The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee was performed this past weekend by the BU Players at the Alvina Krause Theatre on Center Street in the town of Bloomsburg. I went to the Friday February 18 showing, and let me tell you I was thoroughly impressed.
I knew barely anything at all, about this show or the BU Players, but they both pleasantly surprised me. The use of the set, the characters/actors, the music, and the use of audience members were really just great. So, for those of you who didn’t get a chance to see it, I’ll break it down.
This show consists of six kids and three adults. They are as followed: (Character, Actor)
Marcy Parks (Gabriella Russo)- She’s “all business” and can pretty much do anything. #5
Leaf Coneybear (Greg Hoagland) – At the bee out of pure luck, doesn’t think he’s that smart. #3
William Barfee (Robert Pellechio) – Insists his last name is pernounced Barfé, and spells with his “magic” foot. #4
Olive Ostrovsky (Janine Leisner) – Neglected by her parents, her dictionary is her best friend. #6
Chip Tolentino (Zach Presswood) – Last year’s winner, but is eliminated under certain, unfortunate, circumstances. #1
Logainne Schwartzandgrubennierre (Jaryn Wilcox) – The youngest competitor. Has a lisp and two (stage) fathers. #2 (I went to the Friday performance where Wilcox played, but Rachel DelVecchio played Logainne Thursday and Saturday nights).
Mitch Mahoney (Richard Nazzaro) – An ex-con who’s serving as a “comfort councelor” for elminiated contestants as community service.
Rona Peretti (Lauren Shover) – Won the bee in her day, now is the host.
Douglas Panch (Marc O’Broin) – The Vice Principle
(Also Carl Dad [Hoagland] and Dan Dad [Nazzaro] : Olive’s parents [Shover & Nazarro])
The show starts out with a musical number appropriately called “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” and went right into “The Spelling Rules” and “My favorite Moment of the Bee” which was sung by Rona. There were a lot more songs than I expected there to be in the musical. That was very pleasantly surprising.
Along with the kids (the actors), they had the three audience members on stage spell too, and before each speller approached the microphone, they give a random fact about them. My favorite fact was for audience member contestant number seven. His fact was that he was rejected to be on the show Jersey Shore because he was “too authentically Italian.”
As the competition furthers, we get an insight as to how each of the children feel about themselves and the current situations they are in. We have evdience of this in the following songs:
“My Friend, the Dictionary” – Olive
“I’m Not that Smart” – Leaf
“Magic Foot” – Barfee (Which even included a little dance number)
“My Unfortunate Erection” – Chip (There will be an explanation about this one)
“Woe is Me” – Logainne
“I Speak Six Languages” – Marcy
“The I Love You Song” – Olive and her parents
“My Friend, the Dictionary” is about how Olive was always reading her dictionary because she never had any real friends. “I’m not that Smart,” which has a reprise, is about how Leaf got into the Bee out of pure luck and doesn’t really think he’s all that smart. Barfee sings and dances about how his foot helps him spell in “Magic Foot.” Chip, last year’s champ, suffers from an erection and is elminiated from the competition and comes back later to sing about it in “My Unfortunate Erection.” Logainne is constantly being pressured by her stage dads to be a perfectionist and that comes out in “Woe is Me,” which has a reprise. Marcy corrects the judges when they say she speaks five languages in her song called “I Speak Six Languages.” Olive feel like her parents are neglecting her and that comes out in her song with her parents, “The I Love You Song.”
Now I will give an explanation to this song, “My Unfortunate Erection.” Leaf has a sister named Marigold who Chip is in love with. Since there is no actual character to play Marigold, Chip points to some random audience member each night to be her. And when I looked at the stage Friday night as he was pointing, I couldn’t help but notice he was commenting on my plaid shirt and pointing directly at me. I couldn’t help but start laughing, especially when Marigold is the cause of the erection that got him eliminated.
As the show goes on contestants get eliminated. It starts with Chip, then Leaf, Marcy (before she is eliminated she gets a visit from Jesus who tells her to do what she wants, so she spells the word “camouflage” wrong on purpose), and then Logainne. Finally it is between Olive and Barfee and they both sing a song together contemplating whether they should let one another win or not.
And finally, William Barfee wins the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. He ends with a quote stating: “My whole life I have only been able to breathe out of one nostrile. Today is no exception!” The show ended by each character telling the audience what they grew up to do with their lives, and bowed as the audience applauded.