Directed by Tom Schwans and based on the film by Lee David Zlotoff, “The Spitfire Grill” is a story about ex-convict Percy Talbott (Kiersten Bjork ‘21) who moves to the quaint fictional town of Gilead, Wis.– a “ghost town.” Percy goes there to start a new life after seeing an ad for it in an old magazine. The sleepy town’s sheriff, Joe (Liam Cahill ‘18), is constantly on her tail as she begins work at the town’s only restaurant – Spitfire Grill. There she meets the restaurant’s strong willed owner, Hannah (Fallon Sullivan ‘20); town gossip, Effy (Lena Mazzo ‘21); Hannah’s stubborn nephew, Caleb (Maeve Moriarty ‘21); Caleb’s timid wife, Shelby (Olivia Coe ‘20); and a mysterious visitor who Hannah leaves bread for every night (Sean Larson ‘18). Theatre Fairfield presented “The Spitfire Grill” from April 11 to April 15.
Entering the Wien Experimental Black Box Theatre at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts, I was immediately impressed with the set. Since the musical takes place in the midwest, the theater was adorned with wooden panels – giving it a rustic, almost homey, ambiance. As for the staging itself, everything was well put together and well done, especially the costumes. Some of the actors changed their costumes with the seasons, and it was a nice touch to enhance the experience. The effort put into setting really made it feel like the audience members were living alongside the characters in a rundown, midwestern town.
As for the plot, it was alright. I wasn’t necessarily impressed or taken back and, to be quite honest, it was rather predictable. However, Percy’s redemption arc was intriguing, and the characters and their dynamic made up for the predictable structure of the plot. The characters were interesting, complex and diverse. The female characters really made a strong lasting impact in the musical. There’s wild bird Percy, who’s really trying to make something of herself, and strong headed Hannah, who doesn’t put up with anyone. These two women were both passionate in their own ways and the actors portraying them did a fabulous job. I personally enjoyed Shelby’s character. In the beginning she’s very reserved and controlled by her husband, but by the end she manages to break free and blossom into someone she wants to be. All together, their friendship was portrayed well and they had great chemistry. There was also a romantic subplot between Joe and Percy. I wasn’t sure where the musical was going to go with their relationship at first. It seemed rather unnecessary to include romance being that there was more of a general focus on Percy’s friendships and attempt to find peace. However, in the end, there wasn’t such a heavy emphasis on it. So, ultimately, it worked out.
Now for the important part, the singing. Fairfield University only puts on a musical every three years, so it was exciting, especially since I personally haven’t been to a school musical production since I left high school. The bluegrass music was fitting due to the plot, but also catchy and easy to follow. It was unique and I think the music was one of my favorite parts, as I haven’t seen this genre used in a production before. The actors definitely gave it their all. They each got into every song they performed and did a phenomenal job.
Theatre Fairfield’s production of “The Spitfire Grill” was a unique, catchy and a fun musical from start to finish. The actors, the crew and everyone involved in the production put a great deal of effort into it, and it definitely paid off. Overall, the musical was a huge hit and Theatre Fairfield did an awesome job.