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The Virtual Hub for the Media of the The Benjamin School's Upper School

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The Virtual Hub for the Media of the The Benjamin School's Upper School

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The Spitfire Grill: Benjamin Theatre department attempts a new style head-on.

Finley Strauss
A full dress and tech rehearsal takes place with all the characters in the Spitfire Grill. Photo by Finley Strauss

 After much anticipation and excitement buzzing through the halls of Benjamin, the cast and crew produced a remarkable theatrical production: “The Spitfire Grill” on April 19th at 7pm and 20th at 1:30PM in Benjamin Hall. 

Set against the backdrop of a small-town diner in Gilead, Wisconsin, The Spitfire Grill weaves a strong narrative of redemption and second chances while drawing heavily on the Appalachian bluegrass style. The story revolves around Percy, played by Sage Sorenson, an outsider who just got out of prison, seeking solace and a fresh start in a close-knit community. Sorenson intertwines her character’s strong personality with her visible vulnerabilities while experimenting with a new accent. 

The Benjamin theater department has never done this musical style, which lends to lots of experimentation and fun for actors in learning the different types of accents and vocals.

On top of these accents, actors also have to sing with a live orchestra which has not been implemented in several years and can lend to complex elements. For example, in a scene with Frear, Merkel, Curioni, and Shawe, they sing as the snow finally stops falling, representing a shift to spring amidst their beautiful harmonizing.

Frear’s unique voice soars with Curoni’s strong alto vocals, mixing with Shawe and Merkel’s tenor and soprano voices with the live orchestra playing in the background. The sounds of guitars, violins,  pianos, and more intermix perfectly with their voices putting together a convincing scene and atmosphere change. On top of this live orchestra, the musical also had no strict choreography. Characters move freely and naturally within their movements and dances with a strong purpose when performing. 

The curtain rises with a suspenseful aurora with Percy singing about her release from jail, and her desire for something new while moving freely across the stage. Sage integrates her high soprano notes and country ascent perfectly with captivating lines that create suspense. Sage’s voice and engagement with the audience can be likened to Christine’s voice from Phantom of the Opera. Just as Christine’s accent and her high voice are strong, the same can be said for Sorenson.

Blount and Sorenson interact interchangeably with their characters, interplaying comedic moments like when Soreson’s character, Percy, fresh out of jail, struggles with cooking, and makes a large mess while Blount’s character Hannah comedically watches. 

Hannah’s relationship with Percy starts off tense, but Hannah ends up a mentor for newbie Percy in how to cook, act, and several other things.  

While both seem like simplistic characters on the surface, both of them are persevering in different and unexpected ways. While Percy seems just like a young woman with a past, in reality she actually has a much deeper story that is revealed during the musical. Everyone has a reason for being in jail, but Percy’s is particularly poignant. Sorenson does an excellent job on portraying her character’s complex emotions and change in demeanor. 

Similarly, Blount’s character Hannah Ferguson has a secret relationship with a character who is revealed to have a closer relationship with her.  This character is “The Visitor” and is an ominous source of tension. The audience and members of the cast are told Ferguson’s son is dead. However, it is revealed that “The Visitor” is actually someone Blount knows and has a deep family connection with. The Visitor, played by Micheal Alvarez, does not speak one word throughout the entire play. Alvarez does an excellent job in his strength in his movements while not talking. 

Newbie Caroline Fuller, a sophomore, plays Shelby Thorpe, a woman in an unhealthy relationship with Caleb Thorpe, played by David Frear. Thorpe is a traditionalist who does not want his wife to work at all and is very different than Frear. In this way, Frear takes on the challenge of becoming someone you don’t relate to or want to be showing his strong range.

Ava Shawe played the role of Milly, a gossiping bully. Shawe has never played this type of role and like Frear, plays a character who is very different from herself. Shawe takes this challenge head on and beautifully portrays the role of a mean, gossiping, townie with strong opinions. 

Luciano Curoni plays Joe Sutter, the sheriff who is unhappy in Gilead. Curoni as Sutter eventually finds something interesting in one of the characters and reflects this personality change beautifully. Curoni changes from his typical bored sheriff attitude into an enthralled in-love character with perfect execution. You can see his internal turmoil in his original desire to leave Gillead and his immediate shift to wanting to stay for someone he loves.

After seeing the performance, it is evident that the cast and crew of the show successfully transported audiences into the heartwarming world of The Spitfire Grill. This production was not just about putting on a show—it was about forging connections, embracing second chances, and celebrating the power of community and resilience – with a massive undertaking for the actors in terms of their accents, inflections, and personality changes.

Actors Sage Sorenson and Luciano Curioni block out a scene. Sage plays Percy Tallbott and Luciano plays Joe Sutter.
Photo by Xan Blount
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About the Contributor
Finley Strauss
Finley Strauss, Staff Writer
Finley Strauss is a staff writer and editor of the Pharcyde. It is her first year at the Benjamin School. Finley is excited to start working on The Pharcyde, especially on opinion pieces. She is in the honor council, JSA, debate, and mock trial. In her free time she enjoys running, spending time with friends, and going to the beach. She plans to become an attorney.

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