A musical celebration at Camelot
Y’all c'mon down to Highway 57, you hear? That's where there's this garage, see, with these five fellas, and it's right next to the diner run by the Cupp sisters, Rhetta and Prudie.
Course, it ain't really in North Carolina, it's on the stage at Camelot in Talent, where director Livia Genise and these here musicians have brought John Foster and company's 1982 Tony Award-winning musical to toe-tappin', knee-slappin' life.
Now, these guys, Jim (Tyler Ward), Jackson (Bob Jackson Miner), LM (Karl Iverson) Eddie (Peter Spring) and Steven (Stev Sutfin) are mechanics, but they ain't exactly a ball of fire, if you get my drift. They got this Winnebago they been working on forever, but what with a few beers here and there, and a lot of singin', time just kinda slips away. They even sing a song called "Taking It Slow," which tells you a lot right there.
Meanwhile, over to the Double Cupp, Prudie (Kendra Taylor) and Rhetta (Sarah Brizek) may be famous for their pie, but they spend more time singin' and dancin' than waiting on any actual customers.
Now the story ... Well, there ain't one, exactly, in the sense of an actual plot. What there is is these folks up there singing and playing (Genise has cast musicians with serious chops in the roles) and dancing up a storm.
The girls even go into the audience looking for tips, and the guys and girls talk to the audience a lot ("Have somethin' to drink? We're so much funnier if ya did") and sometimes exchange bits of dialogue with each other, and that's often pretty funny.
"The boys at the station cannot get enough of our ... pie," Prudie says with a salacious smile.
Laughs are what this show is about, and the one-liners come fast ("We are the Pump Boys and we play pump rock"), along with a lot of amiable country blues 'n' ballads from the cast, all of whom are capable musicians. If you're looking for something deeper, y'all have come to the wrong place.
The songs brim with gentle, good ol' boy humor. The titles give you the idea: "Fisherman's Prayer," "Drinkin' Shoes" and a reviewer's favorite, "The Night Dolly Parton Was Almost Mine," delivered by keyboardist Iverson backed by the company.
"I Need a Vacation" is a gospel-style mover. Other song topics include sisters, catfish and the farmer tan ("every girl wants a man with one").
Brizek as Rhetta rocks a torchy "Be Good or Be Gone," and girls show up for "Drinkin' Shoes" in tap shoes, a nice, flashy contrast to all the down-home tropes. Taylor and Brizek also do yeoman's work with tambourine and washboard.
In addition to playing lead guitar, Miner, one of the best harmonica players around, blows tasteful harp here and there. Iverson's piano is outstanding, and he adds just enough accordion. Ward plays rhythm guitar and has a singing voice that fills the room.
Musical Director Iverson clearly doesn't want to blow this relatively small room away with volume. Sutfin drums mainly with brushes, and Spring's bass to my ear could be a little bigger in the mix.
Oh, and if all that's not enough for you, there's this raffle. It works off your ticket number, and you have a chance to win one of those little air freshener thingamajigs you hang from your rearview mirror.
Genise's direction is brisk, and Holly Neinhaus's choreography sparkles, putting singers on roller skates and even, in one scene, careening around the stage on one of those mechanic's creepers. Brian O'Connor's video projections add ambiance, and even take us back in time for an emotional look at sisters Prudie and Rhetta as little girls (played by Madison Garren and Sophia Berryessa).
The show was written and performed originally off-Broadway by John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan, John Schimmel and Jim Wann. It later moved to a very successful Broadway run. This production doesn't have a serious bone in its body. Rather, it's a musical celebration of friendship and a slower kind of life that increasingly no longer exists.
Bill Varble writes about arts and entertainment for the Mail Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.