Photo of the interior of the New Stage Theater, the audience is full, the stage lights are on, lighting up the red main curtain.
Photo of the interior of the New Stage Theater, the audience is full, the stage lights are on, lighting up the red main curtain.

Meet the Artist



Regards from Broadway Rose

Spring 2024

Photo of James Valcq.

James Valcq, co-author of The Spitfire Grill

From screenplay to film to stage play, The Spitfire Grill has found its way to the Broadway Rose Theatre, opening on May 30, 2024. The story behind the show is nothing short of extraordinary, and James Valcq shared with us narratives about the heartfelt work that went into the making of the folk musical.

James Valcq grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and began his professional theatre background in the opera at age seven. Spending his childhood in classical music concerts and operas as a boy soprano and child actor, James later graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with an applied voice major.

After gaining his bachelor’s degree, James transitioned away slightly from performing and became more interested in conducting and composing. He received his master’s in Musical Theatre Writing from NYU which would launch his career in writing for musical theatre.

During college, James served as a musical director for a “couple of bawdy revues,” and the writer of the shows suggested that James try writing original songs for the next production. This would lead to writing the musicals The Passage and The Spitfire Grill with longtime friend and writing partner, Fred Alley.

The Spitfire Grill went from page to stage in less than 22 months, progressing fast due to what James credits as a “surge of passion that comes when a project is fresh and the possibilities are limitless.” According to James, The Spitfire Grill had a “rather charmed genesis,” as the quick development of the show stemmed from the visceral reaction he had after seeing the 1996 film of the same name. The film was written and directed by Lee David Zlotoff and served as a portrait of what James described as “an almost mythic American folktale with characters who were people Fred and I knew, with all their faults, dreams, and hard-earned triumphs.” Weaving together different styles of storytelling, The Spitfire Grill plays with elements of realism and allegory, highlighting depth reflected through the music.

Photo of James Valcq and co-author Fred Alley. Photo by Justin Romeo.

James Valcq (right) with Fred Alley, James’ co-author and lyricist for The Spitfire Grill

Approaching The Spitfire Grill from a state of emotional exposition, Fred and James’ writing process was earnest: “We listened to the characters and let them tell our hearts what to write,” explained James. “This seemingly simple fable held in its own heart a few basic truths about healing, about second chances, about the value of human connection. And the characters challenged us with a question: There are things in life you can’t overcome. Do these things disable you, do they destroy you, or do they ennoble you?” These are just a few of the takeaways audiences leave the theatre with. 

With these questions in mind, the musical plays into deep themes of redemption and hope through passionate music, intense lyrics, and a robust storyline. However, according to James, his contribution was primarily structural, as he explained that “99 percent of the actual words are Fred’s.” Fred tragically passed away at the age of 38, but his legacy lives on and can especially be seen through his brilliant contributions to The Spitfire Grill.

The show is filled with multi-faceted lyrics and music, including one of James’ favorite lines: “When hope goes, hearts close.” Through the show, audiences are exposed to the meaning of hope and how it allows for vulnerability and love. “During the last few months of Fred’s life, he planted in The Spitfire Grill little seeds containing all the good things he’d learned about life. Fred’s quiet message of hope and redemption continues to be heard,” explained James.

The Spitfire Grill has neared 1,000 productions of the show and continues to resonate with audiences all over the world. “Wherever it plays, audiences somehow find themselves when they visit the Grill. And they seem to leave the Grill a little elevated from where they were when they came in,” said James.

The Spitfire Grill is a full-circle moment for Broadway Rose, as co-founder and Artistic Director Sharon Maroney previously directed James Valcq in a high school production. Now, 40-odd years later, Sharon will perform the role of Hannah Ferguson in The Spitfire Grill.

Senior year of high school, James met Sharon Maroney. She was fresh out of college and was brought in to direct James’ high school production of Anyone Can Whistle. He had seen Sharon perform around town and was a fan: “My memories of that show (and Sharon) remain vivid,” said James. “She was a ball of fire and the show was a total joy… All of us knew we were involved in a very special experience, but only a handful of us realized what a gift it was to be in this rarely-performed show.” Years later, while James was writing The Spitfire Grill, his mentor, and Anyone Can Whistle playwright Arthur Laurents, was skeptical when James told him he’d been in the production back in high school: “To this day, I’m convinced he thought I was fibbing!” said James.

During his decade as co-Artistic Director with his husband Robert Boles at Third Avenue Playhouse in Door County, Wisconsin, James continued his work in composition, acting, directing, and orchestrating. Currently, he is collaborating on two musicals with songwriter, singer, and playwright Katie Dahl.

Broadway Rose is excited to share this moving story with our audiences, and we invite you to come hang out at the Grill to find out what’s “cooking.” Trust us, it’s something good.

The Spitfire Grill is playing at Broadway Rose Theatre New Stage May 30 – June 23. Learn more about the show and purchase tickets at

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