BY TOM LAVIS
Executive producer Teresa Stoughton Marafino never imagined that buying a young girl a bowl of soup would turn into one of the best investments she could make for the Mountain Playhouse.
The young woman was Carrie Tillis, who arrived late from Nashville for her shot at landing a role during New York City auditions in 2007.
Marafino just concluded a marathon session of listening to 125 performers and needed a break.
“As I was leaving the theater, this young blonde was eyeing the schedule on a bulletin board and she looked bewildered,” Marafino said. “She still had her luggage since she came straight from the airport.”
Marafino approached the woman and asked if she could help.
After hearing about her dilemma, Marafino not only bought her soup, but allowed the young lady to store her luggage in her hotel room.
Marafino offered the stranger a chance for a callback audition to show her talents, and the producer is glad she did.
“It was the drummer at the auditions who recognized her as a member of the legendary Tillis family. She is daughter of Country Music Hall of Fame singer and songwriter Mel Tillis and sister to country singer Pam Tillis.
Carrie Tillis will make her sixth appearance at the Jen-nerstown theater when she plays the role of Rhetta Cupp in the musical comedy “Pump Boys and Dinettes,” which previews June 18 and runs through June 30.
Patrons will remember Tillis from her portrayal of country singer Janette Carter in the musical “Keep On the Sunny Side,” which closed the 2007 playhouse season.
She also portrayed Tammy Wynette in the 2008 season opener “Stand By Your Man: The Tammy Wynette Story.”
Tillis, along with Amanda Ryan Paige, who portrays her sister Prudie, are the “Dinettes” who run the Double Cupp diner.
Paige made her debut on the Mountain Playhouse stage in 2008 when she portrayed the young Tammy Wynette in “Stand By Your Man,” as Tillis portrayed the mature Wynette.
Tillis followed that performance by portraying a sexually repressed accountant in “Unnecessary Farce.”
“It really showed her versatility and talent,” Marafino said.
Four Pump Boys are selling high-octane fuel on Highway 57 in Grand Ole Opry country at a gas station/dinette somewhere between Frog Level and Smyrna, N.C. The music is mostly from the country rock/pop music genres.
To look at it, you wouldn’t know that this little stop on Highway 57 is where all the action is, but once the boys get revved up, “Pump Boys and Dinettes” is a countrified musical packed with highly entertaining toe-tappers such as “Drinkin’ Shoes,” “Farmer Tan” and “The Night Dolly Parton Was Almost Mine!”
“I am very excited that Carrie Tillis will be a member of the company for this production,” Marafino said. “The show will treat the audience to another country music show that features performers who also play their own instruments.”
Starting with the playhouse’s back-to-back productions of “Always, Patsy Cline” in 2001 and 2002, Marafino realized there was a country music niche audience.
“We have included a country show in the season ever since,” she said.
Tillis is a nationally recognized talent with a resume that jumps from opera to Grand Ole Opry, and from Broadway to Branson. She has delighted audiences at the Mountain Playhouse with her performances and recently performed with the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra.
Producers Larry Tobias and Chris Blisset proposed this show to the Mountain Playhouse and will bring their expertise of having produced it together several times in other theaters.
“Some plays are just meant to be fun, and ‘Pump Boys and Dinettes’ is one of those plays,” said director Larry Tobias in a written statement. “It takes you to a comfortable place where you can relax, kick back, listen to some music, laugh a little bit and go home with the feeling that, although this is a complicated place we call home, everything might, just might, turn out alright.”
Playhouse audiences may remember Tobias for his portrayal of George Jones in “Stand By Your Man: The Tammy Wynette Story.”
Marafino assures that playhouse audiences will be bursting with laughter and song when the musical hits the stage.
“The songs are all original,” Marafino said.
“Pump Boys and Dinettes” is a Broadway musical written by John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan, John Schimmel and Jim Wann that premiered on Broadway on Feb. 4, 1982, at the Princess Theatre.
The show played 573 performances and closed in 1983, but not before garnering a Tony Award nomination for Best Musical of 1982.
If you go ...
What: “Pump Boys and Dinettes.”
Where: Mountain Playhouse, 7690 Somerset Pike, Jennerstown.
When: June 18-30.
Tickets: $14 to $39, depending on day, time, seat location and discounts.
Information: 629-9201, option 1, or www.MountainPlayhouse.org.
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