In Missoula Community Theatre’s latest production, The Spitfire Grill, a small ensemble cooks up a poignant story, loaded with heart. The warm folk musical, based on 1996 film by the same name, comes to the MCT Center for the Performing Arts March 5-15.
Director Joseph Martinez says this moving, relatively unknown show was one he felt MCT had to share. “This story is filled with sadness and joy. Darkness and light. Struggle and redemption – all told in a beautiful way, not only with dialogue, but with an amazing folksy score,” he says. “There are pieces of instrumentation, a piano line or the haunting sound of a cello, that would bring me to tears.”
The story revolves around Percy, a young woman who has just been released from prison. Based on a photograph clipped from a travel book, she chooses the tiny town of Gilead, WI, where she hopes to rise above her story and her painful past.
The local sheriff leads her to the ramshackle Spitfire Grill, run by the aging, sharp-tongued widow, Hannah. Eventually, Percy dreams up a way for Hannah to get rid of the Spitfire and make some money at the same time: a raffle. For a hundred dollars and an essay about why they might want the Grill, anyone can enter. As the essays begin to pour in, a musical journey of renewal, self-discovery, and redemption begins for Percy and her new community.
Working with the talented, tight-knit cast of seven – including three actors who are new to the MCT stage – has been an invigorating experience for Martinez. “I haven’t directed a show with less than 40 people in it for quite a while. In the time that I usually take to stage a gigantic musical number – in Elf, for example – we can really dive into the characters, their actions, and their motivations,” he says. “It’s really exciting when you can work that way.”
He also looks forward to presenting The Spitfire Grill to Missoula audiences. “It pleases me that we, MCT, can offer shows that aren’t always mainstream. We have the responsibility of introducing and sharing those shows with our audience.”
Audiences should note The Spitfire Grill contains mild adult themes and is rated PG-13.
Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, March 5-15. Tickets for are available at MCTinc.org. by calling 406-728-PLAY(7529); or at the MCT Box Office, which is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.