Burlington, News

Catholic Central to showcase “Spitfire Grill” this weekend

Catholic Central senior Tyler Kotte (left) and Ava Fait work together during a Feb. 15 rehearsal (Jason Arndt/Southern Lakes Newspapers).

By Jason Arndt

Audience members will likely chuckle and shed tears while experiencing a country folk tempo of music during Catholic Central High School’s musical production of “Spitfire Grill,” which is set to premier on Thursday with showtimes through the weekend.

“Spitfire Grill,” an American musical authored by James Valcq and Fred Alley, is based on the 1996 film of the same name and later became an off-Broadway production.

While the show premieres at 7 p.m., Thursday, other dates include 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. matinee performances on Saturday and Sunday.

For information on admission and to order tickets, visit www.showtix4u.com/event-details/80131.

According to actors in the musical, it features a West Virginia woman named Percy Thomas who leaves prison, and finds friendship in Gilead, Wisconsin, where she meets an old widow named Hannah Ferguson, and Shelby.

“It’s a really heartwarming story about three women who are in different parts of their lives,” said Mary Leigh Sturino, show director of the production, which is being presented by the Catholic Central Theatre Association.

“They should expect to laugh and cry. It’s a really fun and exciting show. It’s also funny, and it is dark – it has a little bit of everything.”

In addition to laughing and crying, the audience can expect another unique twist, featuring a heavy country melody.

“It has a really heavy folk vibe. There is country twang, even though it’s set in Wisconsin, the lead character is from West Virginia,” Sturino said.

She said the school selected “Spitfire Grill” because of its simplicity but the production consists of seven actors, so they added ensemble cast members to ensure all students have an opportunity to be involved.

Student actors include Ava Fait (Percy), Emily Kelly (Hannah), Tyler Kottke (Sheriff Joe Sutter), Josie Reesman (Shelby), Johanna Guerrero (Bertha), Joy Laplander (Karen), Luca Pedone (Caleb) and Clare Yopp (Effy).

Challenging roles
Fait, a senior, has been involved with Catholic Central musicals since her freshman year.

While she’s performed some leading roles – including one as a sophomore – she said playing Percy presented a challenge.

“I think the biggest challenge was relating to my character because, as an 18-year-old girl growing up in Burlington, I don’t have a lot to relate to,” Fait said.

In the show, Percy is a woman just released from prison in a poor area of West Virginia.

“The character was from a very poor town, so I had to do a lot of research on what my character’s situation was,” Fait said. “I had to do lot of thinking about how I was going to portray the role and give it the good acting that it deserved.”

Kottke, who plays Sheriff Joe, said his character’s personality is in stark contrast to his demeanor.

Kottke, who has also participated in several productions, said Sheriff Joe presents himself as someone looking for something more, outside of Gilead.

“He longs to leave Gilead and find his true self in a way, until he meets Percy… and you will find out more in the musical,” Kottke said.

“I am more of a homebody, so I like where I am and like staying in a small town. But for him, I had to really work toward that sense of longing for something more,” he added.

Unique song stylings
Kottke and Fait agreed the show will present a different musical vibe compared to typical productions.

Kottke, who admitted he didn’t really like country music, said he eventually developed an affinity for the style during rehearsals.

“When I first started the musical, I didn’t think I’d like the music because I am not a really big fan of country,” he said. “But as I got into it, I started having a deep affection for it.”

Fait, however, said she really enjoyed the music and what it brings to the performance.

“I love the music because it is so different,” she said. “This is so much different than any musical that anybody has ever heard. It has got that country twang.”

Community resonance
“Spitfire Grill,” set in a small town, carries some likeness to Burlington and other local areas.

Most audience members will likely note some similarities, Fait said.

“I would encourage them to come, obviously. I think the ‘Spitfire Grill’ is a really cool production to put on in Burlington because it’s about a small town,” she said.

“I think everybody in the audience will be able to find something in the story that they relate to.”

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