The spitfire gets grilled. Grill the spitfire.
An ex-con with a spitfire temper comes to a dying town. The town grills her because of her past. Call it scapegoating. Call it misery loves company. But whatever else “The Spitfire Grill” is, it’s honest.
Hope is a hard sell. People find it easier to believe doom is just around the corner or in his case, the town is going to pot. However, get the right script in the right hands and hope stands a chance.
Tap’s got both.
“Grill” is a musical, country and folk. It features backwoods types in a small town gone defunct and a prison-hard woman, no more than a girl; convicted of stabbing her stepfather to death.
Hardly a formula for feeling good.
But give it vision, passion, direction and the ring of truth. Then turn it over to director Scott Nolte and a superb cast backed by inspired musicians. And presto! voila! You’ve got the stage magic Tap prides itself on aspiring to.
Francile Albright shines as the spirit flowering inside a shell-hard exterior. Vocal stylings stay clear, pure, personal; devoid of sentimentality. Also, Albright consistently projects the kind of vulnerability subjected to suspicion that everyone understands and can empathize with. Albright is all bright.
Pam Nolte takes the stereo out of the stereotype of a steely, waspish, small-town widow covering up a shameful secret. Nolte’s Spitfire Grill owner is one of a kind.
Carin Towne’s browbeaten wife who befriends the stranger in town and sister in pain, adds feminine sensibility. Sabrina Prielaida’s the very funny, silly, mail-delivery person bubbling over with gossip.
Jonathan Martin touches up the likable quality of Albright’s parole officer, love-struck by his independence-driven parolee. And Aaron Jacobs introduces the contrasting point of view of a 19th century-minded husband confused by his passive wife’s strengthening sense of self.
Also, Evan Whitfield, without uttering word one, haunts the action, a chilling reminder of alienated humanity’s longing to be included.
An action movie, this is not; nor a Broadway musical nor a soap opera. A plain, undecorated story of simple, human values set to sincerely felt country and folk music, that it is. If you are open to the possibility that life can be good, it’s your cup of tea.