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“Pump Boys and Dinettes” a review

The Henegar Center for the Arts gets down-home with its foot tapping, knee slapping production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.”

This is known as a musical revue, which is theater-speak for a concert by fictional characters.
Designed by Don Cross, the setting is an old fashioned gas station/roadside diner, the kind of place where you can have a nice slice of apple pie and a cup of coffee while you get a flat tire changed. Nicely decorated by scenic artist Brighid Reppert, it’s evocative of all the home-spun comfort that you find in the restaurant section of the Cracker Barrel.

But more than music and atmosphere, what you get with this show is the realization that sometimes, the older you grow, the better you get. That’s what long time Brevard theater patrons come away with when they see Deborah Rappa-Crisafulli, one of the stars on stage in this show.

Rappa-Crisafulli, who also choreographs the show and is known primarily as a choreographer, sails easily through the harmony and down-home fun on stage. This woman just keeps on getting better. She’s a fireball of energy in “Be Good or Be Gone.”

That applies also to Lisa-Marie Rhodes, a wonderful young performer who left the area to finish school in the New York City area. Brevard’s theater scene is richer with her return to the area. Her “This Best Man” number is right on target.

Rhodes and Rappa-Crisafulli hit such sweet harmony together in this show, especially the heartwarming “Sister.”

While the rest of the cast don’t have quite the performance chops as the ladies, they have their appeal: Especially acoustic guitarist Joshua Paez who embraces the John C. Reilly within; and David McQuillen Robertson, the cute bass player. Supporting all are keyboardist Luke Rockwell, electric guitarist Wesley Burrough and percussionist Stuart Andrew Collins.

Although more of that Rappa-Crisafulli energy could be used by the rest of the cast, director Michael Thompson and music director Robin Ryon do bring out some good performances. But please, better enunciation…some voice and diction warm-ups. It was difficult to tell what the guys were singing.

“Pump Boys and Dinettes” is by the biggest team of writers you ever saw — John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan, John Schimmel and Jim Wann. You’d think that a committee that large could come up with some characters and some kind of plot line, even a cliched one.

Oops. Is my bias showing?

SIDE ‘ GRITS: “Pump Boys and Dinettes” performs 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 5, 2012 at the Henegar Center, 625 E. New Haven Ave., Melbourne. $15 to $22. Call 321-723-8698 or visit www.henegar.org.