Inside the intimate setting of APU’s Black Box Theater, the Department of Theater Arts put on its performance of “The Spitfire Grill” from Feb. 5-15. The musical is based on a 1996 film of the same name.
The show features 12 students from the department performing in the story about recently released ex-convict Percy Talbott (played by junior Morgan Reynolds), who looks to the small, dying Wisconsin town of Gilead to build a new life and home for herself.
“The irony of Percy simultaneously being a fish out of water and the only fish who wants to be there is just one of the reasons why I love the story of Spitfire Grill and why I jumped at the chance to direct it,” said director Rhonda Kohl in the playbill.
Percy finds herself working at the only restaurant in town, The Spitfire Grill. It’s run by Hannah Ferguson, who’s been trying to sell the restaurant since her husband died. Between the small-town gossip and the downtrodden nature of Gilead, Percy finds herself the center of attention.
“Percy is an outsider and she just doesn’t take crap from anyone. She’s there and says: ‘This is where I want to be and this is what I want to do. I’m just going to take the punches,'” said sophomore Andrew Bliek, who plays Hannah’s nephew and self-appointed caretaker, Caleb.
Caleb serves as the antagonist, being Percy’s biggest doubter and carrying much of the weight of the town’s hard luck.
Of course, in a small town, things are never as simple as they seem to be. Gilead is no exception, featuring complex relationships and histories.
“It is very real to life and I love the dynamic in between each character,” Bliek said.
The best part of the play may be the intimate venue. “The play was in only one setting, so it is perfect for the Black Box Theater,” freshman Caitlin Slater said. “It created such an intimate setting, and you really felt like you were there and going through the struggles.”
One can’t help but be drawn in by his or her proximity to the stage. The small town of Gilead comes alive in the theater.
“As much of a challenge as it was, it enhanced the performance all the more,” Bliek said.
Bringing some star power to the production is Sam Kriger, noted for his vocal coaching of Idina Menzel, Kristin Bell and Josh Gad on Disney’s “Frozen.” He brings his longstanding relationship with Disney to the performers at APU.
APU Theatre’s last show of the season, Picnic, opens March 19.