Country Tunes, Down-Home Fun on Menu As 'Pump Boys and Dinettes' Comes to Heritage

June 30, 2009 — Looking for directions to a perfectly delicious (and perfectly convenient) summer road trip this year? Just head on down Highway 57 and stop between Frog Level and Smyrna to meet up with the "Pump Boys and Dinettes." Or better yet, just go to the University of Virginia's Helms Theatre, where the All-American country musical is set to take the stage starting tonight.

"Pump Boys and Dinettes" is a rollicking, down-home visit to small-town America at its very best. That entertainment comes courtesy of the "Pump Boys," a quartet of petrol-pumping, song-swapping good ol' boys and their friendly neighboring Double Cupp diner. The diner is run by the feisty and flirtatious Cupp sisters, who serve up their particular brand of Southern comfort food with smiles and plenty of songs.

The score of this award-winning musical is full of original country tunes highlighting the unique and simple pleasures of country life, from fisherman's prayers to sisterhood to "The Night Dolly Parton Was Almost Mine" and much more.

"Pump Boys and Dinettes" will be presented at the Helms Theatre on June 30-July 4 and July 6-11. Performances will begin at 8 p.m. and there will be a special post-show "Talk-Back" with cast members on July 7. Tickets for the show are $27 for adults, $23 for seniors (60-plus) and U.Va. faculty and $15 for students. Season and single-show tickets are available at the Heritage Box Office, online at www.uvahtf.org or by calling 434-924-3376.

"Pump Boys and Dinettes" will be directed by Heritage veteran Renee Dobson, whose Heritage resume includes hit productions of "Forever Plaid" and "Nunsense." She was particularly drawn to this show, she said, by its celebration of simple, small-town American life – especially in the context of today's world.

"This is a down-home, All-American, feel-good show. It's like comfort food for the soul, a throwback to a much simpler era and a chance for the audience to come in and escape the incredibly hectic world we all live in," she said.

Dobson said she finds the messages in the simple lives of the show's characters particularly interesting today. "There is something very comfortable about spending a couple of hours with these characters. They lead simple lives. … They are not interested in the global economy or the kind of hectic way we all seem to live. Plus, I feel like this whole small-town notion is coming back. They are all about neighbors helping neighbors, about family … all those things that seem to get lost so easily in our lives now."

Thanks in part to the intimate setting of the Helms, the Heritage audience will not only get a chance to witness this small-town world, but to actually be part of it.

"I love the intimacy of the Helms because it gives us a chance to really get the audience involved, and this is a show that really engages the audience," Dobson said. "We have a raffle that they join in, and the Pump Boys and Dinettes address audience members in different ways throughout the show."

The Heritage Theatre Festival season continues at the Culbreth Theatre on July 9 with "Moonlight and Magnolias." This fabulous farce is a behind-the-scenes, fictional look at the making of "Gone With the Wind." With only five days to go before filming, legendary producer David O. Selznick has a terrible script. So he hires the best screenwriter and director of the day and locks himself in a room with them for five straight days – fueled by a diet consisting of peanuts and bananas.

The HTF production of "Oliver!" continues its run at the Culbreth Theatre through July 3.

"Moonlight and Magnolias" comes to the Culbreth Theatre from July 9-11, July 28, July 31 and Aug. 5.

The season, presented once again in rotating repertory, will continue with the timeless classic "On Golden Pond" (opening July 16 at the Culbreth Theatre); the Texas-sized laughs of "Red, White & Tuna" (opening July 21 at the Helms Theatre) and the plant-eats-man mania of "Little Shop of Horrors" (opening July 23 at the Culbreth Theatre).

For complete ticket and schedule information or to order your tickets today, visit www.uvahtf.org or call the box office at 434-924-3376.