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‘Spitfire Grill’ musical begins showing at UWRF

Falcon News Service

November 5, 2015

The musical “The Spitfire Grill,” now showing in the Blanche Davis Theatre on the UW-River Falls campus, is about a woman who is discharged from prison and comes upon a rural town in Wisconsin. There she meets new people and finds redemption.

Based on a 1996 movie written and directed by David Lee Zlotoff, “Spitfire Grill” was adapted as a musical by James Valcq and the late Fred Alley, both from Wisconsin.

The movie is set in a rural town in Maine, while the musical is based on a town in rural Wisconsin. According to Sean Dooley, the director of the musical, Valcq based the play in Wisconsin because anyone in a rural town anywhere would be able to connect to the people and the story.

Dooley knew that he wanted to do this musical this semester, because he wanted students and locals to find connection with the play about what it’s like to live in a rural town, but also connect with the theme of redemption. Dooley said that “we like to see ourselves on stage”.

Dooley made a few changes to the set that were not in the original musical. He decided to use a few props that stay on the stage throughout the play and are never moved. A small amount of furniture is used because the audience would concentrate more on the story than what they are looking at.

Another change was to use a “raked” stage. A raked stage is where the set is raised up to six degrees at the back so it slants down towards the audience. This also is where the terms upstage and downstage come from. The technique has been used since the Italian Renaissance, but is rare to see for modern plays. Dooley said he decided to use the technique so that the audience feels as if they are in the bar.

The music for the play is a mix of folk music and musical theatre, and is influenced by bluegrass. Musical Director Calyssa Hall is a senior at UWRF but is conducting local musicians because there aren’t any students at the university who can play accordion or mandolin. Altogether there will be six musicians playing the piano, guitar, mandolin, accordion, violin and cello.

The play, Hall said, is “not a revival of an old musical… it’s a really cool local experience and something you don’t see every day in musicals”.

This will be Hall’s first time conducting a musical. However, being a music major and owning a theatre company, it is not her first time working on musicals and plays.

The musical began its run Oct. 29-31. During the Halloween weekend the box office sold 194 tickets.

Performances continue Nov. 5-7. Tickets are still being sold at the box office from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and on performance days from 6:30-7:30 p.m. The Blanche Davis Theatre is in the Kleinpell Fine Arts Building. Performances of “The Spitfire Grill” start at 7:30 p.m.