Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Spitfire Grill
Vintage Theatre Productions: 6/26 – 8/18

       L-R: Megan Van De Hey, Anne Oberbroeckling and Kelly Watt (Photo credit DenverMind Media)
     Sometimes it takes an ex-con newly released from prison to unlock the private self-inflicted confinement of those “on the outside.”
     Based upon the 1996 movie of the same title, “The Spitfire Grill” won the Richard Rodgers Production Award in 2001. Some of the judges for this competition include: Stephen Sondheim, John Guare and Richard Maltby, Jr.
      “The Spitfire Grill” is an homage to the simple life of small town America and the redemption it affords. The central character in this ‘play with music’ by James Valcq and Fred Alley is Percy Talbott, a woman newly released from prison who seeks refuge in starting a new life in rural Gilead, Wisconsin. Joe Sutter, the local sheriff suggests that Percy apply at The Grill to secure work and a room to call home. There Percy meets Hannah, the Spitfire’s cantankerous proprietor. When Hannah is injured in a fall her somewhat overprotective nephew, Caleb bristles when she asks Percy to manage things while she’s laid up. Caleb’s wife Shelby assists in the kitchen to keep the local gathering place afloat.
       Megan Van De Hey’s performance as Percy Talbott is the main reason to go see and hear this show. Van De Hey dazzles us with her sensational vocals and exuberantly expressive acting.
     Kelly Watt portrays Shelby, a young woman suffering the smothering and sometimes abusive love of Tom Auclair’s Caleb. Watt was the exquisite Luisa of the final production of “The Fantasticks” at The Denver Victorian Playhouse.  Auclair, who is just coming off his fine performance as the boy friend in “UNMarried in America” provides the requisite menace.
     Ann Oberbroeckling gives Hannah a homespun charm that’s hidden at first under her cranky façade.
     Mark Lively is in fine voice portraying Joe Sutter, the local sheriff.
     Nancy Van Fleet plays Effy, the postmistress who delivers as much gossip as she does mail.
     Clint Heyn does good work portraying a silent visitor of whom one can say no more without attaching a spoiler alert.
     The music direction by Trent Hines is steady and keeps the atmosphere humming with piano and strings.
     Jen Orf’s lighting design is of special note. One scene is luminescent beyond words. Watch for it.
     Describing the quaint rustic gathering place and its sylvan setting Laura K. Love’s scenic design is memorable. The exquisite hand painted trees surrounding the grill put one in mind of Robert Frost’s famous poem, “Birches.” One might add that a number of audience members were clamoring to buy sections of the scenic design after the show closes. It’s that good!
     Director Bev Newcomb-Madden has given the show a fluid pace that eliminates the black-outs that ordinarily make the show a patchwork quilt of rural snapshots. As a result we as audience see the play’s action as a continuous flow.

Vintage Theatre Productions
"The Spitfire Grill"
The musical journey of three women in small town Wisconsin.
June 26 - Aug. 16
Fri/Sat @ 7:30 p.m.; Sun. @ 2:30 p.m; Thurs., July 2 & Aug 13 @ 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 15 @2:30 p.m.
No performances July 3 & 4.
$32 ($28 advance)
303-856-7830 or online at
Vintage Theatre, 1468 Dayton St., Aurora 80010.

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