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.
The production team includes Gina Francesca (Costume Design), Collin Helou (Lighting Design), Shelby Burgus (Stage Manager), Evan Frank & Ross Egan (Props Coordinators), Mark Bracken (Technical Director), Jen Kules (Lighting Consultant), Denzel Tsponang (Assistant Director), Lewis Rawlinson (Costume Design Assistant) & Leslie Halverson (Assistant Stage Manager).
When THE SPITFIRE GRILL opened in New York on October 2, 2001 – just three weeks after the attacks of 9/11 – the notoriously caustic critic John Simon wrote, “It is not often that material moves me to tears, but this was one of those occasions…What even in normal times would be a joy is, in these troubled ones, sheer nourishment.” Pazdernik says, “Similar to the powerful hope it gave New Yorkers when the original production opened off-Broadway right after 9/11, I believe Spitfire's message of renewal and rebirth is one we all very much need right now."
Preview performances will be Friday, March 23 and Saturday, March 24 at 8 pm. Press opening will be Sunday March 25 at 7:00 pm. Performances for the regular run, which will continue through May 5, will be Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm, and an industry night on Monday, April 16 at 7 pm.Ticket prices for all seats are $30.00 plus applicable fees. Tickets will go on sale February 1 and may be ordered online at www.refugetheatre.com.
Christopher Pazdernik, artistic director of Refuge Theatre Project, is a director/choreographer with "a near encyclopedic knowledge of musicals" (NEWCITY). He is best known for directing and choreographing Refuge’s critically acclaimed production of HIGH FIDELITY (Jeff Awards for Best Director and Best Production of a Musical. Other recent credits include CARRIE (Ohio Northern University), WICKED CITY (Chicago Theatre Workshop), PLANTED (Chicago Musical Theatre Festival), MAKE ME A SONG (Eclectic Theatre Co.) and STORY OF A STORY (THE UNTOLD STORY) (Underscore Theater Co.).
Pazdernik is a proud artistic associate of Porchlight Music Theatre, where he has directed and choreographed numerous Porchlight Revisits including THE RINK, ANYONE CAN WHISTLE, CITY OF ANGELS and APPLAUSE and co-curated the PORCHLIGHT NEW FACES SING BROADWAY series. He is also a frequent cabaret director and c curator, including BROADWAY'S CULT CLASSICS at Davenport's Piano Bar and the HIS & HIS series at Pride Films & Plays. An openly HIV+ artist, Pazdernik was also a 2016 Windy City Times 30-Under-30 honoree for his contributions to Chicago's LGBTQ community and currently serves on the Ambassador Committee for the AIDS Run/Walk Chicago and as chairperson on the Community Advisory Board for Howard Brown Health, one of the nation’s largest LGBTQ organizations.
THE SPITFIRE GRILL
Book by James Valcq and Fred Alley, Music by James Valcq, Lyrics by Fred Alley
Based on the film written and directed by Lee David Zlotoff
Directed and choreographed by Christopher Pazdernik
Music Direction by Jon Schneidman
March 23 – May 5, 2018
Previews: March 23 and 24 at 8 pm
Regular run Sunday, March 25 through Sunday, May 5
Press performance Sunday, March 25 at 7 pm
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm; Sunday at 7 pm
Industry night Monday, April 16 at 7 pm
Windy City Café, 1062 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago
Tickets are $30 and on sale at www.refugetheatre.com
Percy, a feisty parolee recently released from prison, 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.
ABOUT REFUGE THEATRE PROJECT
Refuge Theatre Project was founded in 2015 by Ross and Morgan Egan with the goal of utilizing the appeal of musical theatre to foster a broader and more accessible theatre community. We produce contemporary musical theatre in found spaces creating a unique, affordable, only-in-Chicago theatrical experience. www.refugetheatre.com.
The company’s previous productions include the musicals NEXT THING YOU KNOW, produced in February 2015; GLORY DAYS, which opened in August 2015; HIGH FIDELITY: THE MUSICAL, originally staged in February 2016 and remounted in January-March 2017; BARE: A POP OPERA, in October-November 2016, THINGS TO RUIN, in May/June 2017; and LYSISTRATA JONES in October-November 2017.