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Spitfire Grill (review)(thru 9/21)

Short Description of Spitfire Grill (review)(thru 9/21)

Spitfire Grill (review)(thru 9/21)
Opera House Players
107 Main St, Broadbrook, CT
Opera House Players take a swing at a new hit with its recent production, Spitfire Grill. You're probably saying, “Spitfire Grill? I never heard of it.” It is, in fact, a nouveau, small-town- based play set in Gilead, Wisconsin. The play ran only two weeks on Broadway before finding its way to Off Broadway, and is based on a 1996 film by the same name. Fret not about being cautious to see a play you never heard of: The themes here are resilient and just spun a different way, and kudos to the Opera House Players for consistently trying something new. Take the approach of "Off Broadway", not "Broadway", and the angle falls into place. We like Off Broadway, just like we like Fringe, because sometimes one just has to bend the rules.
We can dissect the story line in a moment, but let me give you two good reasons to see this piece: Their names are Kate Suppes and Anne Collin. Both these ladies carry this production, and their singing has you begging for more. I said this about Collin in 'Cabaret' and I say it again. This time she is joined by Suppes, who you think heads into a danger zone of octaves, but consistently catches herself. That's hard to do. Our two talents together are simply delightful.
Now, the plot:
Suppes plays the role of Percy Talbott, a drifter-type soul who finds her way to small town America. She spent a few years in prison (no plot giveaways) and cut images of Gilead out of a magazine because it looked so pretty. She was picked up by Sheriff Joe (Will Caswell) and taken to the Spitfire Grill, part restaurant, part boarding house. Spitfire Grill is the only show in town, and is run by Hannah Ferguson (Patrique Alton Hurd). Ferguson is best described as “crusty” and “a survivor” who made it thru the years on her own despite all types of life's bricks being thrown at her. Ferguson slips and hurts her hip, and Percy now finds herself taking over a grille when she knows nothing about cooking. She is joined by Shelby Thorpe (Anne Collin), and together the two cook and sing their way to happiness. They decide to raffle the grill off, and run ads in newspapers for a raffle contest for the best essay.
There's more than a few structural challenges with the play worth noting, and explain why this was not a Broadway hit. Despite the incredible singing of Collin and Suppes, at the end of the day, the play lacks a signature song. You're not humming anything on the way home, but want to, feeling shortchanged and empty handed. “How can those two ladies sing like that and I don't remember a single song?” In addition, despite all the talk about the uniqueness of this play, the plot is cookie cutter (I will give you an analogy in a moment I guarantee you never heard of). When the lights dim and the curtain raises, the scenery, though apt and succinct, does let you know immediately the play wreaks of sorrow and gloom. This is by no means a happy musical; Thank goodness it is performed in the Fall, when the glow of Summer fades. If this ran in July, you may find yourself needing an extra Gin and Tonic to get you through the day.
Most importantly, however, is the lack of natural flow. Despite the gloom of a 'Fargo' like undertow, the highs are never as good as the lows. You watch your characters, but don't want to jump into their shoes and be happy with them, because you know their life story is unpleasant and you don't want to share it. You sense the train coming by the rumble of the tracks, long before life stories derail. When the natural transgressions occur to show the inner conflict who's boss, the patches are rough and non-flowing. Rather than a gradual enlightening, Mother Peace arrives with her baggage and says, “I'm here.”
Believe it or not, what no one says is, this play is “Cars”, an adult version of the kid's movie. Both have a main character arriving into a small town long forgotten (remember Radiator Springs?). Both have a character that struggles with the locals. Both later realize the inner sanctity of small-town America. Both tell the world about their revelation (be it through a raceway or a national raffle); and both win the key to the city. It's difficult saying Spitfire Grill (Don't forget—Spitfire was the name of a car, not to mention a grill) is based on a kid's movie, or visa versa, but the parallels are as striking as Moby Dick and Jaws.
Enough analyis. Will you like it?
Broad Brook deserves accolades for taking a chance on a musical you will enjoy. The orchestra and the violin were fantastic. And, as with all Opera House productions, the singing was five star, with Ms. Collin and Ms. Suppes keeping the train nicely on the tracks
  -Richard DiMaggio
Starring :
Percy Talbott (Kate Suppes)
Sheriff Joe Sutter (Will Caswell)
Hannah Ferguson (Patrique Alton Hurd)
Caleb Thorpe (Ryan Bird)
Effy Krayneck (Paula Kuenzler)
Shelby Thorpe (Anne Collin)
The Visitor (Mickey Grabner)
Music and Book by James Valco
Lyrics and Book by Fred Alley
Based on the Film by Lee David Zlotoff
Direction by John Pike
Musical Direction by Paul Feyer

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Address: 107 Main St, Broadbrook, CT

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