Few regional theatre openings this season have had the buzz that hovered over The Spitfire Grill, a new musical that ended its premiere at New Jersey’s George Street Playhouse, Dec. 23, 2000. At the time, those involved were hesitant to talk about post-regional plans for the musical, but it was an open secret the theatre was excited about the show and that New York producers were watching it closely.
Now George Street spokesperson Kelly Ryman has confirmed (March 15) that Fred Alley and James Valcq's musical will be done at Off-Broadway's Playwrights Horizons in the fall. George Street artistic director David Saint, who staged Spitfire Grill in NJ, will again direct, and the hope is that the original cast-members will return for the Manhattan mounting. The show is not a co-production with George Street but will be essentially the George Street staging.
Beauty and the Beast’s Beth Fowler, a Tony nominee for the Sweeney Todd revival a few years ago, starred as a cafe owner, opposite newcomer Garrett Long. Also in the cast were Janet Metz (Marie Christine, Once Upon a Mattress, Harmony in L.A.) and Susan Mansur (Damn Yankees, OB’s Ruthless!). Even better known were the show’s designers: Michael Anania (sets), The Best Man’s Theoni V. Aldredge (costumes) and Howell Binkley (lighting).
In February, The Spitfire Grill shared honors with and Leon Ko and Robert Lee's Heading East as winners of the Academy of Arts and Letters 2001 Richard Rodgers Awards for musicals. Grill is a collaboration by Alley and Valcq, with Valcq doing the music, Alley penning the lyrics, and the duo adapting the book.
In NJ, performances of the tuner began Nov. 25, 2000 with an opening Nov. 29. The title is the name of a restaurant, where the no-nonsense owner, Hannah, and a former women's prison inmate, Percy (Garrett Long), trying to start over develop a friendship — and a contest. Valcq is best known for writing the book and score for Off-Broadway's Zombies From the Beyond. Alley collaborated with James Kaplan on the Weavers-based revue, Goodnight Irene!, as well as on the regionally-popular Lumberjacks in Love. Luis Perez is the choreographer.
According to George Street's Ryman, songs in the musical, which was workshopped there last summer, include “The Colors of Paradise,” “Shine” and the folky ballad, “Wild Bird.”
A spokesperson for Playwrights Horizons (reached March 14) could not confirm that Spitfire Grill was on the company's schedule and said all announcements about the season's roster were still forthcoming.
- By David Lefkowitz