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Spelling Bee Is A Hilarious and Charming Musical

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The Spelling Bee cast during a closing scene in their second to last performance.

The Spelling Bee cast during a closing scene in their second to last performance.

Rakel Ang

Rakel Ang

The Spelling Bee cast during a closing scene in their second to last performance.

Juliana Judge and Shinji Lin

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As the lights go dark in Webb Theater, a girl walks up to stage front to clearly spell “syzygy.”  After she receives a trophy, the story flash forwards to her acting as moderator for the current spelling bee, where a troop of spellers march in through the aisles to take their seats in East Side High Gymnasium.  All contestants are prepared to spell and hope to win the trophy for the bee.

Advanced Drama, with the aid of drama teacher Blake Williams, stage crew, and musical talent of seniors Vivyan Lin and Michael Dumont, has made The 25th Annual Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee a delight for both adults and students alike.

In addition to the talent of the cast, this adaptation touches upon many relevant themes in the lives of high school students as each of the major six spellers represent an issue.  William Barfee, portrayed by senior Joshua Duncan, is a misunderstood, allergy-suffering science whiz with a mean streak.  In the play, he falls in love with Olive Ostrovsky, portrayed by senior Saerlaith Dunn, who is neglected by her frequently arguing parents.  Chip Tolentino, portrayed by senior Keenan Taw, is the Bee’s previous winner, but his puberty gets in the way of his spelling.

Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre, portrayed by senior Sofia Miera, has a pair of gay fathers for parents, who push her to her limits.  Leaf Coneybear, portrayed by junior Ellie Kanda, is frequently told that he is not smart enough, but manages to survive in the spelling competition by falling under a trance.  Marcy Park, portrayed by senior Nicole Doerges, is an over-achieving student who suffers from academic pressure.

Other wacky spellers include the friendly Eleanor Zimmerman, portrayed by junior Alex McCrary, the head lice-ridden Rebecca Johansson, portrayed by junior Madison Lortz, the trash-eating Tracee Ee, portrayed by junior Katherine Marston, the goth Cindy Ellis, portrayed by junior Mansi Gokani, and the kind-hearted Magdalene Melvin, portrayed by junior Sierra DuNah.  While these characters were not in the original 2005 Broadway production, their backstories were written by the actors themselves and Williams’s direction, allowing an even more unique and exclusive experience for both cast and audience.  In addition, one audience member was taken from the crowd to participate in the play.  The chosen person would be one of the twelve spellers and the first to be eliminated, a reference to the 2005 Broadway’s practice of picking multiple audience members to spell.

The adult characters are just as wacky as the children.  Rona Lisa Peretti, portrayed by senior Ariana Prappas, is the level-headed principal, while Panch, portrayed by senior Max Kolevski, is the awkward vice principal constantly fawning over Peretti.  Mitch Mahoney, portrayed by senior Erik Olson, is the competition counsellor not overly fond of the children he advises.  Seniors Inaara Biring and Yusuf Malek, change out costumes to perform three sets of parents in the contestants’ flashbacks.

All the actors sing their solos with confidence, wonderfully timed with senior Vivyan Lin on piano and senior Michael Dumont on synthesizer. Perhaps just as impressive is that their roles called for the spellers to remain onstage throughout the entire performance. Unlike most plays and musicals, where one can zip on and off stage and in and out of character, the students maintained their show personalities for nearly two hours straight (not counting intermission, of course), a testament to their stamina and talent.

The Webb Theater stage has been masterfully transformed into the gymnasium of East Side High School.  The Stage Crew used six layers of paint to simulate wood-paneled floors, reminiscent of gym class in junior high and adding to the atmosphere of the play.

Spelling Bee is a hilarious comedy, with all the charm of adolescence and the troubles that come with it.

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Spelling Bee Is A Hilarious and Charming Musical