Belfry concludes season with musical ‘Spitfire Grill’
“Spitfire Grill,” the final show of the Belfry Theatre’s 2012-2013 season, is a homecoming for many actors whose faces have not been seen onstage for many years.
While Rob Lawson is appearing in his 34th show, most of the small cast has been away for many years. Linnéa Leatherman’s only appearance was in 2005’s “Don’t Drink the Water,” and it has been a couple of years since Darrin Gowan performed in the award-winning “Don’t Talk to the Actors.”
“It’s nice to have new people. Even though they haven’t been here, they have been in different plays,” Wagner said.
Making their Belfry debuts are Susie Walden, who is fulfilling a bucket list item, and Stephanie Mathis, who is married to Brian Mathias (Sheriff Joe Sutter).
“It’s an opportunity to spend more time with him,” Stephanie said. “I’m so nervous. I’m constantly having him help me.”
Brian is making his second appearance on the Belfry stage – he debuted in last season’s concluding show, “Hollywood Arms,” which was also directed by Elaine Wagner. Brian played a sheriff in “The Trip to Bountiful” at Mud Creek Players to prepare for this role.
“I was looking at it a year ago,” he said. “I just loved the music in this show.”
For the past nine months, Molly Grooms has been busy majoring in arts administration-music as a freshman at Butler University. The 2012 Noblesville High School graduate stars as Percy Talbott, the lead character in “Spitfire Grill.”
“She’s a very good actress, and she really sings beautifully. There’s a lot of singing in this show, and her voice is getting better all the time,” Wagner said.
Grooms, 19, began her music and theater career at the age of 7 at the Belfry. Since “Charlotte’s Web,” she has been involved in seven shows including all four musicals at NHS. As a high school freshman, Grooms won the Encore Award for best supporting actress under 18 for her role as Millie in the Belfry’s production of “Picnic.”
“I’m thrilled to be returning to the stage again,” she said.
Wagner said she was somewhat apprehensive about casting Grooms because of her age as the role calls for a woman in her mid-20s.
“As young as she is, I was a little concerned about her relating to the character. The character in the play has been through so much in life,” she said. “A Prevail agent helped give her an idea of how a woman thinks that’s been through a lot of abuse in life.”
Prevail advocate Claire Doherty worked with Grooms and applied her own theater background to help the teenager better understand the role’s needs.
“After talking with her, I could really put myself in someone’s shoes. It really helped me get into my character a lot more,” Grooms said. “Percy is a very complex character. I’m a bubbly person, but I had to get in her mindset.”
“Spitfire Grill” has little dialogue that is spoken and not sung – causing a lot of tired vocal cords.
“I’ve learned to go 70 percent at rehearsals. It’s the most vocally exhausting show I’ve been in,” Grooms said. “The music is captivating. It can stand alone by itself.”
Wagner said the show is not real well known but has been produced all around the world.
“This is the first time we’ve done the show,” she said. “It hasn’t been done in the Indy area for six to eight years.”
The musical depicts the journey of a young woman just released from prison who decides to start her life anew in the rural Wisconsin town of Gilead. She precipitates a journey within the town itself toward its own tenuous reawakening.
“This is one of those little musicals that doesn’t come around very often,” Wagner said. “The ‘Spitfire’ serves up a theatrical banquet of mystery, romance, friendship, broken hearts, unconditional love ad tragedy turned into triumph. It’s upbeat, folksy music captures the heart and soul of America.”
“Spitfire Grill” runs June 14 through 16 and June 21 through 23.
What: “Spitfire Grill”
Where: Belfry Theatre, 10690 Greenfield Ave.
When: 8 p.m. June 14, 15 and June 21 and 22; and 2 p.m. June 16 and June 23.
Cost: Tickets are $17 and $12 for children 12 and younger. Reservations can be made by calling 773-1085 or visiting http://thebelfrytheatre.com/tickets.
Plot: In this engaging award-winning new musical, a feisty young woman follows her dreams based on a page from an old travel book, to a small town in Wisconsin where she finds a place for herself working at Hannah’s Spitfire Grill.
Cast: Molly Grooms (Percy Talbott), Linnéa Leatherman (Hannah Ferguson), Brian Mathis (Sheriff Joe Sutter), Brenna Campbell (Shelby Thorpe), Darrin Gowan (Caleb Thorpe), Stephanie Mathis (Effy Krayneck), Rob Lawson (the visitor), and Susie Walden (prison matron).
Director: Elaine Wagner