Review: THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE at Clarksville High School

The thespians perform in their gym for this hilarious musical

By: Apr. 17, 2024
Review: THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE at Clarksville High School
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Fine arts education is essential to a thriving community, and as a Broadway World writer, I feel it is important to spotlight our budding thespians, so when I am able to go to new-to-me theatres and theatre programs, I get excited. I have never seen THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE, so when I read that Clarksville High School, 2022 W Clark Rd, in Clarksville, I knew I needed to go. Before I go any further with the review, I just want to point out that Clarksville does not have a community theater, so the Clarksville School District and possibly the University of the Ozarks are the only local theatrical opportunities for these artists. That is a serious responsibility put on these educators, but after watching a dress rehearsal and talking with the students, I am happy to report that this community is not lacking in quality leadership.  

Review: THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE at Clarksville High School

With Book by Rachel Sheinkin, Music and Lyrics by William Finn, and Conceived by Rebecca Feldman, THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE, is a musical comedy that follows the journey of several eccentric and quirky middle school students as they compete in a fictional spelling bee in Putnam County, led by equally quirky adults.  

Each contestant has their own unique background and story, and the audience gets a glimpse into their lives as they navigate the pressures of the competition. William Barfee (Brock Krohn) is known for his eccentricities and uses a magic foot technique to spell out words on the floor. Olive Ostrovsky (Analeise Fultz) Olive is shy and wishes for her parents to show up. Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre (Lendee Morgan) Logainne is highly competitive, has a lisp, and two overbearing fathers who put immense pressure on her to win the bee. Leaf Coneybear (Anthony Nuno) is a sweet, quirky boy who remains upbeat and enthusiastic despite the family thinking he is unintelligent. Marcy Park (Lynzee Owens) is an overachieving perfectionist who is heavily involved in extracurricular activities and is under intense pressure from her parents to excel in everything she does. Chip Tolentino (Daniel Cuevas) is a confident contestant but faces personal struggles when he experiences unexpected puberty-related distractions during the bee, which leads to his eventual elimination. 

Review: THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE at Clarksville High School

These spellers are joined by random people in the audience and Rona Lisa Peretti (Carleigh Morgan), a former spelling bee champion, Vice Principal Douglas Panch (Zeke Jones) who has a history of unfortunate incidents during past spelling bees, and Mitch Mahoney (Rayleigh Pratt), an ex-con comfort counselor. Throughout the bee, the characters learn important lessons about winning, losing, and the importance of friendship and acceptance. 

With Direction by Jenava Harris and Music Direction by Emily Ramsey, and set in the gymnasium, these thespians told a hilarious story with heart and talent. They brought their own energy and interpretation to the characters, making the show relatable to their own experiences. I feel like the themes of academic pressure, identity, and friendship resonated strongly with this cast, and I loved how they mingled with the audience before the show and at intermission.  

Review: THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE at Clarksville High School
Rayleigh Pratt as "Mitch" and Carleigh Morgan as "Rona"

After the show I had the privilege to speak with Senior Rayleigh Pratt, Anthony Nuno, and Sophomore Analeise Fultz. 

BWW: How did you get involved with this production?  

Nuno: The person that brought me into theater basically introduced me to this musical, and I have loved it ever since. So, whenever I heard we were doing this, I was really excited because it was kind of like a blast to the past.  

Review: THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE at Clarksville High School
Daniel Cuevas as "Chip"

Fultz: I've been doing musicals with Panther Theater since my first one, Seussical, five years ago, and so every musical that comes around I always audition for it.   

Pratt: I started doing shows with Panthers Theater my sophomore year, and so because of that, obviously, I auditioned for every show that comes around. I really love this musical, because the same person that Anthony was talking about also introduced me to this musical, and I was just so, so excited whenever I found out that we were doing this.  I was like, ‘I'm just excited to be a part of it, I don't even care what role I get. I'm just so excited to be in it.’  

Review: THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE at Clarksville High School
Anthony Nuno as "Leaf"

BWW: Do you identify with your characters? What do you like about your character?  

Nuno: I just really enjoy that. I get to basically just do whatever I want. Majority of the time I'm not even paying attention. I just get to move my little animals around and get them to interact. It's really just fun to be a child again.  

Fultz: I'm a lot like my character because she's really shy, and usually whenever I first meet people, I’m the same way. I love to also communicate with people and talk to them, welcome them.  

Review: THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE at Clarksville High School
Analeise Fultz as "Olive" 

Pratt: My favorite thing about Mitch Mahoney is my costume, because this costume is mostly my own wardrobe. I also love my makeup because I do this makeup for fun sometimes. And, it's a challenge playing Mitch in the sense of like I have to keep a straight face all the time because this show is just so funny. It's like I feel like I have to laugh, but I have to be serious.  But I connect with Mitch because he has this tough outer shell but they're actually softened inside.  

Review: THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE at Clarksville High School
Lynzee Owens as "Marcy Park"

BWW: So as a senior, how do you feel about doing this for your last show?  

Nuno: I’m glad that we’re doing it. I love this musical, but I’m sad this is the last time I get to perform with my friends. I’m going out with a bang though, so I’m happy.  

Pratt: I feel the same, and I’m really excited that we did a show this unique as our last musical, we have never done anything like this before. We have never performed in the gym, we are always in the fine arts building, and I’m really really excited to be a part of such a different musical than we’ve ever done before. I’m just proud to say that this one was my last musical at CHS. 

Review: THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE at Clarksville High School
Brock Krohn as "Barfee"

BWW: So, what are your plans after this?  

Nuno: After this, I will hopefully go to a college for musical theater. If I go to the University of the Ozarks, I will get to come back and choreograph for the musicals. For this one, I choreographed three different songs. I choreographed “I Speak Six Languages,” “Magic Foot,” and “Prayer For A Comfort Counselor.” I really enjoyed it and it’s really fun, so I hopefully can do that and still do what I love here in my hometown.  

Pratt: I plan to go to Arkansas State in Jonesboro and major in theater with a concentrate on musical theater. I'm not entirely sure what my minor will be because there's so much I wanna do, but I am excited to learn all things theater. After I graduate from Arkansas State, I can seek out all theater jobs, whether acting, tech jobs or education. I am just so excited.  

Review: THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE at Clarksville High School
Lendee Morgan as "Logainne"


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