The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Music and Lyrics by William Finn
Book by Rachel Shrinking
Directed by Randy Tapper
Starring Rob DelMedico, Krystal Gillette, Erynn Hair, and Derik Lawson
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park FL

You may think kids don’t have all that much to worry about, but that just shows you’ve aged faster than you think. Adolescence is tough enough without having to prove you’re the best gosh darn speller in the county, and this year’s Putnam County spelling bee pulls together the desperate and geeky, children and adult alike. Organizer Rona Lisa Peretti (Hair) seeks love, acceptance, and the smell of old glory from when she won this very bee while Vice Principle Douglas Panch (Del Medico) returns from therapy in his used car salesman coat and reads the hard words.

Meanwhile the kids battle on in their own world with their own problems – Abandonment, hippy parents, gay parents, over achieving parents, and even excessive mucus production. The words are hard, the competition harder and the scene hysterical. Del Medico exudes a pompous and narrow view of the world; he obviously has bigger fish to fry than this Bee. John Gracey plays Chip Tolentino, the Boy Scout with an inconveniently excitable penis, while Leaf Coneybear (Heath Boyar) lives in the woods and makes his own clothes. Yeah, his parents look and smell like Jerry Garcia, but what’s a child of nature to do? As the female lead, Gillette’s Olive has the nicest voice and the gut wrenching songs, she was brought up by a dictionary, and her real father is rarely in her life.

There’s a silly energy here, and with audience members helping the cast as supplemental spellers there’s a good chance you can share in the fun on stage. The jokes work, the acting is a good several notches above 8th grade and while the songs might not exactly be infectious, this is a cool and crisp production of a relatively family safe evening’s entertainment.

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