CHICAGO – Refuge Theatre Project, the three-year-old company that staged HIGH FIDELITY: THE MUSICAL twice in makeshift record stores, BARE: A POP OPERA in a church sanctuary and LYSISTRATA JONES in a gymnasium; will continue its practice of performing in found spaces with THE SPITFIRE GRILL, opening on March 25. The musical by James Valcq and Fred Alley, which premiered off-Broadway in 2001 in a production by Playwrights Horizons, is set in a northern Wisconsin diner. THE SPITFIRE GRILL will be performed environmentally and acoustically in the Windy City Café, a breakfast restaurant at 1062 W. Chicago Avenue in the West Town neighborhood, just around the corner from Chicago Dramatists. Just 40 seats will be available for each performance.
THE SPITFIRE GRILL will be directed and choreographed by Refuge Artistic Director Christopher Pazdernik, a 2017 Jeff Award-winner for his direction of HIGH FIDELITY. He will again be teaming with music director Jon Schneidman, a Jeff nominee for his music direction of HIGH FIDELITY.
The story, based on the 1996 film of the same name that starred Ellen Burstyn and Marcia Gay Harden, concerns Percy, a feisty parolee recently released from prison who relocates to the fictional small town of Gilead, Wisconsin after seeing pictures of it in an old travel book. With the help of Gilead’s sheriff Joe, she gets a job at Hannah’s Spitfire Grill. As she becomes involved with Hannah, Hannah’s family and others in the town, Percy soon learns that she is not the only person in Gilead who needs a second chance in life. The Spitfire Grill itself needs a second chance as well. It has been for sale for ten years, but there have been no takers for it – the only eatery in the depressed town. Percy suggests to Hannah that she raffle it off. Entry fees are one hundred dollars and the best essay on why you want the grill wins.
Percy will be played by Lauren Paris, who appeared in Refuge’s THINGS TO RUIN last Spring. The production’s Hannah is Katherine Condit, a veteran of Broadway and national tours who played “Older Albert” in last fall’s THE CIVILITY OF ALBERT CASHIER and has also played Margaret White in CARRIE (Bailiwick Chicago) Condit is currently in the cast Porchlight’s MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG. Cast as Shelby, the wife of Hannah’s nephew, is Emily Goldberg. Goldberg had the leading role of Rose in BoHo’s DOGFIGHT and in 2017 appeared in Paramount’s SWEENEY TODD and BoHo’s MARIE CHRISTINE.
Newcomer Alex Christ, a recent graduate of Northwestern University with credits in THE MOST HAPPY FELLA with Theo Ubique and PETER PAN and CANDIDE with Music Theater Works, will play Percy’s love interest Joe. Nicole Michelle Haskins, a 2017 Jeff Award nominee for her Wicked Witch of the West in Kokandy’s THE WIZ will be Effy – the local postmistress and village busybody. Haskins’ other recent credits include BoHo’s MARIE CHRISTINE, Redtwist’s OUR TOWN, Writers’ PARADE and Theo Ubique’s RENT. Marc Prince, currently appearing in YANK! by Pride Films and Plays, has been cast as Hannah’s nephew Caleb. Matt Patrick will play Eli and understudy the male roles. Cathy Reyes McNamara will understudy the female roles.