On Stage

L to R: Sydney Lanier, Kelsey Celek and Pam McGinnis in The Spitfire Grill L to R: Sydney Lanier, Kelsey Celek and Pam McGinnis in The Spitfire Grill

News and reviews

By Russell Florence, Jr.

L to R: Sydney Lanier, Kelsey Celek and Pam McGinnis in The Spitfire Grill


Beavercreek Community Theatre’s 15th sea-
son opens with a charming, poignant and authentic production of The Spitfire Grill, James Valcq and Fred Alley’s simplified musical adaptation of the 1996 film of the same name.

Directed with character-driven clarity by Doug Lloyd and set in the small town of Gilead, Wisconsin, the wonderfully intimate Spitfire Grill easily tugs the heart with its well-woven themes of forgiveness, hope, reconciliation and redemption. It also addresses the significance of second chances and the power of starting over, no matter how difficult, painful or horrific one’s past might be.

In a welcome return to local community theater, Wright State University musical thea-ter alum Sydney Lanier firmly embodies the troubled, soul-searching Perchance “Percy” Talbott, an ex-convict who chooses to begin anew in Gilead. Percy accepts a waitressing job at the titular diner, and as the seasons change and she assumes more responsibility, she grows to appreciate her humble surroundings and breaks down her emotional walls. This role fits Lanier like a glove, and her tough, reserved aura effectively dissipates as Percy’s journey of self-worth and budding love evolves, particularly when her parole officer, Sheriff Joe Sutter (an appealing Max Monnig), envisions a future with her.

Pam McGinnis delivers another humorous, convincing turn as Hannah Ferguson, the Spit-fire’s no-nonsense proprietress who ultimately befriends Percy and finds unexpected joy in the idea of selling her establishment for extra cash via raffle. McGinnis’ comedic timing and utter truthfulness of character are once again effortless. Some of the best moments in the show derive from her snippy rapport with Gilead’s gossipy postmistress Effy Krayneck, enjoyably played by Teresa Connair.

Lovely soprano Kelsey Celek, an outstanding Margaret Johnson in Wright State’s sublime production of The Light in the Piazza last season, brings an engaging timidity and warmth to her portrayal of Shelby Thorpe, a good-natured housewife in a rocky marriage who sparks a sisterhood with Percy. Celek’s beautifully tender, lyric-driven renditions of “When Hope Goes” and “Wild Bird,” two of the prettiest numbers in the folk-tinged score, are undeniable highlights that deserve
an encore.

Brad Mattingly also supplies striking vocals as Caleb, Shelby’s irascible yet oddly underwritten and one-dimensional husband. A booming baritone born to sing the role of Sweeney Todd one of these days, Mattingly, a Wright State vocal performance major, commands attention with “Digging Stone” but also heightens the harmonious arrangements within “Some-thing’s Cooking At The Spitfire Grill” and “Ice and Snow.” Chris Harmon completes the cast as the mysterious Visitor.

The contributions of scenic designer Bruce Brown, costumers Stephanie Dickey and Karen Dickey, and lighting designer John Falkenbach (particularly for Percy’s signature number “Shine”) are atmospherically sound. Stacy Gear’s choreography wasn’t required but is not a hindrance. Musical director Judy Mansky conducts a fine band.

The Spitfire Grill continues through Sept-ember 26 at the Lofino Center, 3868 Dayton-Xenia Rd., Beavercreek. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $13 for adults and $11 for seniors, students and BCT members. For tickets or more information, call (937) 429-4737 or visit www.BCTheatre.org


Among the findings of the Victoria Theatre Association and Arts Center Foundation’s 2009-2010 Community Report released last month were: an economic impact of approximately $5,285,770.00 during the local premiere of Wicked (which attracted over 53,000 people); Ticket Center Stage selling in excess of 305,000 tickets annually, totaling $9.5 million; and a revenue increase of 31 percent due to the extended presence of Wicked and The Phantom of the Opera. The report can be downloaded at www.VictoriaTheatre.com/CommunityReport.


The performance rights for Adam Gwon’s New York-themed musical Ordinary Days, staged by the Human Race Theatre Company last season, are officially available. The rights were acquired by R&H Theatricals, a division of
Rodgers & Hammerstein: An Imagem Com-pany. The musical’s off-Broadway cast re-cording, featuring Lisa Brecia, Hunter Foster (Urinetown the Musical), Jared Gertner and Kate Wetherhead, is also available courtesy of Ghostlight Records. For more information, visit www.GhostlightRecords.com.

Reach DCP A&C editor/theater critic Russell Florence, Jr. at cultureeditor@daytoncitypaper.com

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