Wheaton College’s Arena Theater will perform The Spitfire Grill, a musical that depicts the journey of a young woman recently released from prison as she tries to start a new life, for the first time on Thursday.
The play is an American musical written by James Valcq and Fred Alley. The musical received high praise from The Wall Street Journal and USA Today when it debuted in an off-Broadway production in 2001. At the time, critics commented on the show’s relevance to the terrorist attacks earlier that year, saying, “If after the events of recent weeks you need any reason at all to embrace life again, the musical you’ve been waiting for has arrived.”
The cast is small — only six people — and features seniors Emma Baker, Travis Shanahan, Wesley Peterson, sophomore Carolyn Waldee, junior Jenna Conway and Lisa Enoch. The group has been rehearsing for the past five weeks in order to make the show a success. “It’s a musical with a folk and bluegrass feel, and there’s an accordion,” said one of the actors.
The protagonist, Percy Talbott, takes a job at The Spitfire Grill in the rural town of Gilead, Wis. Conway plays Shelby, a girl who becomes unlikely friends with the protagonist. “The show centers on (the protagonist) looking for redemption and facing her past,” Conway said. Through Percy’s journey, the town finds its own reawakening.
Rebecca Watkins, head of props for the show, described the style of the musical as “more down to earth and worshipful.”
Watkins felt that “the audience will be drawn into the life of the Grill and what the musical has to say about home, forgiveness, family and community.”
There is a preview performance on Thursday, Feb. 18 and more performances on Feb. 19, 20, 24, 25 and 26, with two on Feb. 27. All the shows are at 7:30 except for the matinee on Feb. 27, which is at 2 p.m.