The Spitfire Grill (Original Playwrights Horizons Cast Recording) CD
Version: PLAYWRIGHTS HORIZONS
Composer: Valcq, James
Lyricist: Alley, Fred
Callaway, Liz/Long, Garrett/Gordon Murray, Mary
ORIGINAL CAST RECORDS
Based on the Film by Lee David Zlotoff! Starring: Liz Callaway, Garrett Long and Mary Gordon Murray.
Recipient of the 2001 Richard Rodgers Production Award! Recorded December 20, 2001 in NYC.
Since it opened Off-Broadway in 2001 at Playwrights Horizons, The Spitfire Grill has become one of the most often-produced new American musicals. All across the United States, from Canada to the Caribbean, from Korea to Germany, from the UK to Japan, The Spitfire Grill has had more than 350 productions. Based on the award-winning film by Lee David Zlotoff, the musical depicts the journey of a young woman just released from prison who decides to start her life anew in a rural Wisconsin town. She precipitates a journey within the town itself toward its own tenuous reawakening. The folk and bluegrass tinged score is unlike that for any other musical.
ABOUT THE MUSICAL
Authors James Valcq (Music & Book) and Fred Alley (Lyrics & Book) had been friends since high school music camp in 1980, but it wasn’t until 1994 that they collaborated on The Passage for Alley’s American Folklore Theatre in Wisconsin. New York-based Valcq was seeking a follow-up project for the pair after his Zombies from The Beyond closed Off-Broadway in 1995. They wanted to create a piece of populist theatre with elements of myth and folktale. Upon seeing the film The Spitfire Grill, they had found their vehicle. Actual writing of the musical commenced in October of 1999.
A demo tape of a few songs from the score found its way to David Saint, Artistic Director of the George Street Playhouse in New Jersey. The theatre presented a workshop of the show in June, 2000 featuring Helen Gallagher as Hannah, and produced the world premiere production in November 2000 featuring Beth Fowler as Hannah. Throughout the process, Arthur Laurents mentored the creative team, encouraging them to find their own emotional truth in the material. The ending of the musical is entirely different from the ending of the film.
Ira Weitzman, Associate Producer of musicals at Playwrights Horizons, and Tim Sanford, the Artistic Director, saw the George Street production and announced that The Spitfire Grill would open the 2000-2001 season at Playwrights Horizons after a May workshop. Tragically, one week before the workshop, Alley suffered a fatal heart attack while jogging in the woods near his Wisconsin home. He died at the age of 38.
Two weeks later, The Spitfire Grill was presented with the Richard Rodgers Production Award. Stephen Sondheim chairs the committee that chose the The Spitfire Grill as the winner. The remainder of the group comprised Lynn Ahrens, Jack Beeson, John Guare, Sheldon Harnick, R. W. B. Lewis, Richard Maltby, Jr., and Robert Ward.
The Off-Broadway production featured Phyllis Somerville as Hannah, Garrett Long as Percy, and Liz Callaway as Shelby. It was directed by David Saint. The show received Best Musical nominations from the Outer Critics Circle and Drama League, as well as Drama Desk nominations for Garrett Long as Outstanding Actress in a Musical and Liz Callaway as Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical.
Since the Playwrights Horizons production, The Spitfire Grill has been produced over 300 times in regional theatres as well as in community and school productions. Foreign language versions have been produced in Germany in 2005, in South Korea in 2007, and in 2009 in Tokyo. Notable American versions include a co-production by American Folklore Theatre (founded by Fred Alley) and Skylight Opera Theatre (2002) which featured Phyllis Somerville as Hannah, the West Coast premiere at Laguna Playhouse (2002) which won the OC Award for Best Musical, and the Idaho Shakespeare Festival production in 2006 which was conducted by James Valcq. The show continues to conquer new continents with additional international productions. In August 2008 The Spitfire Grill had its UK premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in an acclaimed production by the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, and the Australian premiere will take place in 2010.
AWARDS & NOMINATIONS
▪The New York/Off-Broadway Production received an Outer Critics Circle Award nomination for Best Off Broadway Musical.
▪ The New York/Off-Broadway Production received a Drama League Award nomination for Best Off Broadway Musical.
▪ The New York/Off-Broadway Production was nominated for two Drama Desk Awards: Outstanding Actress in a Musical (Garrett Long) and Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical (Liz Callaway).
▪ The Washington DC production received 2 Helen Hayes Award nominations.
▪ The Los Angeles production received a Dramalogue Award nomination for Best Musical.
▪ The Laguna production won the OC Award for Best Musical. Actor Misty Cotton (as Percy) received a nomination for Best Performance in a Musical.
▪ The Chicago production received 3 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations.
▪ The San Francisco production won the Bay Area Critics Circle Award for Best Musical.
