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'The Spitfire Grill' at the Craterian

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Left to right: Peter Wickliffe, Adam Cuppy, Presila Quinby, Danielle Pecoff, Julia Cuppy and Gwen Overland.Photo by Jamie Lusch
 Posted: 2:00 AM May 29, 2014

Next Stage Repertory will venture into the exciting — and labor-intensive — business of producing musicals with the melodic and folksy "The Spitfire Grill," a textured story that celebrates the denizens of a small-town diner set in rural Oregon.

"The Spitfire Grill" was a screenplay before it became a script, and the movie was set in the small town of Gilead in Vermont. The script, with music by James Valcq and lyrics and book by Fred Alley, sets the story in rural Wisconsin.

Percy Talbot's arrival in Gilead starts a chain of events in the backwoods burg. She's had a tragic past and was imprisoned for five years. When she finds a photograph of Gilead in a magazine, she decides she will settle there to start over.

If you go

What: "The Spitfire Grill"

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, May 29-31

Where: Craterian Theatre, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford

Tickets: $18

Call: 541-779-3000, or the box office, 16 S. Bartlett St.

Performances are set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, May 29-31, at the Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford. Tickets cost $18 and can be purchased at the box office, 16 S. Bartlett St., online at or by calling 541-779-3000.

Doug Warner directs and stars in Next Stage Repertory's first musical, and he shared his thoughts about the play during a telephone interview.

Why Oregon instead of the play's setting in Wisconsin?

"We moved it to Oregon based on lines in several of the songs — '... on the streets of your hometown' and others — inferred that this event could take place in any small town in America. So we moved Gilead to Oregon so that audiences could identify with the story. The more foreign a story is, the harder it is to make it universal. The more familiar it is, the more audiences identify with the characters. That synergy is essential."

What is the central theme of the play?

"The exciting thing about the central theme is how change is possible. Sometimes we have to experience tragedy before change can take place, and often other people can be the catalysts. When Percy arrives in Gilead, it sets off events that lead to changes in all of the characters. It's cool to be reminded that people can come into your life and help you find yourself, though sometimes you have to go through something painful."

Are there entertaining elements to the play?

"One character, Effy Krayneck, played by Gwen Overland, provides comic relief throughout the play. She's the town's postmaster and a gossip. She loves to make jokes, and she'll come into a dramatic scene and make everyone laugh. Most of the drama takes place in the restaurant, and there's a lot of fun music and comedy happening there. Whenever the characters experience epiphanies or revelations, we use Brad Nelson's fantastic lighting effects to punctuate them."

What can you tell us about the play's music?

"Our music director, Josh Killingsworth, went the extra mile working on the vocal harmonies and created music that sounds full, as though the whole town is singing. Alley's and Valcq's 'The Colors of Paradise' is a perspective of the miracle and beauty of where you are right now. 'Shoot the Moon' is about risk. Some people don't want to take risks, so they don't have any fun, and 'Come Alive Again' is a celebration of the changes that bring the town back to life."

Other cast members include Presila Quinby as Hannah Ferguson, Danielle Pecoff as Percy Talbott, Julia Cuppy as Shelby Thorpe, Peter Wickliffe as Caleb Thorpe, Adam Cuppy as Sheriff Joe Sutter and Warner as Ely.

Warner also designed the set, and Jaese Lecuyer is choreographer.

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