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A message of hope

Musical performance dedicated to Brian Houston

¤ "The Spitfire Grill"¤ 7:30 p.m. today, Saturday and Sunday¤ Steamboat Mountain Theater in Ski Time Square¤ $15¤ (866) 707-4648. Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.steamboattheater.com, at All That Jazz or at the door.

Jessi Houston will leave her crutches backstage during her performance of “The Spitfire Grill” this weekend.

Hobbling around on stage with a dislocated knee is the only attribute of her character that she embodies. She plays the part of Shelby, a battered woman.

¤ “The Spitfire Grill”¤ 7:30 p.m. today, Saturday and Sunday¤ Steamboat Mountain Theater in Ski Time Square¤ $15¤ (866) 707-4648. Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.steamboattheater.com, at All That Jazz or at the door.

“I have a really hard time being shy and timid,” Houston said. “But (director) Stuart (Handloff) made me take off all my makeup for rehearsal, which made me feel naked, and brought me to this uncomfortable place to play this part.”



Lauren Tait also has to extend herself to play her role.

“It’s fun because the character is not me,” Tait said. “I’m not the type to ever be in prison.”



Tait’s vocal range perfectly fits her role as Percy, a woman recently released from prison who takes a job as a waitress in a small town’s only cafe. Tait said working at The Tap House for four years gave her some insight into her character.

“We had regulars, and I always knew what they wanted,” she said. “And there’s a song in the second act about a valley engulfed in sunlight. It’s really neat to practice in my room and look out at the (Yampa) valley.”

“The Spitfire Grill,” a musical, reflects the strength of a small community like Steamboat Springs. Director Stuart Handloff thinks the musical chose him.

“It jumped out of the Samuel French catalogue and hit all the chords and had all the stuff I was looking for,” Handloff said.

He wanted to do the show as a tribute to Brian Houston, who died in a motorcycle accident in March. Brian was the musical accompanist for The Great American Laughing Stock Company, which is sponsoring “The Spitfire Grill” with Wells Fargo Bank.

“He was always particular about the shows he wanted to do,” Handloff said. “So I picked something powerful spiritually, and at the same time with restorative powers to make people feel good. This story fits that description.”

Jessi Houston, Brian Houston’s daughter, thinks her father would have liked “The Spitfire Grill.”

“It is so him. He grew up in a small town in Kansas, loved music, the people and their dedication,” Jessi said. “He definitely would have been proud. That’s one more reason to put my whole heart into it.”

Handloff also chose “The Spitfire Grill” for its message of hope. All of the characters start off broken in some way.

“It’s reflective of real psychotic trauma, and by the end of the play, everyone is reconnected through the power of community,” Handloff said. “It’s not real life, but it’s musical theater. If you’re not crying when watching the show, then we’re not doing it right.”


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