By Peg Doman
A gas station/diner stop on Highway 57, somewhere in the rural Carolinas, came to life at Vashon High School recently. The Pump Boys and Dinettes were in full song and pie-dom during the performance staged by Drama Dock, the Vashon Island community theater.
Jim (Steve Amsden), L.M. (women are wild for him) (Chris Ott), Jackson (Steve Sanchez), Eddie (Dan Bruce), Junkyard Doug (Steve Self) and Earl (Randy Bruce) were all rocking at the gas station while the Cupp sisters, Rhetta (Jeannette Wild-Sievers) and Prudie (Tani Erickson) served coffee and pie at the Double Cupp Cafe. You need to say pie as if there were three syllables in it and you come close to the setting for the play.
The gas jockeys/mechanics kept up a two hour singing repartee with the cooks/waitresses about a philosophy of life, "Taking It Slow"; getting up at four a.m. to start baking, "Menu Song" and the need for big "Tips"; feckless love, "Be Good or Be Gone"; love at the 5 and dime, "Mona"; a long-time fantasy first love affair, "The Night Dolly Parton Was Almost Mine"; and how the lure of fishing makes a man forget his promises to take a cutie waitress and her sons to the ball game, "Fisherman’s Prayer". The song "Vacation" was worth the ferry trip to Vashon alone.
Interacting with the audience, the actors played up to people in the first few rows during the songs. Several men were pleaded with during Prudie’s "Best Man", with the words, "You’re the best man I never had." My granddaughter Talia was thrilled when L.M. looked right at her and sang a whole phrase during his solo, "Farmer Tan." They held a "big raffle" for either a Christmas Skunk or Betty Lou air freshener and had a surprise additional drawing for a strawberry rhubarb pie. The winner and her two children came down to the edge of the set and ate a slice of piiiiiiiiie.
The singing and playing was first rate. Prudie had a weaker voice than the dynamic Rhetta but kept up her end with energy and enjoyment. The musicians actually play together (in real life) and thought that the play would give them the chance to rehearse their other music more. The work of learning all the songs and their parts put paid to that.
President Murray Andrews points out that this is the 21st season for Drama Dock, an all volunteer organization involving the talents of actors, musicians, scene designers and directors who could work professionally in the big markets, but would rather live on Vashon.
All the actors have day jobs but prefer to spend their free time acting and playing. Jeannette Wild-Sievers has appeared in numerous musical productions and teaches freshman English, 10th grade World History and reading/writing lab at Vashon High School. Chris Ott is a graphic designer and plays in a group with Steve Amsden, the musical director for the play. Tani Erickson, a realtor on the island, has been featured in mostly dramatic roles. Journalism and youth ministry have been Steve Sanchez’s work history, although, according to the program, he’s looking for work. The Bruce brothers, Dan and Randy work at the island Thriftway store and Randy has a carpet cleaning business, Wipe Out. Saxophone and harmonica player Steve Self is a member of the Portage Fill Swing Band and the Vashon Jazz Ensemble. Director Libbie Anthony has been on the island for 17 years and directs shows for Drama Dock and Vashon Allied Arts, everything from Gilbert & Sullivan to Broadway standbys to new works .
Pump Boys & Dinettes runs July17, 18, 24, 25 and 26 at the Vashon High School auditorium. Call By the Book for advance tickets. Although there was not a full house on opening night, director Libbie Anthony projected that the rest of the run would sell out.
Pump Boys & Dinettes is the last production of this season, preceded by Sylvia, the Talking Dog and The Diary of Anne Frank. Next year’s season begins on October 30 with a Cole Porter tribute, Anything Goes, followed by Wait Until Dark in April and Moon Over Buffalo (rights pending) next July.