except for some background information about the small town these characters inhabit, their auto repair shop and the local coffee shop. There’s a bit of attempting to make some romantic coupling happen, but it’s not consummated.

The main reason to go is because these performers all work so very hard to please and to bring home the honky-tonky music. Led by Joshua Carter of the aw-shucks boy-next-door looks, Village also brings now-actual Nashville song-writer Sylvie Davidson home to Seattle to perform. The other big import is Levi Kreis and his magic piano-hands.

Kreis starred here in Million Dollar Quartet as Jerry Lee Lewis and you might have seen him jump over a piano (!) before he hurt himself and had to give that up. Kreis plays some fabulous piano here, and you can occasionally hear him sing solo, though not enough for this reviewer-fan. Kreis went to Broadway with MDQ and won himself a well-deserved Tony! We are happy to have another chance to hear him sing and play.

The other two multi-discipline performers are Michael Feldman and Sara Porkalob. Feldman has toiled a long time as a yeoman-ensemble member in many a musical. It is fabulous to see him front and center with his pure singing and occasional lovely low notes. Porkalob shows her versatility in a jam-packed year that has included interations of her amazing one-woman autobiographical play, Dragon Lady, coming up this winter at Café Nordo in a brand-new version.

There are two musician-only performers, though you wouldn’t quite know it from the silent but rockin’ antics of Olivia D. Hamilton on bass, bass guitar and more. Her occasional participation in choreography is quite fun. James “Rif” Reif holds down the percussion and plays like he has five or six arms and legs!

It’s really all about the performing – both the music and the versatility of the instruments played, and heart. None of the songs are earth-shatteringly good, either lyrically or musically, but they’re all fine enough. The story elements are a bit dumb, but cute, mostly. They all play on country stereotypes of small town life.

The main thing that bothered me in execution is the lighting design, unfortunately, by Geoff Korf. I’m told that good lighting is mostly invisible unless it has to be seen – like lightning strikes. This design is altogether too showy and visible. The overly dramatic “lowering of the lights” to spot-lighted slow ballads is completely unnecessary and in fact really irritating. I do need a primer on aspects of lighting, more than any other technical area, but I know when there’s too much manipulation.

But besides that, this cast is the bomb and you will have a good time listening to music as if you just happened to be in town and stopped into the Double Cupp to ask the Cupp sisters for a coffee and slice of their world-renown pie!

For more information, go to www.villagetheatre.org or call 425-392-2202.