▪ The Dallas production received 4 Leon Rabin Award nominations including Outstanding Production of a Musical, and won 2.
▪The Florida production received 3 Carbonell Award nominations.
Rural Wisconsin. February. Percy Talbott gazes out her prison cell window. She’s about to be released. [A RING AROUND THE MOON] Arriving in the deserted town of Gilead, Percy reports to Sheriff Joe Sutter who procures her a room and a job at a ramshackle diner called the Spitfire Grill, run by a crusty old widow, Hannah Ferguson.
Caught in a swirl of small town suspicions [SOMETHING’S COOKING] led by postmistress and village busybody Effy, Percy begins to wonders whether she’s made a mistake in coming to Gilead. [COFFEE CUPS AND GOSSIP] When Hannah trips on the stairs and breaks her leg, she has Percy take over the Spitfire against the better wishes of her fiercely protective nephew Caleb. But when it comes to cooking, Percy is clueless. [INTO THE FRYING PAN]
Percy is joined at the Spitfire by Caleb’s wife Shelby. In the heat of the kitchen the two women are drawn together. Shelby tells Percy about Hannah and Gilead’s past – the day her childhood hero went off to war and her hometown changed forever. [WHEN HOPE GOES]
Wanting to escape painful memories, Hannah’s had the Grill on the real estate market for ten years with no takers. Percy dreams up a possible solution: a raffle. For a hundred dollars and an essay about why they might want the Grill, anyone can enter. As the rest of the town watches the long Wisconsin winter stubbornly give way to spring [ICE AND SNOW], the women at the Spitfire plan the contest details. [SHELBY’S AD] Percy and Shelby share a vision of life as they wish it were while writing the ad for the raffle. [THE COLORS OF PARADISE]
Caleb spots the ads in out-of-town papers. Without a decent job since the local quarry closed, he’s been left trying to sell real estate no one wants. His disappointment pours out as he laments a world where it’s no longer enough to be a hard working man. [DIGGING STONE]
During a parole session, Percy tells Joe something of her bleak past growing up in the West Virginia coal mines. Joe in turn spills out his dissatisfaction with life in Gilead. [THIS WIDE WOODS]
Soon the very first raffle entry arrives in the mail, complete with a hundred dollars and a rather depressing essay which only stirs up Hannah’s old wounds. [FORGOTTEN LULLABY] That night on the back porch, Percy encounters a silent visitor. She attempts to make conversation but the mysterious man flees. As summer approaches, essays begin to pour in from far and wide. [SHOOT THE MOON]
Hannah, Percy and Shelby sit in the Grill after hours reading essays. [OPENING ACT II] Hannah expresses her appreciation for what Percy and Shelby have done. [COME ALIVE AGAIN] Before long everyone in town is helping Hannah to sift through the letters, and a palpable shift occurs throughout Gilead.
Now seeing Gilead through the eyes of so many letter writers, Joe tells Percy that he no longer wants to leave town. He plans to build a house on a plot of land his father has given him. [FOREST FOR THE TREES] Deeply troubled, Percy abruptly rejects Joe’s marriage proposal and, after he goes, confides to Shelby the harsh details of her life. Impregnated by her stepfather when she was 16, Percy suffered untold abuse resulting in the loss of her unborn child. While on the run, she killed her stepfather with his own straight razor. Shelby comforts Percy and gently sings her to sleep. [WILD BIRD]
When Percy awakens, she again sees the mysterious visitor and at last realizes he is in fact Eli, Hannah’s son. He leads Percy to a forest clearing. [SUNRISE] The leaves have turned to blazing autumn colors. [SHINE]
Percy brings Eli back to the Grill to re-unite him with Hannah after so many years. In a tense confrontation, Shelby and Caleb recognize Eli and react with such shock at his battered appearance and broken demeanor that Eli flees. Hannah finally admits that Eli had been a deserter in the Vietnam war. The shame of it killed her husband. And though Hannah has taken care of Eli’s basic needs, she has kept his presence in the woods a secret. Percy pleads with Hannah to express forgiveness to Eli. Night falls. Hannah calls out to her son. [WAY BACK HOME] Out of the shadows, Eli appears once more. Hannah reaches out her hand to welcome him home.
