Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Spitfire Grill

I went to a dress rehearsal for The Spitfire Grill at Mad Cow Theater. The show is based on the film by Lee David Zlotoff. The music and book are by James Valcq with Fred Alley on lyrics and writing. The wonderful thing about a rehearsal is that the actors have fewer worries since they are not in front of an audience. I  am used to hearing actors exercising their voices with scales and vocal calisthenics. For this run, a loud burp echoes from back stage. The mood was set for a classy Midwestern musical.

A Stage hand was working on the moon made of wooden planks cut into  a circle. He called out to director David Lee to see of it was straight. David asked Pam Schwartz and I if we thought it was straight. I had just drawn the moon and the slats in my sketch were straight, so I shouted back, "Yep perfectly straight." David then called back to the stage hand saying "I just asked a straight couple and they should know." David explained that his lead singer Kari had been the understudy for Evita at the Shakes and she had to take on the lead roll twice in one day with just 45 minutes notice.Actors in the show also doubled as the band performing on banjo

The play opened with Percy Talbot (Kari Ringer) sitting on her suitcase. She had just been released from prison and was hoping to start life over. Based on a page from an old travel book, she ended up in the small town of Gilead, Wisconsin. Kari's singing voice immediately dominated and the song of hope for new beginnings certainly resonated with me. The local sheriff, Joe Sutter (Sean Powell) who was also Percy’s parole officer, found her a job at Hannah’s Spitfire Grill, the only eatery in the struggling town.

It turned out that Pecy wasn't much of a cook and the town gossip Effy (Leesa Castaneda) talked about her behind her back. Shelby Thorp (Brittany Halen) stepped in to also help out at the grill. Her husband, Caleb (Jason Blackwater) a quarry Foreman, however felt a woman's place is in the home. She had to fight for the independence needed to work outside the home.

Hannah (Jac LeDoux) had wanted to sell the Spitfire Grill for years. But with no interested buyers, her two worker bees talk her into raffling it off. Entry fees were $100, and the best essay on why you want the Grill wins. Percy, a feisty parolee, winds up in Wisconsin and lands a job at the Grill. Soon, things start heating up as mail arrives by the wheelbarrow-full.

I loved every gruff Midwestern character and lost soul hoping to find home. They reminded me of the big hearted but callous and cautious people I come across when traveling to Iowa. The Spitfire Grill is an inspiring celebration of fresh starts and positive influence of any one person. It was a fabulous uplifting show and a great way to kick off the holiday season. "Say what you want, say what you will, somethings cooking at the Spitfire grill."

The show runs through December 29, 2019. Tickets are $20 to $42.

Second Saturday Matinee: Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019 at 2:30 p.m.
Discounted Monday Nights: Monday, Dec. 16 and Monday, Dec. 23, 2019 at 7:30 p.m.
Ken Carpenter Talk backs: Take place after each regular Thursday and Sunday performance. Talk backs are free to audience members and are open to the public at no extra cost.
Group Discounts: Save 20% off full-price tickets with parties of 10 or more.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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