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The Spitfire Grill

a Atlanta Premiere
CATEGORY : MUSICAL
by James Valcq , Fred Alley, Lee David Zlotoff

COMPANY : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
ID# 595

SHOWING : October 11, 2002 - December 29, 2002

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

To a town with no future comes a girl with a past.

A beautiful and touching American roots musical story based upon the movie of the same title. With a soaring score drawn from America's heartland, The Spitfire Grill celebrates the passionate spirit of renewal and triumph.

Given a Critic's Star by the AJC.

Nominated by the NY Outer Critic's Circle for Best Off-Broadway Musical of 2001 Award.


CAST & CREW LIST
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REVIEWS

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Contrivance and Conviction
by Dedalus
Monday, December 2, 2002
5.0
More than once, I have heard actor acquaintances discussing how they would never work in a musical, because it's not realistic to burst into song at any opportunity. I believe this to be a misguided and limiting paradigm that elevates “realism” to a higher position in the actor’s “bag of tricks” than it really deserves. After all, how realistic is it speak in verse, or to directly address the audience, or to speak in complete sentences with no ellipses or repetitions or colloquialisms? And what script is not, to some degree or other, a contrivance?

I submit, in support, Horizon Theatre's marvelous production of Fred Alley and James Valcq's "The Spitfire Grill." This is, by any standard, an extremely hokey, predictable, and contrived piece of plotting which works, primarily due to the conviction and skill of the performers, supported by the music they have been given to perform.

I won't summarize the plot here, as I do not have the skill to make it sound anything but silly and corny (the main reason I studiously avoided the movie upon which this show is based). Suffice it to say, every character is a caricature of some sort, every plot "development" can be seen hours in advance, and every emotion is calculated and executed on cue.

And yet, I found myself believing these were real people, and caring what happened to them. I found myself moved when the expected developments occurred. And I was sorry to see the show end. (More so, since I attended the final performance.)

The music was not particularly memorable -- I couldn't repeat a melody now. And yet, I enjoyed it enough that I will be looking up any recording of it. Is this a contradiction? Perhaps. But one of the joys of theatre (both performing and experiencing) is leaving contradictions unreconciled, stirring about the memory like two children who are always fighting, but who are equal in your heart.

The conviction brought by the cast should be text for all aspiring actors. Especially leading players Andrea Studley, Kristin Markiton, and Judy Leavell, these talented folks made each moment, spoken or sung, as "real" as anyone can aspire. It is a testament to their skill that the contrivances of the plot are not apparent until after the play, when all these contradictions are feuding in the back of your memory. Although Ms. Studley's voice tended to weaken and crack in the upper registers, this only made her more sympathetic, more human, and more (I'm beginning to hate this word) "realistic."

Although this show has closed, I think it important that the achievement of the actors and designers and director be recognized. And if this sounds like a contrived way to end a review, it least it is contrived with conviction.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)
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