Pump Boys' opens second Door season
BY WARREN GERDS (PRESS-GAZETTE)
Door Off Broadway, which set a record last year, is gearing up for a second season of dinner theater in Door County.
Rehearsals start Friday for "Pump Boys and Dinettes," a musical comedy opening June 22.
That will be followed by Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple," starting Sept. 6.
Last year, the troupe put on a whopping (and area record) 104 performances of "Forever Plaid" in the 250-seat theater.
This year's total will be slightly less.
"We're trying to stick with doing small musicals that can appeal to a mass audience and Door County audiences specifically,'' said Eric Quam, the theater's vice president.
"`Pump Boys and Dinettes' is a fun show. It's laid-back, small-town South kind of a thing."
The performers come from afar.
"It's been a challenge to cast it," Quam said. "We've been to New York a couple of times, to Chicago, Minneapolis and Madison.
"It's a cast that has to play banjo, acoustic guitar, electric bass and drums," Quam said.
The theater added a second show by request. Quam explained:
"You live here and you get company all summer. And what do you do with your company after two nights? You start going out.
"People kept bringing their company to see `Forever Plaid.' Some came five, six, seven times, he said. "This year, we wanted to give people more variety, and everyone wanted to see a comedy.
"We thought we'd better pick one of the best-known comedies ever written."
Quam will play Oscar Madison in "The Odd Couple."
The theater is a partnership of artistic director Jim Zimmerman, who teaches at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls; Quam; and Bob and Mary Geitner, owners of Mr. G's Ballroom.
The group is considering putting on a Christmas show as well.
The summer will start with a benefit prompted by Quam. He has two family members who were diagnosed with cancer in the past year.
Profits from the June 22 performance will go to Door Cancer.
Jacksonport dinner theater serves good summer frolic
BY WARREN GERDS (PRESS-GAZETTE)
JACKSONPORT - The musical "Pump Boys and Dinettes'' is entertaining and atmospheric in the version playing through summer at Door Off Broadway Dinner Theatre, which is in its second year.
The cast has zip and versatility. Director and choreographer James A. Zimmerman has added a few fun bits to spice the script.
The set immediately pulls in the audience. The main aisle of the theater-dining hall is a black-asphalt highway that runs into the raised set. The road is created in perspective, giving the illusion of distance. The set is part gas station, part café. Neon signs, nostalgic posters and props are colorful.Somebody found an old gas-station advertisement sign that has become a joke: "Biggest Sale in Firestone History.''
First is a meal. Each table is served individually. Patrons have a choice of entreÉs - chicken, salmon or prime rib - made in the adjoining restaurant. Appetizer, desserts and drinks are extra. Even so, the price is reasonable for what you get in the meal-show package.
Action takes place on Highway 57 - in make-believe in the show and for real in the location of the theater at Mr. G's Ballroom.
The show is audience-friendly. It's down homey, breezy and bouncy, with a few touching moments for balance.
It's like a variety concert. Songs and individuals piece together a little story about small-town folks. The guys work at the gas station and mix work (a little) with thoughts of fishing, women, drinking and having a good time. The two sisters who run the café are good-hearted souls who work hard (and happily) and enjoy the guys.
The cast of seven impresses with its ability to do many things - such as play a number of instruments - as the music rolls through country, blues, rock and gospel. Neatest songs: The smooth a'cappella of "Fisherman's Prayer'' by the Pump Boys (Chris Blisset, Cory Blanchard and Sam Heyn) and the snappy "Tips'' by the Dinettes (Colleen Buckley and Kellie Louden).
Most of the performers are from the Midwest. Blisset is from New York City. In other words, this is not community theater. The venture is another step up in things to do on a summer evening in Door County.