A classic production from 25 years ago makes a comeback – with its original cast. Patrick Donovan brings us the story.
“On Highway 57, Pump Boys and Dinettes, meet pump boys meet the dinettes.”
You may remember the song “Highway 57” from the opening act of the musical “Pump Boys and Dinettes” last performed in Youngstown by Easy Street Productions at the former Uptown Theater in May 1991. That production ran for three years and more than 200 performances.
This May, “Pump Boys” will make a comeback featuring all six original cast members to celebrate Easy Street’s 25th-anniversary season.
For Easy Street co-founder Todd Hancock the reunion represents more than just a trip down memory lane and a revival of one of Youngstown’s longest running shows.
HANCOCK: Not only is this a kind of a celebration of Easy Street being around 25 years, paying a tip in the hat to our roots, but at the same time its also neat to be able physically to do what we were doing 25 years ago and hopefully do it as well.
Maureen Collins, who stars as Prudie Cupp one of the singing waitresses at the show’s Double Cupp Diner, credits the “Pump Boys” show as the foundation that lead to Easy Street’s later success.
COLLINS: This was the real beginning. So to be able to bring it back with the original group at the small, new beautiful space at DeYor – it is going to be magical I’m telling you right now.
Hancock, who will carry on his role as Jim, one of the four singing, guitar-playing attendants at the fill station off Highway 57, attributes the shows popularity to its laid back attitude and widespread appeal.
HANCOCK: One of the first lines in the show is, “They say, work won’t kill you but worry will. Worry is just like a rocking chair it gives you something to do, but it don’t get you nowhere.”
Both Collins and Hancock agree the down home country characters are what kept people coming back to the Uptown week after week. They hope the anniversary performance will draw in old friends and a new younger audience for that same reason.
COLLINS: The chemistry of our six people made that show. When you came in you felt like you were at frog level, you were actually with these hicks.
HANCOCK: The people fit their characters so well and we’re all good close friends so I think that really translates to a good time.
Collins says reuniting the original six cast members and revisiting the songs after 21 years brings back a flood of emotions
COLLINS: From the tears in all of our eyes, to the strongest of us – Todd who never shows that kind of emotion – just singing the songs again we are all looking around like emotionally am I going to be able to get through this?
For the performers and the audience Pump Boys represents more than just a theater performance and a night on the town. The show was a milestone in Youngstown’s history and Collins hopes the show will be as much fun again as it was so many years ago
COLLINS: People remember the night they saw “Pump Boys.” Now this new generation is going to know what “Pump Boys” was all about and why their parents went to see it 20 times.
Pump Boys and Dinettes runs through May 12 at the Ford Family Recital Hall in the DeYor Performing Arts Center.
For TheNewsOutlet.org, I’m Patrick Donovan.