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THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE to Open Theatre In The Park 2023 Season

The musical has an 11-performance run continuing through Sunday, March 26 in the Black Box Theatre at the Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center.

By: Mar. 10, 2023
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THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE to Open Theatre In The Park 2023 Season  Image

Theatre in the Park will open 2023 Season with INDOOR musical, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," March 10-26.

Do you know how to spell a word that starts with the letter "C" and means twilight? How about a word that begins with the letter "P" for a bird related to a cardinal?

Those are some of the fun words that jump out in the fun-loving musical, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" opening Theatre in the Park's (TIP) 2023 season INDOOR on Friday, March 10. The musical has an 11-performance run continuing through Sunday, March 26 in the Black Box Theatre at the Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center (AHC), 8788 Metcalf, Overland Park, Kansas. "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" is rated PG 16. (Curtain times: evening performances at 7:30 p.m.; matinees at 2 p.m.).

In Theatre in the Park's (TIP) continuing effort to make theatre accessible for all, the Saturday, March 25 evening show is a sign-language interpretation performance.

Winner of the Tony and the Drama Desk Awards for Best Book, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" has charmed audiences across the country with its effortless wit and humor. It's a fast-paced, wildly funny story with a book written by Rachel Sheinkin and a fresh and vibrant score by William Finn.

The fast-paced musical unfolds as an eclectic group of six mid-pubescents vie for the spelling championship of a lifetime. Each share hilarious yet touching stories from their home lives, spelling their way through a series of words, hoping never to hear the soul-crushing, pout-inducing, life un-affirming "ding" of the bell that signals a spelling mistake. Six spellers enter: one speller leaves! At least the losers get a juice box.

The musical is a riotous ride complete with guest spellers pulled from the audience at each performance.

Reed Uthe is excited to make his TIP directing debut with "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee". Uthe, currently director of theatre at Blue Valley West High School, has helmed many productions in both middle and high schools in the area. Uthe is also a talented veteran performer in the metro as well including roles in many TIP productions ("The Sparkletones," "Into the Woods," "Urinetown"). A long-time educator, Uthe has surrounded himself with a group of teachers as part of the production team including Stage Manager Emilie Christian.

"This gives us a lot of expertise in the ups and downs that these students are feeling.

Forget method acting---we LIVE this stuff," Uthe said.

Kevin Bogan, a veteran of TIP, joins Uthe as the production's musical director and accompanist. Valerie Martin, also recognized for her work at many theatres in the metro, handles the choreography duties. It's a family affair for The Martins as her brother, David Martin, takes on the role of Vice Principal Douglas Panch.

Uthe's approach to this production brings out the highs, lows, and "whattya-knows' ' of going through the middle school years - pressures of living up to parental and peer expectations,

self-doubt, and the disappointment of unreached goals.

"But so is the thrill of new-found friendship, the fun of competition, and self-discovery that all these characters experience at the Bee," he said.

Improvisation is a big part of the production, too.

"I've been in the classroom (elementary through high school) for 34 years, with 18 of those years in middle school. I've experienced this awkward age vicariously over and over," Uthe said. "My heart is with the lovable, frustrating, energetic, ridiculous pre-teens, and my goal is for the audiences to see themselves in these unique pre-teen personalities and I hope they'll love them as much as I do".

The small, yet talented local cast includes some familiar faces at TIP including Alyson Golladay ("School of Rock," "The Full Monty") as the hostess of the spelling bee Rona Lisa Peretti, Emily Vargo ("Seussical," "Something Rotten") as the over-achieving student Marcy Park, and Joel Morrison ("Joseph", "Guys and Dolls"), in the role of last year's champ, Chip Tolentino.

TIP INDOOR ticket prices are $17 for adults, $14 for youth (ages 4-10) and $15.00 for seniors, plus tax. Tickets and further details are available at Tickets may also be purchased at the front desk of the AHC, Monday - Saturday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. The box office opens at 6:30 p.m. on performance evenings and at 1 p.m. for matinees. Seating is assigned at time of ticket purchase.

TIP is a program of the Johnson County Parks & Recreation District and is the largest community theatre in the nation. TIP produces eight musicals annually with a company of Kansas City Metro area performers, directors, musicians, designers, and staff for over 40,000 patrons thereby furthering its mission to enhance the quality of life in the community by providing a variety of entertainment programs through public and private partnerships.

Cast of "The Putnam County Spelling Bee"

(Performer, role, city of residence)

Alyson Golladay - Rona Lisa Peretti, Kansas City, MO

David Martin - Douglas Panch, Lenexa, KS

Simon Schupp - Mitch Mahoney, Raymore, MO

Abbey Downs - Olive Ostrovsky, Kansas City, KS

Travis Mendoza-Holt - William Barfée, Kansas City, MO

Haley Knudsen - Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre, Overland Park, KS

Emily Vargo - Marcy Park, Gardner, KS

Luke Gilmore - Leaf Coneybear, Olathe, KS

Joel Morrison - Chip Tolentino/Jesus Christ, Lees Summit, MO


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