It's not too often that I find myself in Sierra Madre, but because my director friend Allison Bibicoff had been working so hard on directing their latest production, I braved the trip out across the 134. #westsideproblems
Allison has an extensive theatre background in almost everything. LA theatre, New York, musical theatre, drama, choreography, new works: the list goes on and on. As theatre goers, we experienced some fruitful shop-talks after visiting a number of productions together earlier this year. As a theatre nerd, I can confidently say that she really knows her stuff; I have Allison to thank for introducing me to Rogue Machine, whose work I have been consistently impressed with. A few months ago I watched a staged reading of a drama that she directed at the Sierra Madre Playhouse; the content could not have been more drastically different from the show I was about to watch.
Pump Boys and Dinettes is a countrified bandstand style musical about a gas station/dinette somewhere between Frog Level and Smyrna, North Carolina. I was nervous about how the country vibe might fare with a "too cool for school" LA audience, but it was clear from the packed house of both loyal SM Playhouse peeps and word-of-of mouth newcomers that everyone was down to clap and tap their toes along with the twang'n country/rock beats. As an LA girl with a guilty pleasure for country music...as hard as it is for me to admit it, I was down for the ride through the rest stop, so to speak.
The musicianship displayed in this production is incredibly impressive. I'll start with the fact that most of the cast are playing their own instruments, insanely well and passionately at that. Wow. Secondly, this is not easy music, you've got to nail the swift rockabilly tempos in order to honor the integrity of the score. And the cast not only does that, but lands some stunning harmonies. The show is built to allow each character their moment to shine and it's easy to latch on to a favorite. Plus the ensemble uses some theatre magic that collectively makes these people completely adorable, and I mean that in the best way possible. They wholeheartedly welcome you and they want you to have the time of your life with them.
This is a show that you can't keep from rock'n in your seat too. It brings you to a place far from LA where things are simpler and you don't have to worry about how straight your hair is or how many carbs are in the pie they're serving you. That's what I loved most about this show, that you're transported to a place of working-class simple pleasure, inhabited by some freakishly good musicians. Luckily Pump Boys and Dinettes has been extended for two more weekends though August 12th, so definitely make the trip over to the Sierra Madre Playhouse for this sweet escape.