Pump Boys & Dinettes is so much fun

As a first time viewer of Boys’ pump and dinning room, a nearly 40-year-old musical that showcases the depth and breadth of black acting, music, and choreography, I was surprised (though I wasn’t supposed to be) to learn that the ethnically diverse Burchlight musical theater selection was the exception, not the rule. Under the stewardship of Black Ensemble Theater Managing Director Daryl Brooks, what’s old becomes new, comprehensive, and incredibly fun 90 minutes of foam music theater. Brooks even engaged one of the show’s original writers, Jim Wan, to add a new song honoring Black’s experience in the South.

Boys’ pump and dinning room
During 12/12: Thursday 7 pm, Friday 8 pm, Saturday 3 and 8 pm, Sunday 2 pm; Also Thursday 12/2, 1:30 pm, Sunday 11/21, 6:30 pm; no show Thu 11/18 and 11/25, Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N.Dearborn, 773-777-9884, porchlightmusictheatre.org, $45 – $74.

Early in the show, the group of gas station workers and refectory servers, who have a good sense of humor and play instruments, introduces this adage: “Anxiety is like a rocking chair—it gives you something to do but doesn’t get you anywhere.” The following is an antidote. For all our COVID concerns and a solid choice as Porchlight’s return to the live stage. Things may sound tacky with an emphasis on catfish, pie, and road-scented car freshener, but… boys pump, while light on plot, is a captivating jukebox of catchy jingles, sentimental poems, and musical comedy full of hints. Melanie Lauren and Chantelle Cripps, notables like sisters Rhetta and Prudie Cupp, offer laughs with “Tips” before slowing things down with “Sister,” a sad homage to a difficult childhood. Frederick “Ricky” Harris is the rock star on “Serve Yourself” and carries his comedic, emotional, physical range throughout, while Rafe Bradford as Eddie is the straight guy every bass group needs for days.

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