BWW Review: THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE at Fargo North High Theatre
Fargo North Theatre Presents: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
A musical comedy about a fictional spelling bee and 6 young contestants and the 3 adults that run it. If anyone has seen the show before you also know that 4 additional contestants are picked from the audience. During the performance I saw 2 of the audience members were familiar to local theatre fans, local radio host and Linebenders member, J J Gordon and someone who I just reviewed in the West Fargo production of Damn Yankees, Preston Degerness. They both had a lot of fun on stage and added to the show.
This show is a spin off of the improv play C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E from the New York based improv troupe The Farm. Putnam made its Broadway debut in 2005.
I loved that the Pit was right on stage in plain sight and was actually involved in many part of the show. The pit did an excellent job so congrats to Orchestra Director Kelsey Dragosavich and Pit managers Laura Simmons and Josie Mohror and the rest of the pit.
The is a smaller cast without a very large ensemble which is a nice change. Directors Tom and Rachel Gillen did a great job and also a special shout out to Vocal Director Katie Damico and Choreographer David Triptow.
Right off the bat we meet Rona Lisa Peretti, played wonderfully by Bailey Medler, the #1 Realtor in Putnam County and a former Putnam County Spelling Bee Champ herself. Bailey does such a good job on this fun character. She gets to shine on The Rules/My Favorite Moment of the Bee". Her interactions with the members and also with Mr. Panch are very funny.
Peter Qualey as Mr Panch was so funny. He has some of the funniest lines in the show while reading the words to the contestants. He had a great moment when one of the audience members was on stage and made a comment and Peter started really laughing, which of course made the whole audience laugh. We get to hear Peter sing on The Goodbye songs and also "My Favorite Part of The Bee".
Kasen Sanders as Mitch Mahoney, The Official Comfort Counselor, who gets to escort the contestants off stage after they get a word wrong. He was great on "Prayer of the Comfort Counselor".
Paul Meidinger as Chip, last years champion, did a wonderful job. He has some great scenes while spelling and is featured on "Pandemonium" and has an absolutely hilarious solo on "Chip's Lament" at the opening of Act II.
Cameron Murphy as Leaf Coneybear is my pick for the funniest character in the show. Every time he was featured I was laughing nonstop. Everything from his outfit (he makes his own clothes) to his mannerisms and spelling are hilarious. His solo on "I'm Not That Smart" was one of my favorite parts of the show.
Macky Conlin as Marcy, who placed 9th in last years National Spelling Bee, is another great character and played wonderfully by Macky. She was great on "I Speak Six Languages".
Natalie Syverson as Logainne, the contestant with two overbearing gay dads (played perfectly by Andrew Chriatiansen and Gavin Nordeng). She speaks with a lisp and wants America to love her. She is superb on "Woe Is Me" and ends that song with an amazing long note.
Ellie Gillen as Olive is wonderful. Her character has parents that are not really there so she turned to words at a young age which she describes beautifully in "My Friend, the Dictionary" and Ellie also does an amazing job on "The I Love You Song"
Josh Tappe as William Barfee who was a finalist last year who was eliminated because of an allergic reaction to peanuts. He has to keep correcting Mr Panch on the pronunciation of his name. "It's Bar-Fay NOT Bar-fee". Josh gets to standout on "Magic Foot" and "Weltanschauung".
This is such a good show and Fargo North Theatre did a phenomenal job. I highly recommend that you attend one of the few productions that are left.