Okoboji Summer Theatre inaugurated its 2016 season with a musical that is amazing to experience -- "The Spitfire Grill."
If this is any indication, we are in for a summer of outstanding live theatre here in the Iowa Great Lakes region.
While there are no tunes that you go home, singing in your head, the music told us the story in a most compelling way. Director/choreographer Stephen Brotebeck brought his talents from New York City to take a cast of seven to a very high level. His cast gave a compelling performance that not only entertained us but taught us valuable life lessons.
The set, masterfully designed by Brandon PT Davis, took us in and out of the Spitfire Grill effortlessly with the skillful choreography of Brotebeck making the motions flawlessly smooth.
Brotebeck had an extremely talented cast to work with thanks to the efforts of OST artistic director Gail Humphries Mardirosian.
The lead character was Percy, a woman recently released from prison with a desire to create a new life for herself. Stephens College student Sydney Benton was incredible in this role. She is blessed with a gorgeous singing voice and she was at her best. Bravo, Sydney!
I adored Linda Kennedy as Hannah Ferguson, a real spitfire and owner of the Grill. Kennedy may be a diminutive woman, but watch out! This woman is a powerful performer on the stage. I understand why she has won many prestigious acting awards and am so glad she came here for what I hope won't be the only time. We want to see her in action again someday. We loved her as Hannah from the first time she stepped on that stage.
For those who love to hear rich baritone solos, Gregory Stuart is your man. He came from the D.C. area to play the role of Caleb Thorpe. I could listen to him sing all day long. He was a delight to hear and watch.
Kudos to Meaghan Parker for bringing Shelby Thorpe into our lives. Thorpe brought her character to us timid and afraid; and left us with as strong, supportive woman. Her voice is a delight to hear as well.
Welcome back to the OST stage to Kyle Groff. We look forward to seeing him each summer at least once. Groff portrayed law enforcement officer Joe Sutter.
Effy Krayneck, the town (Gilead, Wisconsin) postmaster and extreme gossip was extremely well played by Abilene Olson. The Stephens student played her role so well, we hated her from the get-go. However, by the second act, her singing, line delivery timing and facial expressions had us in stitches.
The visitor, lurking in the dark and clearly troubled, was played by Herbert Moore. You wanted to just hold and hug him from beginning to end. He didn't have to learn any dialog, but his body language told his story and Moore did it very well.
I won't spoil your enjoyment of "The Spitfire Grill" by telling you what happened on that stage. However, I will tell you that the audience sat motionless, spellbound during the second half of a story about new beginnings, starting over, accepting flaws in others and forgiving others. The music by Tom Andes was great, the acting and singing beautiful, the set perfect and the new sound system wonderful! The standing ovation at the conclusion of opening night was sincere and boisterous. Bravo to everyone involved.
I urge you not to miss this production. It will amaze you and believe me when I say, you won't soon forget it.
"The Spitfire Grill" runs through Sunday night.