Theatre Palisades’ ‘The Spitfire Grill’ Wins 11 Awards

By Sue Pascoe

It was the Tony Awards—Theatre Palisades style—on Sunday, August 13, at the Pierson Playhouse, with Martha Hunter and Maria O’Connor serving as co-hosts.

The shows up for awards, including “The Spitfire Grill,” “The Odd Couple,” “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife,” “Picnic” and “The Hollow,” were introduced by Michael-Anthony Nozzi, playing the Old Actor in “The Fantasticks.”

“Spitfire Grill” received six of the top eight acting awards and five of the seven technical awards.

When the News reviewed “Spitfire Grill” last summer, the writer praised it as one of the best productions Theatre Palisades had staged in recent memory. One audience member commented after seeing the musical, “I was going to say that Percy (Alyssa Rupert) had the best voice, but then I thought maybe Shelby did (Darcy Silveira) or Hannah (Joanna Churgin). Then I realized they were all really good.” Ross Chitwood, who played the sheriff, was also singled out for his beautiful voice.

Winners of Theater Palisades awards were (left to right) Sylvia Grieb, Joanna Churgin, Susan Stangl, Sherman Wayne, Manfred Hofer, Scott Gardner and Michael Sorich.
Winners of Theater Palisades awards were (left to right) Sylvia Grieb, Joanna Churgin, Susan Stangl, Sherman Wayne, Manfred Hofer, Scott Gardner and Michael Sorich.

“The nosy mail carrier and town gossip Effy (Susan Stangl) is perfectly played. Caleb (Terry Delegeane) handles his role with aplomb, and even the visitor (Phil Apoian) is totally believable. This is a great cast,” said the News.

Alyssa Rupert won for Lead Actress, Joanna Churgin won for Featured Actress, Terry Delegeane received the Supporting Actor award and Susan Stangl captured Supporting Actress honors. The Cameo Actor award went to Phil Apoian.

Chitwood, the musical director at the local Methodist Church, who stepped in as a last-minute replacement, tied for Best Featured Actor, one of two ties that evening.

Michael-Anthony Nozzi played the Old Actor in The Fantasticks.
Michael-Anthony Nozzi played the Old Actor in The Fantasticks.

Spitfire set designers Sherman Wayne and William Pitcher won top honors, and Wayne took a second TP for lighting design. Lewis Hauser won for best direction and Sylvia Grieb and Shirley Churgin captured top production honors for the musical.

“The cast was sublime,” said Joanna Churgin, in accepting her award. She admitted that during rehearsals and the show, she would never go downstairs to the green room, but rather would sit offstage and “I would listen all night to the singing.”

Tying for Lead Actor were the actors from The Odd Couple, Scott Gardner and Michael Sorich. Manfred Hofer, who played Howard in Picnic, tied Chitwood for Featured Actor.

In accepting his award, Hofer said, “This was a special show and it will hold a special place in my heart.” He detailed how the actors had become closer during unexpected adversity during rehearsals and staging. Sherman Wayne, the director, was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery for a subdural hematoma. He was put into a medically induced coma and his chances of recovery were not good. Martha Hunter, who was in the cast, stepped in as director. Wayne was even able to make it back to the Pierson for opening night.

June Lissandrello took the Costume award for Picnic and Joanne Reich won for Graphic Design for the same show. The Cameo Actress award went to Lindsay Lillig for The Hollow.

Diane Grant, who has managed the box office since the theater opened, almost 30 years ago, received the Cristofer Cariello Award, which is given in honor of the former Theatre Palisades member, director, set designer and jack-of-all trades.

During the show, members of the Theatre Palisades Youth cast of “Beauty and Beast Jr.” performed the number “Gaston.” Under the direction of Lara Ganz, performers included Riley Stoler, Zoe Malayil, Anna Barker, Mireille Ganz, Zack Wein, Sara Samil, Jemma Handler, Callum Ganz, Ava and Bella Dixon, Goldie Massey, Nicolas Sartory, Theo King, Chaz Plager, Scarlett Boccaccio and Ingrid Knap.

Gianne Morris and Jeremiah Lussier entertained with songs from the upcoming production of The Fantasticks.

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