Theatre Palisades’ ‘Spitfire Grill’ Is Golden

Go see The Spitfire Grill if you want to hear sublime voices and become immersed in flawless acting.

Go see The Spitfire Grill if you want to see a wonderfully constructed set and listen to an actual band.

Go see The Spitfire Grill if you want to experience a truly professional performance inside a community theater.

Sheriff Joe Sutter (Ross Chitwood, center) introduces Spitfire Grill owner Hannah Ferguson (Joanna Churgin, left) to the newly arrived Percy Talbott (Alyssa Rupert). Photo: Joy Daunis

Sheriff Joe Sutter (Ross Chitwood, center) introduces Spitfire Grill owner Hannah Ferguson (Joanna Churgin, left) to the newly arrived Percy Talbott (Alyssa Rupert). Photo: Joy Daunis

This is one of the best productions that Theatre Palisades has produced since 2005, when I started reviewing shows at the Pierson Playhouse. If you haven’t been there or it’s been a while, make reservations now, because tickets will be hard to come by once word of mouth travels around town about the quality of this show.

A friend who attended the show with me said afterwards,“I was going to say that Percy (Alyssa Rupert) had the best voice, but then I thought maybe Shelby did (Darcy Silveira) or Hannah (Joanna Churgin). Then I real- ized they were all really good.”And they were.

Ross Chitwood, who plays the sheriff, also has an exceptional singing voice. An audience member might wonder how director Lewis Hauser was able to secure such a talent. Chitwood’s bio explains he’s the music director at the Palisades Methodist Church— after graduating from Juilliard School and from Rice University with a master’s degree. He’s also on the voice faculty at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.

The nosy mail carrier and town gossip Effy (Susan Stangl) is perfectly played. Caleb (Terry Delegeane) handles his role with aplomb, and even the visitor (Phil Apoian) is totally believable. This is a great cast.

One of my favorite songs was “Ice and Snow,” performed by the trio of Effy, Caleb and the sheriff. Such a lovely blending of voices!

All of the singers in this cast were a joy to listen to—sweet, pure. The theatre now uses microphones for the performers, which means you can relax and hear every bit of dialogue.

The three-piece band, under the direc- tion of Brian Murphy, provides the perfect accompaniment.

The Spitfire Grill revolves around Percy, in her early 20s, who while in jail for manslaughter had clipped a photo from a travel magazine of Gilead, Wisconsin. When she’s finally released, Percy travels to the small town to start her life anew.

Once she arrives, the sheriff finds her a job and lodging at the Spitfire Grill, owned by Hannah, a widow with a secret.

The sheriff becomes her parole officer, but townspeople are not thrilled that a parolee is living in town.

The Grill, the only restaurant in town, has been for sale for 10 years, with no takers. Percy comes up with the idea that for $100 and an essay about why one should own the eatery, Hannah could raffle it off. Soon the café is flooded with essays about why Gilead would be the perfect place for a new start.

The Spitfire Grill is based on the 1996 movie by Lee David Zlotoff, with music and book by James Valcq and lyrics and book by Fred Alley.

Produced by Shirley Churgin and Sylvia Grieb, the show will run through July 10 at the Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Rd. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25 general admission and $23 for seniors and students. Visit: TheatrePalisades.com or call (310) 454-1970.

By Sue Pascoe
Editor

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