The Spitfire Grill – Union Theatre

image6Spitfire Grill started life as a 1996 film and was then turned into a musical, running off-Broadway in 2001. It tells the story of Percy, a young woman recently released from Prison who makes her way to the rural American town of Gilead, Wisconsin after seeing a picture of it in a magazine. Her parol officer sets her up with a job in the only cafe in town, the Spitfire Grill where she helps Hannah, the elderly owner. When Hannah talks of wanting to sell up but having no one wanting to buy it, Percy suggests running a competition in the local newspaper to win the restaurant. Will anyone want to buy a run down cafe or will Hannah be stuck there forever? And how will the locals react when they find out exactly why Percy was in prison?

Musically, Spitfire Grill is a triumph. The songs are melodic and incredibly catchy throughout. From the country and western styled ‘Out of the Frying Pan’ to the cleverly choreographed ‘Ice and Snow’ where the cast bang on chairs and tables to create the music, there is something hear to suit everyone’s taste. The finale to Act 1 ‘Shoot the Moon’ was again very catchy and well choreographed, bringing the whole cast together.

The stars of this show are Belinda Wollaston (Percy) and Hilary Harwood (Hannah). Two brilliant actresses with amazing contrasting singing voices. Belinda is like a young Calamity Jane and Hilary gives everything she has to the role. Katie Brennan is a great comedy actress as post office worker and town gossip monger Effy. Her voice really shines and she gets all the laughs from the audience.

The Spitfire Grill is well directed by Alastair Knights, with minimal props or scenery. It is a little confusing as to why in act one people are drinking out of imaginary cups when in act two real mugs suddenly appear making you wonder why they weren’t there all along but this seems to have been a conscious decision that was made (although the reason is unclear). Some kind of backdrop would have been nice (a simple glowing cafe sign perhaps) but the show still works with just the bare bones.

I highly recommend getting yourself to the Union Theatre and checking out this wonderful musical that you may not already know. I loved every second of it (and at only two hours including an interval it doesn’t drag on).

Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Darren Bell

The Spitfire Grill is playing at the Union Theatre until 15 August 2015. Click here for more information and to book tickets.