BWW Interview: Travis Walter of THE SPITFIRE GRILL at Meadow Brook Theatre Exhibits a Tale of Freedom in Small Town U.S.A.
Through March 10th, you can catch the musical adaptation of the 1996 movie The Spitfire Grill at Oakland University's Meadow Brook Theatre. With music and book by James Valcq and lyrics and book by the late Fred Alley, The Spitfire Grill initially made its Off-Broadway debut on September 7th, 2001 and concluded its scheduled run on October 14nd of that year. Though it never played on large stages such as Broadway or the West End, this tale of redemption and growth in a small Midwestern town has been produced by hundreds of theatres around the world and has been translated into multiple languages. In anticipation of this unique piece of theatre coming to Metro Detroit, BroadwayWorld Detroit spoke to the director of the show, Travis Walter. You can read our interview below.
BroadwayWorld Detroit: Can you give our readers a brief background of yourself and your theatre career?
Travis Walter: I am an alumnus of Oakland University and have been an employee at Meadow Brook Theatre ever since I graduated in 2002. In May of 2010, I was the youngest person to be appointed Artistic Director of Meadow Brook Theatre after holding the position of Interim Artistic Director at the theatre during the 2009-2010 Season. In 2013, I was named one of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson's Elite 40 Under 40, which includes professionals charged with giving recommendations to improve quality of life in Oakland County. I've won numerous awards for my directing at MBT and have directed over 50 productions at the theatre.
BWW Detroit: How would you describe The Spitfire Grill in your own words?
Travis Walter: The Spitfire Grill is a redemption story about a parolee who lands in a small town to make a new start and ends up transforming the whole town.
BWW Detroit: What was your introduction to The Spitfire Grill musical?
Travis Walter: I was in college when I had heard about it when it was Off-Broadway. I bought the cast recording and script to check it out since I couldn't afford to go to NYC to see the show. I instantly fell in love with the musical.
BWW Detroit: What made you particularly excited to direct this musical?
Travis Walter: I have loved the film and the musical for a long time and have dreamed of bringing the show to life on stage. I am most thrilled to see how the audience receives this beautiful piece of theatre.
BWW Detroit: What would you say is the main takeaway from this musical? In other words, how do you think people will be inspired after seeing the show?
Travis Walter: While the show to me is about redemption, acceptance, and looking at the world around you in a new light, the theme of freedom runs through the whole show most of all. When is a person really free to be themselves? And when they have that freedom, do they cherish it or squander it?
BWW Detroit: What distinguishes The Spitfire Grill, an Off-Broadway musical, from more well-known Broadway musicals?
Travis Walter: The Spitfire Grill is all about the storytelling. The characters are so rich and fully realized that emotions pour out during every scene. There's no splashy dance numbers, no bejeweled costumes, no chorus. It's about real people telling truly human tales of small town U.S.A.
BWW Detroit: Do you have a favorite scene in the show? Favorite song?
Travis Walter: I have so many favorite moments and I am continually finding new ones. This cast and crew have really inspired me. There is a sense in the theatre of everyone working together to create a great product and tell a wonderful story that it is simply moving just being in the space. If I had to pick a favorite song, some days it's "Wild Bird," others it's "Shine," and others it's "Way Back Home." It really depends on which narrative tugs at my heart on any given day.
BWW Detroit: What would you say to someone with no prior knowledge of The Spitfire Grill to get them to come see this production?
Travis Walter: If you want to see a musical that is full of heart and one that everyone can relate to, come see The Spitfire Grill.
The Spitfire Grill runs through March 10th at Meadow Brook Theatre on Oakland University's campus in Rochester Hills. For more information and tickets, visit http://www.mbtheatre.com.
Connect with Meadow Brook Theatre on Twitter at @MBTheatre, on Instagram at @meadowbrooktheatre, and on Facebook at facebook.com/meadowbrooktheatre/.