Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Interview: Mitch Master Directs THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE at Nicely Theatre Group


See live professional musical theatre under the stars, July 28-31

BWW Interview: Mitch Master Directs THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE at Nicely Theatre Group

It was exactly a year ago that the newly formed professional non-profit Nicely Theatre Group (NTG) was slated to premiere its inaugural show with the musical Pippin. And we all know what happened last year to live theatre productions...

Take two. One year later. On July 28th through July 31st, Nicely Theatre Group is elated to present The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee to its first live, in-person audience. The Tony and Drama Desk Award-winning musical, with book by Rachel Sheinkin and score by William Finn, will be presented under the stars, outdoors on the Berman Theatre lawn, a part of the Jewish Community Center's campus in West Bloomfield, Mich.

And the cast and crew cannot wait to entertain you.

"It feels like heaven to have live theatre back and to work with this amazingly talented group," says NTG Artistic Director Mitch Master whose production team includes Choreographer and Vocal Director Lindsey Tycholiz-McKiddy and Musical Director Ron Pietrantoni. "We've been doing our sunshine dances for perfect weather."

Up until the final three dress rehearsals next week, the total cast of 14 has been rehearsing indoors at the Berman Theatre.

With strict COVID-19 protocols in place, 95 percent of the cast and crew are fully vaccinated.

"Because we were in a closed rehearsal space, everybody wore masks for the first few weeks. We do temperature checks, and because we were in our bubble of vaccinated actors, we stopped wearing masks and it felt great to kind of be back to normal," said Master who hired four understudies to ensure seamless performances and adhere to the mantra of "the show must go on" should any COVID-19 incidents arise.

"To be able to connect again with live theatre, to see someone's face and reactions without a mask is exciting," he adds.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee follows an eclectic group of six middle-schoolers-played by an incredibly talented group of professional adult actors-as they navigate the rigors of the school spelling bee while tackling personal family issues and all the challenges associated with puberty, which is why the show is recommended for ages 12 and up.

"It's really a musical dramady spotlighting the human side of growing up. It deals with the impact that parenting has on children with some tough sensitive issues," says Master. "One minute you're busting a gut and the next minute there will be tender moments with truthful, honest scenes. Everyone can relate to what these characters are going through."

And it's never the same show twice, so you can see it several times. Before the show starts, a NTG staff member will interview audience members looking for volunteers to come onstage during the show and compete with the cast as an additional speller. The impromptu results will, undoubtedly, "bee" hilarious.

"You're taking a journey with each character throughout the show, and it's going to be an emotional roller coaster that you're going to ride out with them," says Master. "It's going to be incredibly entertaining. I'm working with a dream team.

"I also want to encourage people who aren't really theatre-goers or love musical theatre or may be more sports-minded to come out and see this show. It's going to be an amazing experience that you'll never forget."


The Nicely cast includes Erin Johnson as Olive Ostrovsky, Alexa Carollo as Rona Lisa Peretti, Michael McKiddy as Vice Principal Panch, N'Jeri Nicholson as Mitch Mahoney, Mitchell J. Hardy as William Barfee, Lauren Landman as Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre, Maryanna Lauter as Marcy Park, Alec Diem as Leaf Coneybear, Jason Bowen as Chip Tolentino and Nic Folson as Jesus. Understudies are Kayla Smith, Olivia Paryaski, Michael Phair, and Jackson Meade.


The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling will be presented July 28-31 with a rain date on Aug. 1. General admission tickets are $25 each. The show is recommended for ages 12+, with a 100-minute running time and no intermission. Curtain is at 8:30 p.m. with admittance to the grounds at 7:30 p.m. Indoor restrooms will be available. Bring your own chair, blanket and picnic basket. Desserts and non-alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase. Enjoy pre-show musical entertainment by Ron Pietrantoni.

Audience members will not be required to wear a mask. In the event of inclement weather, the show will be moved indoors to the Berman Center Theatre at no more than 50% capacity. Venue changes will be announced via email and/or text. If you don't feel comfortable seeing the show indoors, NTG will issue a full refund. For questions, please email

Order general admission tickets at


The outdoor stage is behind the Jewish Community Center at 6600 W Maple Rd, West Bloomfield Township, MI 48322, adjacent to the TreeRunner Adventure Park.

Photo (from l-r) Erin Johnson, Maryanna Lauter and Lauren Landman star in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling, July 28-31

Facebook: Nicely Theatre

Instagram: NicelyTheatre

Related Articles View More Detroit Stories

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes & More

From This Author Julie Yolles