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BWW Review: THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE at Papillion LaVista Community Theatre


Performances run July 16-18, and July 22-24

BWW Review: THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE at Papillion LaVista Community Theatre


E - N - T - E - R - T - A - I - N - I - N - G

Providing amusement or enjoyment.

That's certainly how I would describe my evening spent at the SumTur Amphitheater, where Papillion LaVista Community Theatre presented it's winning production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

Written by Rachel Sheinkin and William Finn, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee centers around a local spelling bee competition and the six young spellers who are vying for the chance to be named the best speller and make their way to nationals. Through hilarious dialogue and musical numbers, and while including a little guest speller participation, the audience is introduced to each character one by one and given a glimpse into their lives at home, as well as the little ticks or tricks that make each child unique and special. Heartwarming, real, and just outright lovable, the book and score pave the way for a wildly entertaining night of theatre.

Director Suzanne Withem put together a wonderful group of fresh faces to help tell this story at SumTur Amphitheater. Standout performances of the evening were delivered by Christopher Layne and Hannah Rembert, who played William Barfee and Loraine SchwartzandGrubenierre respectively. Their vocals were simply stellar, and their strong acting and dancing only elevated their performances. John Lim (Chip Tolentino) and Jordan McAuliffe (Leaf Coneybear) both garnered some of the biggest laughs with their strong comedic chops and character development, and both showcased strong vocals as well. Alex Zaleski (Olive Ostrovsky) won everyone over and broke the audiences hearts with her wildly fanciful daydreaming of what her life could look like in her beautiful rendition of "The I Love You Song." Katy Kepler (Marcy Park) showcased some surprise talents in her performance of "I Speak Six Languages." Julianna Cooper (Rona Lisa Peretti) and Justin Parsley (Vice Principal Douglas Panch) are a comedic duo with ad libs and comedic timing that solidifies them as a match made in comedy heaven. Cooper also delivered strong vocals during the show with her strong mezzo cutting through clearly, and was a joy to listen to. Jeff Garst was a lovable Mitch Mahoney, both strong and yet personable, and was a great addition to round out the adults in the show.

The choreography from Nadia Ra'Shaun was fun and energetic, and the orchestra of four, led by Boston Reid, was solid. Honestly, I forgot there were only four instrumentalists at times because their sound was so together and strong. Both the choreography and instrumentalists brought the show to a higher level with their professionalism and talents. And speaking of bringing shows to another level, I need to give a shout out to the fantastic set designer, Derek Bonin, for his detail and vision he brought to the production.

While not a show I would consider for those with younger children, this talented cast and crew put on a wonderful production that you don't want to miss. So if you have an evening to plan and want to spend an evening outside and enjoying live theatre, I recommend you take a trip down to the bee.

Photography by Chris Holtmeier, Foton Foto

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