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MUSIC PACKS 2 KICK-BACK-YOUR-HEELS REVUES

SHARE MUSIC PACKS 2 KICK-BACK-YOUR-HEELS REVUES

It may not generate the same intellectual "high" as seeing "Nicholas Nickleby" on successive nights, but if you want to create your own entertainment package with a guaranteed one-two punch, try this:

Block out two nights on your calendar and head for Ogden one night to enjoy the energetic musical hilarity of "Pump Boys and Dinettes," then - the very next night - slip into Salt Lake Acting Company for a not-quite-classical evening of music by the almost-prestigious Oil City Symphony.Or you can reverse the order. The only link these two kick-back-your-heels shows have in common is their creative roots. Collaborators Mark Hardwick and Debra Monk helped conceive and write both revues. They were joined by Mike Carver and Mary Murfitt on "Oil City" and teamed up with John Foley, Cass Morgan, John Schimmel and Jim Wann on "Pump Boys."

Both productions are packed with music, ranging from sweet ballads to jazzy, upbeat tunes.

- OIL CITY SYMPHONY is not so much a play as it is a performance. The premise is an evening (or afternoon) with the esteemed Oil City Symphony "in recital" in the crepe paper-festooned Oil City High School Auditorium.

Maybe "symphony" is overstating things a bit. Oil City Combo may be closer to the mark.

There are only four musicians, but what this terrific little group lacks in size is more than compensated for in ample amounts of talent, pizazz and humor.

Two of them - pianist Brent Fotheringham and keyboard artist Jeffrey Price - are frequently listed as musical directors for other shows (usually for SLAC and TheatreWorks West), and it was neat to see them both on stage instead of hiding off to the side out of the limelight. Both guys are credible as actors. They're funny - not merely by accident, but in all the right places.

Darla Davis, on the other hand, is well known as an actress. Her skill at comedy comes as no surprise. But now we know she's also a highly proficient drummer (her intense artistry with the tambourine was, as my children would say, "awesome").

Nola Campbell, a newcomer to Salt Lake stages, is the fourth member of the ensemble. She really shines as a musician (the violin is her forte), but she fares nicely as a low-key comedian, too.

The music is typical of what you'd find on a "pops concert" program - starting with "Count Your Blessings" (which some patrons may first recognize as "When Upon Life's Billows" from the LDS Church hymnal but which was actually written by two Protestant ministers), snippets of Beethoven, Mozart . . . and Jerry Lee Lewis, the entire audience doing "The Hokey Pokey," a dueling keyboards version of "Dizzy Fingers" - and my favorite - all four musicians crammed together at the grand piano for an eight-handed rendition of "Coaxing the Ivories."

Before there was "Oil City Symphony," some of the same collaborators gave us . . .

- PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES, which isn't even close to the quasi-Abravanel Hall level of sophistication found in "Oil City."

Instead, this boogies audiences on down Highway 57 to a good-ole-boy Southern truck stop - a garage operated by the four Pump Boys and, right next door, the famous Double Cupp Cafe, a home-cookin' greasy spoon operated by the Cupp sisters, Rhetta and Prudie.

You can take their comment, "Eat here, get gas" both ways.

The action and the music in this bright, breezy musical revue are nonstop. The Utah Musical Theatre company ensemble is loaded with talent, and the intimate, informal setting of the Monson Theatre puts you right there alongside the pecan pies and the cases of Pennzoil. You may wonder, for a moment, why set designer Brian Jones has plunked a spinet piano right in the middle of the garage - but when Mark Mullino ("L.M.") sits down to play, you'll understand.

Some of the performers are from previous UMT ensembles, and a couple are newcomers, but guest-director James R. Taulli has successfully moved this energetic musical revue from its usual proscenium setting to smack-dab in the middle of the audience.

Philip J. Mann, Mike Biscoe, Freddy Voss and Mullino are the Pump Boys, who pump up the volume more than they pump any gas. With Mann on guitar, Biscoe on electric guitar, Voss on keyboards and Mullino on piano, they provide their own high-energy musical accompaniment for the show's songs.

Gwendolyn Jones and Jodi Julian portray Rhetta and Prudie Cupp.

The show contains about half a dozen ensemble numbers, but there are some great solo turns, too.

Mullino's "The Night Dolly Parton Was Almost Mine" was hilarious, and Jones (Rhetta) did a red-hot-mama rendition of "Be Good or Be Gone." There were also some touching, poignant ballads, such as Mann (Jim) reminiscing about his beloved Grandma in "Mamaw," and both Rhetta and Prudie pondering how close they were as "Sisters."

*****

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

2-for-1 offer

To celebrate the Days of '47, Salt Lake Acting Company is offering a 2-for-1 special for both the matinee and evening performances of "Oil City Symphony" on July 24.

Regular prices range from $14 to $15 for matinee and $18.50 to $20 for evenings. For reservations, call 363-SLAC (7522).