The Walpole Footlighters open their 84th season with "The Spitfire Grill", a musical with music and book by James Valcq, lyrics and book by Fred Alley and is based on the recent film by Lee David Zlotoff. The show takes place in rural Wisconsin in the town of Gilead and tells the story in musical format of a feisty parolee, Percy Talbott who follows a dream, based on a page from an old travel book. It promises autumn colors in the Copper Creek. She arrives in town and Sheriff Joe Sutter brings her through the streets to a ramshackle diner called The Spitfire Grill run by a crusty old widow, Hannah Ferguson who has a bad hip and a sharp tongue. Joe persuades Hannah to give her work as a waitress. Percy sets to work in a swirl of small town suspicions led by Effy, the postmistress who's also the village busybody. Hannah trips on the stairs and breaks her leg and she asks Percy to run it for her. Hannah does so against the wishes of her overly protective nephew, Caleb. Percy is joined at the Spitfire by Caleb's wife Shelby an excellent cook. Hannah asks Percy to leave a loaf of bread outside near a stump a the back of the Grill. It is picked up by a stranger who has a secret past in Gilead. The Grill is for sale because Hannah wishes to escape painful memories of the past, so Percy suggests Hannah raffle it off for a hundred dollars per entry and an essay about why they want the Grill. Soon the mail is arriving by the bagfuls and things are definitely cooking at the Spitfire Grill. Directed excellently by Mario Salinas and musically directed brilliantly by Shawn Bulduc, the awesome cast have some of the best voices around and their harmonic sound is fabulous.
"The Spitfire Grill" is one of the most poignant musicals with its warm charming score and storyline about redemption. The new girl im town brings redemption to the other characters by her longing for a place like Gilead that is removed from the hustle and bustle of the outside world and its corruption. The melodies of the songs are infectious and soar in their delivery with heart tugging lyrics. It is totally charming from start to finish and the cast is lead by Shawna O'Brien, an award winning EMACT actress. Her voice is phenomenal as she sings "A Ring Around the Moon" when she arrives in Gilead, "Out of the Frying Pan" when she admits she can't cook and "Shine" when she discovers who the visitor really is. Kelly Cavanaugh, a petite brunette with a gorgeous soprano voice, sings many touching ballads including "When Hope Goes" about when her childhood hero, Eli who was Hannah's son went off to the Vietnam War and became MIA and the town changed forever and "Wild Bird" where she consoles Percy about her sad and tragic past. Pretty redhead Marianne Phinney wears a gray wig as Hannah in this show. ( She took over the role two and a half weeks ago. ) She sings "Forgotten Lullaby" when a sad essay stirs up Hannah's old wounds and "Way Back Home" when Hannah wants the stranger to come and meet her at the dinner. Marianne also leads the company in two happy numbers, the first is "Shoot the Moon" where multitudes of essays and money show up and the second is "Come Alive Again" when she and the girls drink some applejack and realize that a magical shift not only takes place in the grill but throughout all of Gilead.
David DaCosta plays Joe who eventually falls in love with Percy. A topnotch actor, David shows off his wonderful voice in "This Wide Woods" where he tells about his dissatisfaction with how the trees were all cut down destroying life in Gilead and how he longs to leave town and in "Forest for the Trees" where he decides to stay in town and build a house for Percy and himself. PK Egersheim plays Caleb the hotheaded husband of Shelby who is always bossing her around. He also does a great job in his role and shows off his voice in "Digging Stone" without a job since the quarry closed Caleb turns against a world where it is no longer enough to be a working man. Elaine Sheffield-Bono plays Effy, the comic relief in the show and she has many funny one liners and makes them all count. She shows off her soprano voice in many numbers including the trio called "Ice and Snow" and the group numbers including "Something's Cooking at the Spitfire Grill". Rounding out the cast is Peter Bradley as the Visitor who gives the role heart and soul in his sympathetic portrayal. So for a fantastic musical treat, be sure to catch "The Spitfire Grill". Tell them Tony sent you.