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Broadway musical coming to Detroit Lakes: Holmes Theatre to present 'Pump Boys & Dinettes' this Friday

The musical "Pump Boys & Dinettes" was a bonafide hit when it first premiered Off-Broadway at New York's Chelsea West Side Arts Theatre on July 10, 1981, transferring first to the larger Colonnades Theatre in October before making its Broadway bow at the Princess Theatre on Feb. 4, 1982.

"Most of the people who are doing the show with us now probably weren't even born then," joked producer Curt Wollan, whose Troupe America cast will be bringing its 2017 tour of PB & D to the stage of Detroit Lakes' Historic Holmes Theatre this Friday, Jan. 13 at 7:30 p.m.

At the time of its Broadway premiere, the musical's original score of country, pop, jazz, rock-and-roll and swing tunes, penned by the cast themselves, caused something of a sensation: The song "The Night Dolly Parton Was Almost Mine," from the CBS Records original cast recording, reaching number 67 on the national Hot Country Songs chart.

"I love the music," says Curt's son, Chet Wollan, who stars as Jim in the current production. "It's very catchy and well written."

"The music is really fun to do," agreed Candice Lively, Chet's wife and castmate, who plays Prudy Cupp in the production.

Some of the songs in "Pump Boys & Dinettes" use percussion provided by pots, pans and other diner utensils, she said, which only adds to the fun.

"It's all live music, no (pre-recorded) tracks," Chet Wollan added, noting that the cast members double as musicians for this show.

"This is a lot different than the other shows I've done," he continued, "because not only do we have to learn our (spoken) lines and (song) lyrics, we also have to learn all the chords and percussion."

But it's a challenge the cast has gladly accepted, Curt Wollan said, despite the fact that they only gave them a couple of weeks of rehearsal prior to the tour's opening night.

"It's a great show," he added. "The setting is a gas station and diner where the attendants and waitresses are putting on a show for their friends. The music is simple, but clever."

"You really have to pay attention to the lyrics," Chet Wollan said. "If you're listening to the words, there's a lot of little jokes happening."

Because there isn't a lot of dialogue, most of the cast interaction happens during the songs they are performing, he added.

"There are a lot of funny little character bits in the songs," he added.

"We're always messing with somebody," Lively said. "It's a really fun show."

The preparations for this tour have had an added element of fun, Curt Wollan said, because they've been rehearsing in a garage.

"It's perfect for this show," he added, because it brings an element of authenticity to the rehearsals that's been fun for the cast to play around with.

"Most of us know each other," said Lively. "It's been fun for us to joke around together during rehearsals."

One thing that might be fun for audiences to note, Lively added, is that it's the other girl in the cast who plays Jim's love interest, though she is his portrayer's wife in real life.

"There are six in the cast,' Curt Wollan said. "Four guys and two girls."

"Pump Boys & Dinettes" was created by two friends, Jim Wann and Mark Hardwick, who experimented with the concept while performing five nights a week at a New York steakhouse. The idea took off from there and with the help of contributors and fellow performers John Foley, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan, and John Schimmel, they made their way to the lights of Broadway and on to London's West End. Subsequent productions have been seen across the country, including long runs in Chicago and Minneapolis, and an award-winning run at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium. Curt Wollan said that Troupe America has done about 35 different productions of "Pump Boys & Dinettes" over the years, with the last one finishing up in 2005.

"This is our revival of it," he said, adding that they were looking forward to bringing the show to Detroit Lakes because they've had such great audiences for all of their "Church Basement Ladies" shows at the Holmes Theatre over the past few years.

"We love playing Detroit Lakes," he added.

Tickets for Friday's show are $26 for adults and $13 for students, though families might want to take advantage of the theater's "BOGO" pricing: Buy one adult ticket and get 1 student ticket free of charge.

The Historic Holmes Theatre is located at 806 Summit Avenue in Detroit Lakes. To reserve your seats for this and other upcoming shows, please stop by or call the Holmes Theatre Box Office at 218-844-SHOW, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Friday (it will also be open for two hours prior to Friday's show). You can also order tickets online by visiting

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454