By Madison Watkins, A&E Editor
Welcome to Gilead! The Theatre Program on campus presented the musical production of “The Spitfire Grill” from Feb. 28 to Mar. 4 on the main stage of Jenkins Hall. The musical was based on a 1996 film of the same name as well as a script and music by James Valcq. Associate Professor of Theatre Pamela Z. Sears directed the show and Warren Heilman was the musical director.
The show centers around Percy, played by newcomer Pandora Crumpton, who travels to the small town of Gilead, WI to start a new life for herself after she gets out of jail on parole. Once she gets there the local sheriff Joe, played by Jakarie Miller, directs her to the Spitfire Grill, the only restaurant in town. The grill’s owner Hannah, played by Courtney Lawson, hires Percy to help out around the grill. When Hannah gets injured, Percy steps up to run the grill despite being scrutinized by everyone else in town and Hannah’s nephew Caleb, who was played by Elijah Doane.
With the help of Caleb’s wife Shelby, played by Madison Sloan, Percy is able to get her bearings with running the grill and begins to inspire everyone around her. Hannah had been trying to sell the grill for years with no avail so Percy and Shelby come up with the idea to raffle it off. They put out an ad asking for potential takers to write an essay on why they think they should get the grill, to be entered into the raffle. Eventually the essays start coming in by the wheelbarrow full, and Percy, Hannah, and Shelby try to determine a winner while also inspiring each other to confront their problems.
With a total of 20 songs in the show, pulling this off would be no easy feat. However, the cast and crew did a stellar job of making it work. You could tell how much work was put into the show by the set design, costumes, and standout performances of the actors.
The lack of choreography during most of the songs also gave the actors a chance to focus more on their performances and authenticity of their characters. Their performances proved even more impressive during the multiple emotional scenes of the show. Luckily, there were a few moments of comedy and sarcasm that provided some relief from the more heart-rending scenes.
The cast and band flowed really well together during the performances of the songs. With the inclusion of the cello and guitar in the band, the music presented a folk feel that really suited the small-town setting. The varying vocal types of each actor also worked really well together, especially the harmonies between Crumpton and Sloan.
A special mention needs to be said for Lighting Designer Mark Stater for his creative work on the show. The addition of the silhouettes of prison bars for the scene in Percy’s cell in the beginning and the silhouettes of tree branches for the scenes that took place outside, helped the scenes feel much more authentic.
Another special mention needs to be said for lead actress Pandora Crumpton. She handled all of the pressures of being a lead actress in a musical while being in her first college production remarkably well.
Sears summed up the show best with a quote in a news release by Georgia Southern, “When we individually feel neglected or afraid, opening our doors and hearts to someone may just be the first step to perspective and hope. Without revealing too many spoilers, ‘The Spitfire Grill’ depicts clear examples of this.”
The Theatre Program will be presenting its next show “Extremities” in the Blackbox Theatre of Jenkins Hall from April 5-8. Tickets can be purchased from the Armstrong box office. Tickets for students and faculty are free.