It may have won the prestigious 2001 Richard Rodgers Production Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (I read and evaluated each of the musical submissions in that year), but based on the evidence of Provision Theater Company’s production, it is impossible to see why. Indeed, even the modest success of the musical “The Spitfire Grill,” that is based on the 1996 Sundance Audience Award-winning film of the same name and that has seen at least a half dozen productions since its successful Off-Broadway run, continues to baffle me. The convoluted story of an otherwise simple tale of a girl with a past, a town with no future and the second chances that predictably ensue when they collide, “The Spitfire Grill” reeks with the type of gooey sentimentality that characterizes both Hallmark card writing and the programming at the PAX TV family-entertainment network. But my personal theatrical allergies aside, this is simply a mediocre musical with a confusing narrative, underdeveloped and unsympathetic supporting characters and an unmemorable score that sounds like something Gordon Lightfoot might have penned had he attempted to write a Broadway musical. Indeed, not even Reba McEntire belting out this score could salvage these down-home ditties from sounding downright dull. Sadly, there is but one ballad (“The Colors of Paradise”) that is musically interesting, and lyrically the piece is indistinguishable. The hard-working cast, not to mention the wasted talents of Chicago musical-theater vet Susan Moniz, can do little but serve this all up with a smile and a twang. Alas, the majority of this musical is monotonous recitative. And as those of us who understand the genre well know, boring recitative is the musical equivalent of boring sex without climax: no matter how much rhythm you might build up, there needs to be payoff. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
Theatre Building, 1225 W. Belmont, (773)327-5252. Thu-Sat 7:30pm/Sun 2pm. $15-$25. Through May 21.