The Department of Drama recently mounted a production of The Spitfire Grill, directed by department chair Ralph Zito. A young woman seeking redemption helps a weary Wisconsin town rediscover its value while finding the meaning of home in this 2001 Off-Broadway musical.
The story of The Spitfire Grill has drawn widespread praise for its heartening take on the human spirit and its beautifully crafted score. For Zito, this particular production marked his first time directing a musical. What drew him to The Spitfire Grill was its direct simplicity, in comparison to more traditional song-and-dance musicals.
“I thought I could bring more to the experience, both as an artist and a teacher, if the piece had as much of a focus on the scenes as on the music,” says Zito. A veteran of directing Shakespeare, he and his cast dedicated one entire week of rehearsals to analyzing the written text of The Spitfire Grill script, excluding the music. “I have tried as much as possible to work in the same way that I always work,” says Zito, “I’m a pretty text-centered guy.”