While taking first steps to rebuild their lives and relationships, everybody eagerly greets the last day of Hannah’s contest. They all read their favorite essays. Finally Hannah reads the words that have touched her the most, and reveals who will get the Spitfire Grill. [FINALE]
“THE BEST MUSICAL OF 2001”
-John Simon, New York Magazine
BEST MUSICAL! 2002 OUTER CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD NOMINATION
BEST MUSICAL! 2002 DRAMA LEAGUE AWARD NOMINATION
WINNER! 2001 RICHARD RODGERS PRODUCTION AWARD
“A SOUL-SATISFYING NEW MUSICAL”
“THE SPITFIRE GRILL IS A COMPLETE WORK OF THEATRICAL RESOURCEFULNESS. A COMPELLING STORY THAT FLOWS WITH GRACE AND CARRIES THE RUSH OF ANTICIPATION. THE WARM, INDIGENOUS AMERICAN FOLK SOUND OF MR. VALCQ’S SCORE IS, HARMONICALLY AND MELODICALLY, AS THEATRICAL AS IT IS GRASS ROOTS. MR. ALLEY’S LYRICS ACCOMPLISH THE CONSIDERABLE FEAT OF POETICALLY OFFERING INSPIRATION WHILE HOLDING THE SYRUP. THE MUSICAL IS FREEING. IT IS PENETRATED BY HONESTY AND IT GLOWS.”
-Alvin Klein, The New York Times
“A SOULFUL MUSICAL”
“THE AMIABLE COUNTRY-FLAVORED TUNES AND LYRICS ARE TRANSCENDANT. IT IS NOT OFTEN THAT MATERIAL MOVES ME TO TEARS, BUT THIS WAS ONE OF THOSE OCCASIONS. THE SPITFIRE GRILL HAS THE HEART AND SOUL THAT YOUR PRODUCERS AND FULL MONTYS CANNOT BEGIN TO APPROACH. WHAT EVEN IN NORMAL TIMES WOULD BE A JOY IS, IN THESE TROUBLED ONES, SHEER NOURISHMENT.”
-John Simon, New York Magazine
“HOSANNAHS TO THE HEARTLAND! SOARING MELODIES!”
“THE SPITFIRE GRILL FEELS AS IF IT HAS BEEN TRANSPLANTED TO TIMES SQUARE DIRECTLY FROM AN OBSCURE PATCH OF THE AMERICAN HEARTLAND. THE LONGING FOR A PLACE LIKE GILEAD, WELL REMOVED FROM THE BIG, TROUBLESOME WORLD, IS REAL ENOUGH – PERHAPS NOW MORE THAN EVER. THE SHOW’S CREATORS TAP INTO THAT LONGING WITH UNEMBARASSED DIRECTNESS. AT A TIME WHEN CYNICISM SEEMS DOWNRIGHT UNPATRIOTIC, SOPHISTICATES MAY FIND THEMSELVES POWERLESS TO RESIST. WELL BEFORE THE SHOW REACHES ITS CONCLUSION, MANY OF THE NEW YORK CITY SLICKERS IN THE AUDIENCE MAY BE READY TO ENTER PERCY’S RAFFLE THEMSELVES.”
-Amy Gamerman, The Wall Street Journal
“AN ABUNDANCE OF WARMTH, SPIRIT, AND GOODWILL!”
“SOME OF THE MOST ENGAGING AND INSTANTLY INFECTIOUS MELODIES I’VE HEARD IN A MUSICAL IN SOME TIME. VALCQ’S RESONANT, FOLK-BASED ORCHESTRATIONS MAKE THE FETCHING TUNES EVEN MORE ACCESSIBLE AND POIGNANT. OPEN YOUR HEART AND VISIT THE SPITFIRE GRILL.”
-Elysa Gardner, USA Today
“THE SONGS ARE SHINY WITH TUNEFULNESS, HOPE, AND ALL-AMERICAN INFLECTIONS OF COUNTRY AND FOLK. MR. VALCQ’S SCORE HAS A GENTLE AMERICAN VERNACULAR CHARM. MR. ALLEY’S LYRICS HAVE A MATCHING EASE AND SIMPLICITY.”
-Ben Brantley, The New York Times
“RICH AND SATISFYING! TENDER AND TOUCHING!”
“THE COUNTRY-TINGED SCORE FITS LIKE A FAVORITE FLANNEL SHIRT. LIKE THE COFFEE CAKE SERVED AT THE DINER, ‘THE SPITFIRE GRILL’ ACTUALLY LEAVES YOU WANTING A SECOND HELPING.”
-Mark Sullivan, Billboard
“THOSE WONDERFUL SONGS!”
“VALCQ’S MELODIES ARE AT TIMES WISTFUL AND ROMANTIC, AT OTHER TIMES STRIKINGLY RHYTHMIC. ALLEY’S LYRICS ARE STURDY AND WELL-CRAFTED.”
-Michael Kuchwara, Associated Press
“AN UPBEAT LITTLE MUSICAL WITH A GREAT BIG HEART!”
“VALCQ AND ALLEY’S DISARMING SONGS GENERATE A GLOW.”
-Michael Sommers, The Star-Ledger
“A LOVELY NEW MUSICAL IN THE RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN TRADITION. “
-Victor Gluck, Associated Press
“A TERRIFIC NEW MUSICAL THAT UPLIFTS YOUR SPIRIT!”
-David Richardson, WOR Radio