BWW Reviews: No One Loses in This 25th ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE

BWW Reviews: No One Loses in This 25th ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee/book by Rachel Sheinkin; music & lyrics by William Finn/directed by Kristin Towers Rowles/El Portal Monroe Forum Theatre/through March 1 only

Talk about quirkiness and how it can be used to its best advantage in a musical! The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is terribly funny in a smart, slick, offbeat manner with prize worthy characterizations of lively eclectic people.It may be a tad long like the actual spelling out of words (that are not to be believed!)yet the exaggeration and contestants' varied reactions give rise to some great comic moments...and I love the audience involvement! Some of the contestants are picked from the audience and their ad-libs lend one.of.a.kind hilarity. The unpredictability in denouement is another big plus in the overall enjoyment of the show. It's like a real contest.

With games and TV reality competitions such as American Idol, Dance Moms and others being so popular, we enjoy seeing the average person...and particularly the underdog, take the spotlight. Kids are always fun to watch, especially those from diverse backgrounds who yearn for some recognition in their lives. In the case of Marcy Park (Nicole Santiago-Barredo) the competitiveness is fierce "she's all business"; with Olive Ostrovsky (Kimberly Hessler), it's a parental/love issue that is so vital for her well-being, and for William "Magic Foot" Barfee (Erik Scott Romney), to overcome a handicap and simply stand apart in a positive way. Even the adult judges are not without their issues, like Rona Lisa Perritti (Emily King Brown), a former contest winner, who has some pretty intense feelings about the contest and Vice Principal Douglas Panch (Chuck McCollum), who has never made it to Principal, but would like to...

Under Towers Rowles astoundingly meticulous direction, this cast are miraculously focused and funny. The aforementioned Romney, Hessler and Barredo all shine, as do Leigh Golden as Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre (this lady deliciously immerses herself into the character), Craig McEldowney as the totally hyper and original Coneybear, and Travis Dixon as Chip Tolentino with the hilariously pesky "Unfortunate Erection". They make an unforgettable team. King Brown as MC Rona Peretti sings beautifully and McCollum as Vice Principal Panch is about as straightforward and genuine as they come. John Devereaux completes the terrif ensemble as Mitch Mahoney whose streetwise smarts and juice and hug sure go a long way to make an unpleasant exit smooth.

William Finn's music is up, bright and pleasing with "The I Love You Song" the most memorably lilting and meaningful. Joe Lawrence's musical direction and Samantha Whidby's choreography are top-notch. I must note that I have seen this show many times, and I have to admit, this one is the winner for me because of the intimate space in which it is presented. Towers Rowles has lovingly staged the show to bring the audience in and make us feel a part of what's going on. and Whidby's choreographic touches are sharp, fast and suit the piece to perfection.

We can all relate to at least one of these kids in their awkward moments of competition. We all had problems as kids. We were either too shy or too overly confident for our own good. So, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a meaningfully addictive entertainment where we can certainly laugh...aplenty!

http://www.elportaltheatre.com/

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Don Grigware Don Grigware is an Ovation nominated actor and writer whose contributions to theatre through the years have included 6 years as theatre editor of NoHoLA, a contributor to LA Stage Magazine and currently on his own website:

www.grigwaretalkstheatre.com

Don hails from Holyoke, Massachusetts and holds two Masters Degrees from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in Education and Bilingual Studies. He is a teacher of foreign language and ESL.

Don is in his fifth year with BWW, currently serving as Senior Editor of the Los Angeles Page.


 
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