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Mon, July 22

Get 'pumped' for PCA comedy

David Solomon, Mark Echard and Chad Calhoun star in “Pump Boys and Dinettes,” now playing at the Prescott Center for the Arts. (Karen Despain/The Daily Courier)

David Solomon, Mark Echard and Chad Calhoun star in “Pump Boys and Dinettes,” now playing at the Prescott Center for the Arts. (Karen Despain/The Daily Courier)

"'Pump Boys and Dinettes' 'gets you dancin' on the inside," actress Linda Fine says of the play that opened Thursday at the Prescott Center for the Arts.

"Pump Boys" takes place in a tiny town on Highway 57 in the South. The stage, with a "fillin' station" on one side and the Double Cupp Diner on the other, gives off the down-home warmth that the audience will feel as characters who "know each other inside and out" tell their story through rockabilly, country, swing and a bit of rhythm and blues.

Fine plays older sister Prudie, April Manchester is cast in the role of younger sister Rhetta, and musicians who hold down the filling station are Chad Calhoun as Jim, David Solomon as L.M., Mark Echard as Jackson, and Denny Garr as Eddie.

The play was written in the early 1980s by a couple of out-of-work actors to get a temporary gig in a New York saloon, and it took off, even getting a Tony award nomination for Best Musical in 1982, said Casey Knight, who is directing the PCA production.

"It's four guys at a gas station and two sisters who own the diner next door who get together after work in a jam session and talk about life, loves and loss," Knight said. "It's sort of a peek into life in a small southern community.

"It will take you on an emotional roller coaster" that will be touching at times and hilarious at others, she said. And, Knight added, people in the audience will recognize somebody from their family in the cast of characters.

The actors interact with the audience in different scenes, and even pass out cookies before the show begins. At intermission, there are raffles for a pie from Double Cupp and one from a selection of air fresheners - big foot, bacon and pussycat.

The play runs three weekends: 7 p.m. tonight and Saturday and Sept. 4, 5, 6, 11, 12 and 13. Tickets are $23. Matinees at 2 p.m. Sunday and Sept. 7. Tickets are $19.

To get tickets, call the PCA box office at 445-3286 or log onto www.pca-az.net.

Calhoun, who plays the acoustic rhythm guitar in the Pump Boys band, said his first experience on stage in a band setting is "fun and a challenge." His character is "kind of easy going like I am," he said, so "it hasn't been a real transition for me."

One of the play's qualities, Calhoun said, is that "it's a little step back in time, with strong friendships and camaraderie - something most people long for - good times and fun."

Echard has found being in the play more fun than he expected when he first read it, he said. He was born in Oklahoma and had an uncle who ran a "laid-back" filling station, so he could relate to that, he said.

And, Echard said, "I like the music, a kind of down-home. You don't really have to think about it. It's fun. This is the kind of music that makes you smile."

Garr, as Eddie on bass, also likes the down-home family feel of Pump Boys in "an earlier America," he said.

Manchester loves the sassy Rhetta, who "is kind of like me," she said. "She's a strong woman but a softy about her sister, the diner, serving people and the boys in the gas station. It's a good old time."

Fine's character Prudie is the "big sister in every way," she said. "She mamas them, she walks around holding it all together, sitting in the background to mop up the mess and happy to be there."

The characters in the play "love each other to death," Fine said. "They've known each other all their lives and know each other inside and out.

"'Pump Boys' is a whole heck of a lot of fun."

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