Staging the silver screen

Ocala Civic Theatre film screening celebrates an upcoming musical.

Home » Arts & Entertainment
Posted January 19, 2024 | By Lisa McGinnes

A set rendering for “The Spitfire Grill” is shown at the Ocala Civic Theatre in Ocala on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2024.

Get a taste of what’s cooking at Ocala Civic Theatre (OCT) at a downtown special event celebrating its next production—a folk-flavored musical.

At “The Spitfire Grill: From Screen to Stage” on Tuesday, Jan. 23, OCT will offer a screening of the 1996 film, starring Allison Elliott, Ellen Burstyn and Marcia Gay Harden, that won the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award and inspired the 2001 off-Broadway musical. The movie will be shown at the Marion Theatre, and cast members from OCT’s production will present a musical preview of the play, accompanied by music director Jason Bartosic.

Like the film, the musical floats on the hope of determined young parolee Percy Talbott, who hops a bus to the small town of Gilead, searching for a fresh start in a place she’s only seen in pretty pictures on the pages of a travel book. She lands a job working at the village’s only diner, the Spitfire Grill, presumably named for the airplane the owner’s late husband flew in World War II. There she soon finds out being the new girl with a dubious past in a town where everyone knows each other feels like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. The newcomer has her secrets, but the townsfolk do, too, and as she generates gossip and forges alliances, she discovers a mysterious visitor hiding in the woods behind the diner.

“‘Spitfire’ is not your typical musical,” explained Greg Thompson, OCT executive and artistic director and the play’s director. “Some people hear that and shy away, but there are so many of these story-driven, character-driven musicals that are so beautiful. ‘Spitfire’ is a beautiful fable set to a bluegrass/Americana-influenced score that is all about telling a really good story about some really interesting characters. This also allows us to cast a variety of people within our community and showcase their abilities.”

Cast members for “The Spitfire Grill” meet in a dressing room. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2024.

Martie McLean, left, and Daniel Roscoe, right, rehearse a scene. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2024.

The musical preview before the film will feature lead actors Martie McLean, who plays Hannah, singing “Forgotten Lullaby,” as well as Adrienne Hebert, who plays Percy, and Kelsey Plante, who plays Shelby, singing “Colors of Paradise.” The three leads will be joined by cast members Janik Buranosky, Amanda Harding and Daniel Roscoe for the ensemble number, “Shoot the Moon.”

General admission tickets include the 7:15 p.m. pre-movie musical preview, open seating for the film, which begins at 7:45 p.m., and complimentary popcorn and soft drink. VIP tickets include priority seating for the film, complimentary popcorn and soft drink, plus the VIP reception beginning at 6 p.m. at The Thirsty Cobbler, where guests can sip a special signature huckleberry cocktail created especially for the event, followed by a buffet of hors d’oeuvres in a private room at Ivy on the Square. Musical entertainment at the VIP reception will feature a program of ’60s and ’70s folk music, with some bluegrass standards and old-time fiddle music, in the style and spirit of “The Spitfire Grill” score played by a trio of local musicians: Diego Fuentes on banjo, Adam Pryor on guitar and Chris Pryor on mandolin.

Greg Thompson works with cast members. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2024.

“From Screen to Stage” is the first of two special events leading up to “The Spitfire Grill,” which will be performed live at OCT Feb. 8-25. The free “Behind the Curtain” talkback event will be held Wednesday, Feb. 7, at noon at the Brick City Center for the Arts.

“We have added more [events] and we are getting such great feedback from the community,” Thompson said. “These events, along with our Behind the Curtain talkbacks, have given our audiences a stronger sense of being a part of what they are seeing on our stage. These events and discussions help our audiences get an even bigger picture as they gain ideas about how we create the stories on our stage and why we bring those stories to life.” 

For tickets to the Jan. 23 event “The Spitfire Grill: From Stage to Screen” at the Marion Theatre, visit or call the Marion Theatre box office at (352) 351-1606.

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