Lyric Arts’ 20th season is off to a fabulous start. Following the season premier’s rollicking comedy The Explorers Club, the season’s second show takes a lovely, more subdued tone with The Spitfire Grill.
Set in the fictional small town of Gilead, Wisconsin, this lovely musical follows the story of released criminal Percy (Katharine Strom) as she attempts to start a new life in the town. In Gilead, Percy finds herself a job at the Spitfire Grill when aging owner Hannah (Martha Wigmore) begrudgingly takes her in. In time, Percy becomes acquainted and assessed by Gilead’s population including Effy (Shana Eisenberg), the nosy mailwoman, Joe (James Ehlenz), the town Sheriff, Caleb (Patrick Jones), Hannah’s controlling and unlikeable nephew, and befriends Caleb’s mousy wife, Shelby (Christy Jones).
The small town of Gilead has been slowly fading, and Percy learns that Hannah has wanted to sell the grill for years, but has been unable to. Percy suggests that Hannah raffle the grill off for $100, and with this, Percy becomes the center of a chain of events that illuminates and changes all in the small, quiet town.
Set to a beautiful Americana soundtrack, The Spitfire Grill is soothing and melodic to the ear, but is also evocative. The idyllic town of Gilead both represents the myth of the small town, and the boon of the big city. There are many secrets in the town, longings to leave, unrest as the town slowly fades away, but it also has the bond of community, beauty, and restorative quiet that is longed for by many of the strangers that write in for the raffle of the Spitfire Grill and hope to win it if only to leave the lonely and disconnected cities they live in.
This is also a story of redemption, not only for Percy, who finds a place where she can truly be free of her past and find herself at home, but also for Hannah and Shelby, who face their misgivings and abuses and take charge of their lives. It’s a show about friendship, growth, empowerment, and freedom and Gilead represents all of these things in subtle ways for each character.
Beautifully performed by an extremely talented cast, The Spitfire Grill is another brilliant notch in Lyric Arts’ belt, and is a stunning example of the caliber and mastery of the performances to come in Lyric Arts’ 20th season and beyond.
Kylie Schultz is a Minneapolis local and an Arts Ambassador with Theoroi, a young professionals group of the Schubert Club in St. Paul, MN.