A Recipe of Judgment, Forgiveness, and Redemption
In today's fast-paced world, negativity is all around us. Self-reflection only happens when the pain of life forces us to reflect, and people judging each other can be found via news Tweets. However, there is a place where a breath of fresh air outdoors, the tranquil countryside, where one can start over to find peace in a world full of turmoil.
The Spitfire Grill is a book by James Valeq & Fred Alley. Set in a fictional rural town in Wisconsin where a spirited parolee decides to follow her dreams upon her release from jail and goes to work in a small-town café known as The Spitfire Grill.
After serving five years for killing someone; Percy Talbott, played by Jacquelyne Jones, is on a quest to start over. She chooses a town called Gilead from a picture she saw in a travel magazine. However, upon her arrival, she must first report directly to the local Sheriff, Joe Sutter (Donterrio Johnson).
The sheriff introduces her to Hannah Ferguson (Catherine Smitko), a feisty woman with a bad hip and a sharp tongue. Hannah is the owner of the ramshackle Spitfire Grill, and Joe is trying to persuade her to hire Percy as a waitress.
Effy Kayneck, (Gabrielle Lott-Rogers) the valley postmistress, and a busybody is very concerned about their new guest, Percy. The small-town suspicious about her past, make Percy wonders if she made the right decision to come to Gilead.
When Hannah breaks her leg, she enlists Percy and the timid Shelby (Dara Cameron) to take over the diner. Hannah's nephew, Caleb Thorp, (Karl Hamilton) is reluctant about his aunt's decision to hired Percy. He also doesn't like the bond that Percy and his wife Shelby are forming as friends.
After Hannah's son Eli (Ian Paul Custer) went missing in the Vietnam War, the town of Gilead suffered the loss of Hannah's son as well as her husband, who died of grief. The memories of her loss were too hard to bear for Hannah, so she decided to sell the diner. When Eli disappeared, a blanket of darkness covered the town, and everyone in it felt trapped; however, the arrival of Percy brings some hope to the small town.
When Percy hears that Hannah wants to sell The Spitfire Grill, she suggests an opportunity that can make Hannah some money by raffling off the diner. If a person sends in $100 and an essay detailing why they want the grill, they earn an entry to win. Reluctant, Hannah eventually agrees, and Percy and Shelby submit an ad to the newspaper. Responses start to flood in from cities all across the country, with people writing about how wonderful it would be to leave the fast-paced city, and live in the countryside and own the grill.
Director Tammy Mader gave us a pleasant surprise with this intimate musical staging of The Spitfire. Even though tragedy and brokenness are throughout the musical, it is ultimately an inspiring story of hope, healing, and reconciliation.
The name Gilead is a metaphor for optimism, and it appears in the Bible more than 100 times. It refers to a region rich in medicinal herbs and ointments. It is also reminiscent of the traditional hymn entitled "There is a Balm in Gilead."
Jacquelyne Jones (Legally Blonde, Shrek and Sweeney Todd) makes her American Blues debut as the leading lady Percy in The Spitfire Grill with passion and heart. One can feel her emotions as she tackles her past, hoping for a brighter future. Jones' voice is amazing, and the purity of its sound brings joy to the soul.
Catherine Smitko as Hannah Ferguson was excellent and Donterrio Johnson (Waitress, Spamilton and The Color Purple) does a wonderful job as the local sheriff who pulls at your heartstrings.
The Spitfire Grill is a small cast of seven that gives an outstanding performance. Malcolm Ruhl directs the musical score of folk music with a message that is clear about 'Healing' intertwined throughout the plot.
Let's Play 'Highly Recommend' that you go back to a simpler time in life and partake in a musical that is indeed warm-hearted and refreshing!
American Blues Theater
The Spitfire Grill
Based on the film by Lee David Zlotoff
Book by James Valeq & Fred Alley
Lyrics by Fred Alley
Music by James Valeq
Directed by Tammy Mader
Music Direction by Malcolm Ruhl
July 12 - August 17, 2019
Filed under: ChicagoNow