Every year, students invest enormous amounts of time and energy to put together three theater productions. The quality of this year’s winter musical, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” was a testimony to the school’s exceptional theater program; the production was polished, enjoyable and entertaining. The winter musical was directed and choreographed by choral teacher Keith Schwartz, and the orchestra was directed by music teacher Carolyn Herman.
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is a musical written by Rachel Sheinkin, with music and lyrics by William Finn. Almost all cast members were on stage throughout the entire show and duration of the “spelling bee,” making the musical a fun comedic affair for all.
The show featured incredible lighting design and organization, as the production made use of lighting to cue the audience when a character is having a flashback, or is about to break into song. The pit orchestra produced impressive pop rock tunes and complemented their peers on stage wonderfully.
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” tells the story of quirky characters and teachers at a spelling bee, through songs and flashbacks into the characters’ lives. A few of the comedic characters are: Leaf Coneybear (William Memmott), a contestant who doesn’t actually know how to spell any of the words, but with the help of his hand puppet, somehow spells all the words he doesn’t know correctly, Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre (Julia Bergel), a girl who writes words on her arm before spelling them to help her see how to spell them, Olive Ostrovsky (Meghan Wright), a girl whose mother is away meditating in India, Marcy Park (Aishlinn Kivlighn), an overachiever who speaks six languages and William Barfée (Matthew Bottiglieri), an arrogant contestant who draws out words with his magic foot and is allergic to peanuts.
At every show, non-cast members were preselected to come onstage and become a part of the show, which was special and entertaining. Spelling bee guests included English teacher Michelle Hanson, junior Stephen Hechler and senior Paul Lavallee at the Sunday performance. Every contestant who was eliminated from the bee was escorted offstage by an intimidating comfort counselor, Patricia Mahoney, (Allyson Nalibotsky), while the rest of the cast sung a consoling “goodbye” song. The show also included political, religious and celebrity jokes that kept the audience chuckling, included references to a principal who couldn’t be there to administer the bee because he had moved to Canada.
The show felt interactive, as cast members from the stage spoke directly to the audience, informing them of characters’ pasts and spelling habits. They even told the audience that it was time for intermission by announcing they were hungry and that it was time for a snack break. Eliminated contestant Chip Tolentino (Krystian Ochman) also threw candy into the audience as he walked down the aisle at the start of act two, lamenting his new humiliating job as a concessions salesman after he was eliminated.
The show also questioned what it means to be a winner, as it features a contestant who wants to win so she won’t disappoint her parents and one who excels at everything, but at the expense of her own happiness. The show closed with each character stating who they would become and “The Last Goodbye,” an appropriately named closing song.
All in all, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” was hilarious, entertaining and showed off the tremendous amount of talent of students here. The spring musical will be “Cinderella” and auditions will be held December 12-16. Visit WoottonArts.com for more information.