Outside the heat wave is waning but inside, Sonoma Arts Live is just starting to heat things up. The theater company is set to launch its 2017-2018 season this Friday with “The Spitfire Grill,” a 2001 musical that underscores a small town’s strength and renewal based around one newcomer’s unexpected arrival.
The award-winning musical, with music and book by James Valcq and lyrics and book by Fred Alley, is based on the 1996 film of the same name, written and directed by Lee David Zlotoff.
Jaime Love, executive arts director of Sonoma Arts Live, describes “The Spitfire Grill” as a timely story that people will find interesting in a number of different ways. Harkening back to a pre-digital world – think of phones wired to the wall, a world without emojis – each of this year’s productions will follow suit.
“This season, we’ve chosen pieces that fit what we call the vanishing ways of life, before technology and social media played such an important role in our stories,” said Love. “Our theme throughout the season is ‘The Ways We Were: A Look Back’ which will resonate with so many of our audience and cast members.”
“The Spitfire Grill” launches the season with the story of Percy, just released from prison and ready to start her life anew in a rural town she knows of only from a faded postcard. Watch while Percy struggles to find her place as a waitress at the town’s only restaurant, the Spitfire Grill. Before long, she becomes the balm for healing relationships among everyone she meets, as well as for herself.
“The story is set in a small Wisconsin town, a former logging community struggling with its own identity,” says Love. “There are some gritty elements to this play including a couple of subplots. But overall, people are really touched by this show.”
North Bay actress Sarah Griner plays Percy in the lead role.
“I have big admiration for Percy,” said Griner. “She comes from a dark background and then did a stint in prison. She has the fortitude to start over and face what has happened to her. Her character is all about strength, courage and having faith.
In preparing for the role, Griner says she researched PTSD and what life is like for inmates both while in the prison system as well as transitioning back into real life. “It’s been very eye opening,” said Griner, who added that playing Percy has helped her face own challenges. “She’s taught me how to do that. She’s a very special character.”
Michael Ross, who recently directed Sonoma Arts Live’s production of “Gypsy,” is back in the director’s chair. “To me, ‘The Spitfire Grill’ is a tale of transformation – a story of family and forgiveness rooted in very real evolutions of self. A world without forgiveness for self, others and sometimes even the universe, can be a miserable one indeed,” said Ross, who calls the music of the show a “distinct variation on bluegrass and folks styles with lyrics that serve the simple, direct honesty of the lush sound and feel of the score.”
“The Spitfire Grill” runs from Sept. 8 through 24 in Andrews Hall at the Sonoma Community Center. Shows are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Sonoma Arts Live
Sonoma Arts Live presents the following plays on the Rotary Stage in Andrews Hall at the Sonoma Community Center this season:
Dark times are followed by the light.
October 13 -29
Directed by Pat Nims
Sonoma’s Abbey Lee as Lizzie
Tyler McKenna as Starbuck
Have you ever watched A Christmas Carol, begging for a plot twist?
November 29 - December 10
Directed by Carl Jordan
The Dining Room
When “WASPs” and “gracious living” ruled.
January 19 - February 4
Directed by Joey Hoeber
High Society hi-jinks…
May 11 - 27
Directed by James Jandak Wood
Featuring Libby Oberlin as Gertrude
Always, Patsy Cline - A Musical
A delicious look and listen to a bygone era
July 13 - 29
Directed by Michael Ross