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“The Spitfire Grill” is a story for our time. In the musical, a financially depressed town plays host to a young woman just released from prison. Parolee Percy Talbott, played by Jess Cullinan, chose the town from an old tourist pamphlet, printed years before the quarry closed and the highway was diverted around the town.
Percy reports to Sheriff Joe Sutter, played by Patrick MacDonald. Sutter takes her to the Spitfire Grill, which affords the only room and the only potential employment in town. Like the 1996 movie upon which the play is based, there’s a love story involving Percy and the sheriff, but unlike the movie, the play has an uplifting ending.
Carolyn Conner plays Hannah, the crusty old woman who owns the grill. She provides much of the comedy in the play. Postmistress Effy Kayneck, played by Gwen Wiens, is the amusing town gossip. She passes on the story of the new girl in town, snidely embellishing what little she knows.
When Hannah falls and is injured, Percy must run the grill. Only problem is she has never done more “cooking” than opening cans and warming TV dinners. Shelby Thorpe, the wife of Hannah’s nephew, is enlisted to help. Gentle Shelby, played by Elisa Enriquez, becomes Percy’s friend and confidant. Shelby’s husband Caleb, on the other hand, is sour and unkind. Played by Warren Houghteling, Caleb gives voice to the town’s frustration and despair.
Percy and Shelby come up with a plan to save the Spitfire Grill by raffling it off. The national attention attracted by the raffle sets in motion the transformation of the town, from despair to hope and from neglect to pride.
Painful secrets run through the story as well. Percy’s terrible secret led to her incarceration. Hannah’s shameful secret is embodied in the mysterious and silent “visitor,” played by Larry Gibbons. But both women find redemption in the end.
The show’s music underlies the change of seasons and the transformation of the town and the characters. Director Laurie Tomlinson said, “The music is such a major part of the play, and it’s fantastic that we have wonderful singers who can act. This is my third major collaboration with Music Director Gretchen Amstutz (“Annie Get Your Gun,” “Sound of Music”). I so admire Gretchen’s musical talents and can always depend on the music and orchestration coming together. We complement each other’s abilities.” The small combo of keyboards, cello, guitar/mandolin and fiddle produces infectious melodies styled in folk music, country and gentle bluegrass.
Los Alamos Little Theatre’s production of “The Spitfire Grill” plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday as well as May 14, 15, 21 and 22.
There will matinee performances at 2 p.m. Sunday and May 16. Shows are at the Performing Arts Center, 1670 Nectar St.
Tickets are $12 general admission, $10 for students and seniors and are available at CB Fox and at the door. For more information, call 662-4593 or see www.lalt.org.