Soft light glistened through leaves touched with crimson and gold, and one could almost feel the cool autumn breeze inside the theater during Cincinnati Christian Schools’ production of “The Spitfire Grill.” With radiant vocals and intricate characters, the production shifted easily from breezy tunes to heartbreaking exchanges as easily and elegantly as the changing leaves.
“The Spitfire Grill,” a musical based on the 1996 film of the same name, features Percy, a young woman just released from a five year jail sentence. She travels to the quaint town of Gilead, Wisconsin, where Sheriff Joe sets her up with a room and job at the Spitfire Grill, the only diner in town. Hannah, the diner’s elderly owner, becomes injured and passes the responsibility of the restaurant to Percy and Hannah’s niece, Shelby.
Cincinnati Christian Schools’ production was rooted by powerful vocals and refined relationships. Interactions between characters were realistic and varied impeccably from light-hearted and jovial to controlling and tragic.
Katie Kulp (Percy) displayed impressive versatility, ranging from crass and abrasive to breathtakingly sincere. Kulp’s vocal control was remarkable, shifting from brassy to honeyed without wavering. Keegan Burton (Joe) was contrastingly sweet. Burton’s charming portrayal balanced well with Kulp, creating an interesting dichotomy.
Jenna Van Weelden (Shelby) was simply stunning. VanWeelden conveyed a lovable girl next door with impressive growth throughout the musical, beginning as a quiet girl and flourishing into an independent woman. VanWeelden’s auroral voice instilled each of her songs with moving sentiment.
The set transported one into the world of Gilead. Inside of the Spitfire Grill, the counters and windows felt homey, and the chalkboard sign that changed from “no specials” to “ask about our specials” was a delightful touch. The autumn trees, each with hand painted trunk and leaves, gorgeously enveloped one into the dreamlike world of the town’s forests.
Cincinnati Christian Schools’ production of “The Spitfire Grill” was brilliantly executed. Firm vocals and well-developed relationships matched an astounding set to truly create the town and life of Gilead, Wisconsin. As leaves begin to change colors and fall, memories of this show will grow green for many months to come.
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