By Bob Evans
Always expect to leave Olathe’s Chestnut Theatre with a smile and a feeling you just had a good time because that’s what’s in store when you see their current production, “The Spitfire Grill,” a sweet but gritty musical about life in a small northern town.
Brad Zimmerman, producing artistic director, departed from this normal music-oriented shows to present a book musical with heart and soul about a young woman rebuilding her life after a stint in prison. Looking for a fresh start away from anything remotely resembling her past, Percy arrives in a tiny town.
Upon arrival, Percy (Jessalyn Kincaid) meets the sheriff, (Patrick Beasley) who serves as the sheriff and kind of a parole office for the small burg of Gilead. He suggests Percy get a room from the owner of a small diner and inquire if she needs help. Crabby and crusty Hannah (Judy Simmons) desperately needs help, but is too proud to allow changes in her life. But, she does take Percy in and allows her to help.
As the regulars begin to drop in for breakfast and lunch, Percy meets the local gossip (Val Fagan), Hannah’s nephew Caleb (Andrew Schmidt), Caleb’s wife (Lindsay James) and eventually a shadowed character, Eli (Bob Wearing).
As the story unfolds, lots of music moves the piece forward in a departure from the original movie of the same name. The music is poignant and touching as each character divulges through song their innermost needs and pain. But, though there is pain, the piece contains much heartfelt dialogue,
humor, and chemistry among the characters and actors. The cast builds the relationships slowly and carefully so that the audience follows them in their journey.
The story follows the song, “There is a Balm in Gilead,” as the residents of the town, Percy especially, needs healing. And, with Percy’s arrival, the change begins. Unfortunate situation rear their heads, but be soothing healing begins and strengthens all as they recover from their past torture and pain.
The balm works and the audience learns so much about each character, his or her journey, and the fulfillment of forgiveness, growth, and unselfish love.
The show is a winner. “Spitfire Grill” bring humor into darkness, brings hope to characters, bring fulfillment to the audience as it develops. A hidden treasure, the show is low key entertainment with some great music performed by a great cast.
For me, I enjoyed hearing Kincaid sing a style I have not heard her perform before. The music was done with a country flavor and was enjoyable for me to hear her sing this genre. And, James delivered a beautiful number that sent chills. All the cast are great singers, but those two performances stood out to me in this show.
And, take note of the set. The set is well designed, intricate, so appropriate for this show. Musical accompaniment is all off stage, but so appropriate for this show.
“Spitfire Grill” continues through Oct.21. You will enjoy this. More information can be found on the Chestnut website. For tickets, call 913.764.2121.
Tags: Chestnut Fine Arts, Olathe KS, Spitfire Grill, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment