Posts Tagged ‘The Spitfire Grill’

‘Spitfire Grill’ Strikes Local Chord

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

'The Spitfire Grill' is set in a small town in the mountains, much like Idyllwild

By Marcia E. Gawecki

After the Saturday night, May 21st performance of “The Spitfire Grill,” the audience was on its feet whooping it up. One might expect that from an audience made up of family, friends and faculty, but this one was made up largely of Idyllwild residents.

“I was told to bring tissues,” admitted Beth, one Idyllwild resident who is also an actor.

Others were drawn to the theater for the first time. What was the attraction to this performance about a small town in Gilead, Wisconsin, that struck a cord?

Perhaps it could have been a tale about Idyllwild.

“Didn’t it remind you a lot of Idyllwild?” Beth asked at intermission.

Yep, there were lots of similarities, good and bad. Small town gossips, rigid folks unwilling to accept newcomers, those harboring deep secrets, homeless folks living in the woods and  those who couldn’t wait to leave. But “The Spitfire Grill” also touched on topics that would interest locals like lost logging, natural beauty and escapism.

The story is interesting enough. It’s about Percy (played by Melissa), a young woman who leaves prison to start a new life in Gilead. She had seen a newspaper clipping of the changing fall leaves along Copper Creek. It seemed as likely place as any, yet most of the townsfolk don’t share in Percy’s plan.

Even her new boss/landlord  Hannah (played by Becca), a grouchy, bitter woman (who harbors a big secret) is strict with Percy and holds her at arm’s length. In spite of it all, Percy doesn’t buckle. As a newcomer, she appreciates windows without bars and  the beauty of her natural surroundings, even from inside a greasy grill.

(from L) Leads Becca and Melissa at another event. Photo courtesy Idyllwild Arts.

Speaking of grills, The Red Kettle in Idyllwild got a callout in the program. It reads: “Special thanks to Martha and the gals at The Red Kettle.”

In fact, the three leads in the show, Melissa, Becca and Paulina, all went to The Red Kettle a couple of weeks ago for more than just lunch.

“We just ate and talked,” said Paulina and Becca sheepishly.

Likely they were talking to Martha and her waitresses about what it’s like to own and work in a local grill, day in and day out. Martha would give it to them straight.

Well, their research paid off. The show had a homespun feel to it. (Just like looking in the mirror, Idyllwild). There were likeable characters, like Shelby (played by Paulina), a shy housewife who is bullied by her husband. And Hannah, who took in an ex-convict without waitress or culinary skills. And Joe, the town sheriff, (played by Milan) who initially resents being Shelby’s parole officer, but later opens his to the natural beauty before him.

The annoying cast members included Effy, the nosy postwoman (played by Savannah), whose gossipy ways made everyone cringe, and Caleb, Shelby’s verbally abusive husband (played by Jake), who resents living in his cousin’s shadow.

(from L) Jake played Caleb, the controlling husband, while Savannah played Effy, the gossipy postwoman.

“Jake cut his hair short for the sake of the show,” said Will, Jake’s friend.

Jake’s preppy locks were cut military-style to fit his angry, rigid personality.

“I just hated your character,” one woman admitted after the show.

“That’s a sign of a good actor,” said Will, proudly.

Like others, 16 songs in a two-hour show sounded a bit too much. The storyline was serious enough. Did it needed to be punctuated with song after song?

Yet, they made the whole story about The Spitfire Grill in Idyllwild, er Gilead, even richer. Anyone can recite dialog, but it takes talent to sing your way though a play, and make the locals laugh, cry and stand up and cheer.

You’re going to love all the lyrics by James Valcq and Fred Alley. You’d swear they’ve visited Idyllwild before.

Like “The Colors of Paradise,” sung by Percy and Shelby, as they wrote an ad about visiting Gilead and The Spitfire Grill. “Ever want to lose yourself/Come to a place where you can grow/where there’s people that you know/Own a piece of heaven where hummingbirds sing/and roots so deep into the earth, they’ll never pull away.”

Paulina singing at another event. Photo courtesy Idyllwild Arts.

Or “Digging Stone,” the song sung by Caleb, that could also reflect local frustrations about work and the economy.

“They kick you hard and make you crawl/A man is more than just blood and stone.”

But “These Wide Woods,” sung by Joe and Percy sums it all up beautifully:

“If these woods were mine/Dreams would come to me.”

Of course, none of the songs in “The Spitfire Grill” musical would be possible without the music. Instead of canned music on disk, this Idyllwild Arts musical had a live band. Five staff members and classical music majors played each sound effect, intermission music, set scene music and accompanying numbers for two hours. The band included: Nelms McKelvain on piano, Keth McCabe on guitar and mandolin, Patrick Doran-Sheenan on accordian, and music students Manje and Miley on violin and cello. When you see their tired arms after the show, tell them to take a bow.

You have one more chance to see “The Spitfire Grill” on Sunday, May 22 at 2 p.m. at the IAF Theatre on campus. All shows are free and open to the public, but come early to get a seat.

For more information, visit www.idyllwildarts.org or call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me.  All rights reserved.

Published on: May 22, 2011 @ 0:07

Custom Search

“The Spitfire Grill” Musical This Weekend

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

With its jazz banners, Cafe Aroma is swankier than "The Spitfire Grill," but a favorite hangout of the three leading ladies

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Many of us know “The Spitfire Grill” as that great little restaurant near the airport in Santa Monica. It was started by a USAF lieutenant in 1954 so his fellow pilots would have a good place to eat. Today, it still promotes the area’s aviation history.

Moviegoers may know “The Spitfire Grill” as the 1996 sleeper about a young woman who moves to a small town after being released from prison. Her chance at a fresh start is nixxed by many of the townsfolk. Both the girl, the grill and the town end up changing in the end. The shows strong female characters are played by Ellen Burstyn, Marcia Gay Harden and Alison Eliott.

But “The Spitfire Grill” that I’m talking about is a high school musical by James Valcq and Fred Ally that starts this Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Idyllwild Arts Academy.

Paulina, who plays “Shelby,” one of the leads, didn’t watch the movie on purpose.

“I didn’t want to mold my character after anything that I saw in the movie,” Paulina said. “I want it to all come from within.”

You may have heard Paulina, Becca and Melissa (shown far right) in last year's musical, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee"

Paulina’s character is a hard luck case herself.  She is shy and is verbally abused by her husband. Although she doesn’t have a shy bone in her body, Paulina said that she has observed others who are.

“But, with the help of her two good friends, Shelby triumphs in the end,” Paulina said.

Bram, who claims to be onstage “for about 30 seconds,” plays one of the male characters in this female-centric story about the spiritual path of turning pain into joy.

Bram admitted to watching the movie and liking it. However, he was skeptical at first of turning “The Spitfire Grill,” a drama with a dark side, into a musical. After the first rehearsal, however, “The Spitfire Grill” musical won him over.

The three leads, played by Melissa, Becca and Paulina, all have incredible voices with wide ranges. You may have heard them in last year’s musical, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

They are all friends at Idyllwild Arts, a close-knit boarding school set in a small town in the San Jacinto Mountains.

Each weekend, the three of them board the van to Idyllwild, where they’d buy groceries and eat at local restaurants. Cafe Aroma is one of their favorites, although it’s a lot swankier than The Spitfire Grill in Gilead.

“The Spitfire Grill” musical opens at 7:30 p.m. this Friday, May 20 at the IAF Theater on the Idyllwild Arts campus. Saturday’s show is also at 7:30 p.m., but Sunday’s show starts at 2 p.m. All shows on campus are free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.idyllwildarts.org or call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: May 19, 2011 @ 10:26