Director’s fondness for ‘The Spitfire Grill’ heats up again


Brenna Whitaker has a lasting connection to “The Spitfire Grill.”

“I love the show,” Whitaker said. “I was in it (as Shelby) and vocally directed it 10 years ago (at the Belfry Theatre). It has stayed in my head the last decade, so I was thrilled to be a part of it again.”

Whitaker will direct Main Street Productions’ presentation of “The Spitfire Grill,” a musical, April 13-23 at Basile Westfield Playhouse.

Whitaker was originally slated to be the vocal director, but when the director had to withdraw, she took on both duties. This is the first time the Noblesville resident has directed with Main Street Productions.

“There aren’t any songs that you want to skip because it’s just lovely music,” Whitaker said. “I always love a small-cast musical. There are seven members in the cast. You bond in a way that is really remarkable with a smaller cast. I think that every character has such an interesting arc that they go through. For me, it’s just such a lovely story of redemption and second chances. It has stuck with me, and when I saw that it was on the schedule, I wanted to be a part of it.”

The musical is based on the 1996 movie. Westfield resident Chrissy Crawley plays the role of Percy Talbott, who was just released after serving five years for manslaughter. She sees a photo of Gilead, Wis., in an old travel book in prison and decides that would be a good place for a fresh start.

“Every character is trying to take a step forward and figure out who they are, change and continue to grow,” Whitaker said. “It’s the story of rebirth and starting over for everyone, not just Percy.”

Crawley said Percy shows up and thinks she might have made a mistake because people aren’t nice to her and gossip a lot.

“She thinks, ‘Did I make a mistake? Was this really a good place to start again?’” Crawley said. “Then over time, they warm to her, and she grows a tight-knit little family and decides to stay long term.”

Crawley said she had never heard of the musical or the movie it was based on.

“I’ve never done a show with audio tracks before. I’ve always either had  a pianist or a small string orchestra,” she said. “So it’s kind of a learning curve for me. We have songs and then there’s dialogue and then there’s more songs and there’s more dialogue, so the timing has to be so precise. That’s been the biggest challenge for me. I think the (lines) memorization kind of comes back to like riding the bike.”

Crawley said she took time off because her son turned 2 in January.

“I thought I wanted to get back into (acting) now that we have things under control,” she said.

Crawley said the show is her first serious musical.

“I love all the songs in the show. They are really catchy,” she said.

This is Crawley’s first show since moving to Westfield. Her most recent performance was in “Mamma Mia!” at Civic Theatre of Lafayette in February 2020, just before the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020.

Crawley, who started singing in her school choir in third or fourth grade, performed in musicals and choir at Crown Point High School. She performed in a choir at Purdue University, where she met her husband, who also is a singer.

Georgie Teipen, Greenfield, plays Hannah, who owns the restaurant where Percy works. Like Crawley, Teipen hadn’t seen the musical before.

“I think audiences are going to be moved by it,” Teipen said. “It’s funny. It’s heart-touching. It’s about issues that face all of us and coming to a place of forgiveness. There’s lots of very meaningful songs.”

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