The Spitfire Grill at Bohemian Theatre Ensemble | Theater review
The impressive Laura Savage leads a powerful cast through a tepid musical.
Sitting at a bus stop with her hair in a sloppy ponytail and an ill-fitting jacket on her back, Percy (Laura Savage) has just been released after five years in prison, and she’s looking for a fresh start in the small town of Gilead. As she sings the expository opening number, Savage’s guarded body language emphasizes Percy’s vulnerability and fear, but her powerful voice suggests strength beneath the surface. Arriving at her destination, Percy secures a job at the decrepit Spitfire Grill, blossoming into a new woman as she helps revitalize the restaurant and town along the way.
Savage gives a beautifully transformative performance in James Valcq and Fred Alley’s uneven 2001 musical, based on the 1996 film. She leads a cast of considerable talent through a derivative script and score. All the familiar characters are here: the fish out of water; the hardened mentor; the town gossip; the shy but sweet best friend and her overbearing husband. While a movie has time to slow down and flesh out these types, this musical rushes past character work to get through the plot.
Valcq’s score is a toe-tapping mix of country and bluegrass melodies with more traditional show tunes, but the lyrics are limp; many songs end with the same word or phrase repeated over and over. Despite a flawless cast, the material is underwhelming, particularly for bitter, villainous husband Caleb. Jeremy Trager sings Caleb’s solo with unbridled passion, yet when the music disappears, the character’s motivation fades with it.