News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Stage Door serves up a slice of country life
BY JESSE SCOTT
FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR
If Fredericksburg had to choose a musical to encompass its unique vibe, “Pump Boys and Dinettes” would certainly be on the short list.
The 1980s-bred musical features small-town charm, some wild characters, heaps of wit and a dose of light-hearted redneck humor.
“Pump Boys and Dinettes,” presented by Stage Door Productions, opens Friday night at 8 p.m. at the Headquarters Library in downtown Fredericksburg. The production will also grace the library’s stage on July 14, 20 and 21.
“I think local audiences will connect with this show on so many different levels,” said Olivia Finnegan, director. “It gives the entire family a great feel for family, small towns and loved ones.”
“Pump Boys and Dinettes” centers on eight country folks, four women (the Dinettes) and four men (the Pump Boys), who run a diner and nearby gas station. The guys manage the gas station and the gals oversee the diner, telling stories of the country life, fishing and love as they go about their everyday routines.
The original script calls for two female parts, not four, but Finnegan simply couldn’t turn away the talented actresses who auditioned.
“We had so much female talent come out for the show that we had to add two more to the musical,” Finnegan said. “We’re glad we kept them.”
“Pump Boys and Dinettes” is a simple show with a simple plot, yet it continues to captivate audiences. Finnegan and her cast bring vibrancy to the simple life through a live four-piece band and a colorful set.
“Half of the stage is set up like a car shop and half is set up like a diner,” said Finnegan, who is directing her first full-length play with Stage Door Productions. “The stage has a car seat pulled out of a car on it, tires, street signs and a diner table on it. It’s quite the sight.”
At the core of the production is Jim, co-owner of the Pump Boys station, played by King George County resident Paul Johnson. Twenty years ago, Johnson performed as Jim in a Michigan rendition of “Pump Boys” and is excited to participate again.
“I love playing Jim because he is the only normal person in the show,” Johnson said with a laugh. “He is the glue that holds everyone together. He is the affable host of the party in a setting that is so easy to fall in love with.”
Amid a backdrop of country, rock and a little bit of blues, Johnson plays guitar throughout the show. Even when he’s not playing, the guitar is seemingly attached at his hip.
“The guitar is something that’s with me the whole time,” he said. “It’s such a musical show, without a ton of dialogue it’s only natural.”
If Johnson’s strumming isn’t enough to captivate your imagination, the quirky characters and hummable songs of “Pump Boys and Dinettes” will surely do the trick.
“You really get to know the characters and can’t help but develop a liking for them,” Johnson said. “It’s a great story told through music.”
WANT TO GO?
What: “Pump Boys and Dinettes”
Where: Central Rappahannock Regional Library, 1201 Caroline St.
When: July 13–14 and July 20–21; 8 p.m.
Info: 540/903-3808; stagedoorproductions.org
Jesse Scott is a freelance writer and Fredericksburg native. Email him at email@example.com.