“Pump Boys and Dinettes,” a warm, cheery and lightweight county-rock revue about the gas station attendants and waitresses of a North Carolina highway stop, became an unlikely Broadway hit three decades ago, running no less than 573 performances.
Its six-member cast (which included the now famous Debra Monk) had penned all the songs and dialogue and even played the instruments, which freely combined guitars with kitchen utensils.
It was supposed to be revived on Broadway last year with “American Idol” singer Bo Bice but that got cancelled at the last minute. Instead, it is receiving a week-long production as part of the Encores! Off-Center series at City Center, following a staging of Jonathan Larson’s rock musical “tick…tick…BOOM!” and a one-night concert of Randy Newman’s “Faust.”
The production's only well-known cast member is Hunter Foster. Taking into account his recent runs in “The Bridges of Madison County” and “Hands on a Hardbody,” Foster is becoming the go-to person for any male character from the rural south.
Director Lear DeBessonet, who has won acclaim for her inventive work with the Public Theater, offers a cozy, friendly, unexpectedly intimate staging. That being said, the show, which runs 90 minutes even with an intermission, now feels underwhelming and underdeveloped.
Without the original cast, its novelty value is gone. But in light the growing trend of immersive theater, a new production that places the audience literally within the gas station and diner might be successful. The cast could even serve coffee and pie.
If you go: “Pump Boys and Dinettes” plays at City Center through Sat. West 55thStreet between 7th and 6th Aves.,nycitycenter.org.