In fourth grade I was a super-speller, that’s what they called it. But then the words got harder and my greatness ebbed, so a play titled “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” seemed a tad dry and out of my league, but was I ever wrong.
The play, which I saw on its closing night, was a riot. I went with my 13-year-old son, only because I bribed him, however, we both laughed through the entire show.
The quirky cast of characters had a passion for spelling, and came together for the annual “bee”. Each participant, looking to take the title and trophy back to their school, had to overcome something in their personal life, be it lack of confidence, not living up to the expectations of their parents or the unfortunate coming of age experience that rendered one contestant unable to focus on spelling.
The cast was made up of only nine members, and each actor brought pizzazz into his or her roles. The show was interactive with the audience, which added a special element when someone you knew or arrived with was called on stage to be one of the spellers. This part made me wonder how much of the show was adlibbed.
From the somewhat patient vice principal with an anger issue played by Andrew Goodwin to the guidance counselor who was doing his community service consoling the losers and handing out consolation juice boxes played by Jason Phillips, the one-liners and quick-witted dialogue had the audience laughing out loud.
Adam Gary Normand who played William Barfee was perfect for the part showing confidence in his magic spelling foot and creating lots of laughs with his comedic timing. Molly Olsen played Olive Ostrovsky, a last minute spelling entry, who was an endearing character. Olsen’s crystal clear voice carried the important role opposite Normand. Another stand out actor and singer was Dillion Bates who played the Boy Scout Chip Tolentino. His dynamic ability to forget himself and engage the audience with what he was singing gave him the gold star for the performance. Angelica Phipps was convincing as a not so perfect person growing up in a home with two dads, who wanted her to be first in everything.
Catholic school girl Marcy Park played by actor Kim Drisko was perfect for the part and as her character arc progressed she changed her acting style to meet the challenge. The final actor Benjamin Plummer played Leaf Coneybear, a dimwitted, goof ball who had a gift for spelling. He was great and showed his versatility by playing one of Phipps’ dads in addition to his other role.
Casting for this play was right on, kudos to the cast and crew for a seamless performance at Schoolhouse Center for the Arts. The stage at floor level gives a whole new meaning to interactive theater. Look for their next performance of “The Music Man” starting July 18. Visit them online at www.schoolhousearts.org for more about the theater, their summer arts program and auditions.