Theatre Review: ‘Pump Boys & Dinettes’ at MusicalFare Theatre

The cast of “Pump Boys and Dinettes” at MusicalFare Theatre. Photo by Doug Weyand.

There’s a palpable excitement in the air in the Buffalo theater community…it’s Curtain Up season! Theaters across Buffalo are putting their best foot forward and presenting a show as part of the annual celebration of the Community, taking place this year on Friday, September 14th! MusicalFare’s offering is “Pump Boys & Dinettes,” a musical revue which takes audiences “down on Highway 57” to an auto shop and diner. Members of the cast directly involve the audience as they provide insight into what it means to be a “pump boy,” filling up gas for the cars that stop in, or a waitress at the adjacent “dinette.” The show itself has little plot to speak of, but MusicalFare’s production makes the best of what’s there with some quality musicianship and a fun-loving approach.

As a night of theater goes, MusicalFare has provided one as enjoyable as they come.

The obvious strength to the MusicalFare production of “Pump Boys & Dinettes” is the multi-instrumentalists that make up the ensemble. The group, specifically the “pump boys,” play almost every instrument at least once. As Jim, the “host” of the evening, Ryan Kaminski is the perfect country guy, with a guitar in hand and dream in heart. Kaminski is in his element, he’s a singer-songwriter himself, so he lets the music tell the story. He’s at his best when Jim sings a touching tribute to his grandmother, who has passed away. Kaminski gets in a rotation on bass and piano as well. Supporting Kaminski at the station are pump boys Eddie, L.M, and Jackson. As the quiet and reserved L.M, Joseph Donohue III is certainly enjoying himself. He makes the most of the character; an ad lib here, a take to one of the waitresses there. As previously mentioned, there’s not much by way of libretto in this show. It succeeds when the characters are having fun telling stories and playing songs. Donohue is having fun doing both. He plays the heck out of the piano, and manages to work a guitar, accordion, and fiddle into his rotation as well. Andrew J. Reimers and Jayson Clark, both members of Local 92 AFM (musician’s union) are terrific in their supporting roles and are accomplished players of pretty much every instrument you can think of to support the evening’s country, blues, and rockabilly styles. Clark is especially engaging while playing slide guitar.

As far as the waitresses go, Maria Droz and Jaclyn Lisenby Brown provide a good blend of humor and storytelling by song. Brown is an accomplished vocalist and is obviously very comfortable with this style of music. Droz is known for her roles as comedienne, but her voice packs a powerful punch. She’s in her element too, showing off a distinct triple threat, especially in a specialty tap number. She also serves a hilarious turn as Dolly Parton in a hilarious Donohue ballad, T.N.D.P.W.A.M. (The Night Dolly Parton Was Almost Mine). I felt, however, that both Brown and Droz were at times too heavily choreographed, which led to Brown occasionally appearing under-rehearsed in the choreography. This was, I’m sure, the by-product of seeing an opening night performance.

As a night of theater goes, MusicalFare has provided one as enjoyable as they come. Expect to be entertained without having to think too much, which is just what the doctor ordered. The performers are truly singer-actors, and when all six of them are singing together, they’ve accomplished a blend that’s hard to come by. They’re enjoying performing together, and that’s the best kind of show for an audience to watch. If you have 90 minutes (including a 15-minute intermission!) check out “Pump Boys & Dinettes,” running through October 7th at MusicalFare.

Running Time: 90 minutes including one 15-minute intermission.

“Pump Boys & Dinettes” runs until October 7, 2018 and is presented at MusicalFare Theatre. For more information, click here.