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The Tongva Times

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Drama returns to musicals with ‘Spitfire Grill’

REHEARSAL READING Junior Nick Lee and senior Ceres Black practice a live read of “Spitfire Grill.”

   The Drama department will be returning to the Gary E. Goodson Theater for their spring play, performing the musical “The Spitfire Grill” twice on May 5 and May 6, and once on May 7.

   Written by Fred Alley and James Valcq, the musical follows Percy Talbott, played by senior Ceres Black, a former convict who restarts her life in rural Wisconsin in a town called Gilead and finds work at the Spitfire Grill. The owner, Hannah Ferguson, who is played by senior Tavina Chen, has been trying to sell the grill for a decade with no luck, but Talbott’s arrival in the small town causes Gilead to undergo great change. 

   “This musical is a triumphant return, especially with the help of our music director Brian McConnell,” stated J.C Gafford. “We’re trying to get back to what we usually do, which is a drama, a comedy, and even a musical, and we made a lot of progress this year. I want to give both actors and audience the chance to experience different types of performance.”

   With a majority of the cast new to musicals and acting in general, Gafford has approached directing rehearsals in a way that will allow the actors to build up their skills as the performance dates come closer. 

   “We started by breaking down rehearsals into separate portions, starting with just music or just blocking, and that helped introduce the cast to the show,” said Gafford. “As we get closer to the performance dates, we combine everything as the cast gets more familiar with the material.” 

   Gafford is joined by assistant director Dan Quach, sophomore, who also plays two roles in the musical, the Visitor and Caleb Thorpe; a mysterious silent man and Fergusen’s protective nephew respectively. 

   “Working with people is the best part, and being both an assistant director and being in the show gives me a lot of different ways to do that,” stated Quach. “We slack off a bit sometimes, but the cast gets serious when the performance is close.” 

   Though Gafford has directed plays with much larger casts, “The Spitfire Grill” features seven roles, which was fitting for a cast of eight students who auditioned to be in the musical. Auditions were open to the student body, and were not limited to students in drama. 

   “I’ve been in plays here before, but I’ve never been part of a musical and I love singing,” stated sophomore Emily Wang, who plays Effy Krayneck, the postmistress of Gilead. “I resonate with my role a lot so I was really excited when I got the part.” 

   For students managing behind the scenes work such as sound, lights, props, and the stage, the musical is their first experience with a music based production. 

   “I was also a stage manager in the fall play, and there’s a lot of similarities when making sure the props and stage are good to go for the actors,” stated Stage Manager and Sound Operator Cailey Campbell, junior. “But it feels a lot more complicated working behind the scenes with a musical because of how different it is from monologues or typical dramas for both the off stage crew and on stage crew, especially timing and getting the music and singing to be just right.” 

   Tickets are $5 at the door, and can be purchased from cast members. The list of students involved can be found at room E170.

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About the Contributor
Brian Ly
Brian Ly, Production Chief
Brian Ly is the Production Chief for the Tongva Times and is entering his fourth year with the paper. In his personal life, Brian has a keen interest in insects, collectible card games, books, and movies. He even aspires to raise his own "Gregor Samsas" when he finds the right environment. Interestingly, Brian initially joined the newspaper in his freshman year, mistaking it for a history class due to the presence of a textbook. Despite the unexpected start, he remained with the Tongva Times, drawn by the strong sense of community and the chance to interact with diverse individuals, from school athletes to the mayor of San Gabriel.
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