BWW Feature: THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE Performed by the Charleston Light Opera Guild at The Guild Theater

BWW Feature: THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE Performed by the Charleston Light Opera Guild at The Guild Theater

The Charleston Light Opera Guild have announced performance dates for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a two time Tony award winning musical comedy featuring music and lyrics by William Finn with a book by Rachel Sheinkin. First produced on Broadway in 2005, this show earned six Tony nominations as well as a Grammy nomination for best musical show album.

Performance Dates: January 19th, 20th, 26th, 27th, 2018 & February 2nd & 3rd, 2018 at 7:30 PM and January 28th, 2018 & February 4th, 2018 at 2:00 PM

Tickets: $20.00 for General Admission. You can purchase tickets online here or call the Box Office at (304) 343-2287

Address: The Guild Theater, 411 Tennessee Avenue, Charleston, WV, 25302

Contact: (304) 342-9312 or

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a musical comedy centered on a spelling bee being held at Putnam Valley Middle School in their gymnasium. Six quirky middle school students participate in the spelling bee, led by three similarly quirky adults. All six students are eager to win the spelling bee for various personal reasons, normally expressed through song as each character is introduced and as they struggle to survive another round. Members of the audience are invited on stage during each performance to participate in the spelling bee alongside the actors, resulting in unexpected and hilarious new events occurring nightly. This unpredictability, coupled with the memorable songs, combine to create a one of a kind show.

The spelling bee contestants include Olive Ostrovsky (Devin Elliot), a spelling bee newcomer whose best friend is a dictionary; William Barfee (Dewey Fletcher), one of last year's finalists who was eliminated due to an unfortunate allergic reaction to peanuts; Leaf Coneybear (Bob McCarty - who also plays a parent in the show), a homeschooled student who comes from a family of hippies, Leaf tends to spell words correctly while in an unexplainable trance; Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre (Danae Samms), the youngest competitor and an avid fan of politics, Logainne is pressured by her overbearing gay fathers to win at any cost and often finds ways to insert her stance on political figures into the spelling bee; Marcy Park (Allison Whitener), a transfer from Virginia, Marcy is fluent in six languages, a musical prodigy, excels in all aspects of life, barely sleeps and frankly, is getting tired of winning so much; and Chip Tolentino (Gabriel Gorby), A boy scout and last year's champion, returning to defend his title.

After a five-year hiatus from judging the spelling bee due to an unexplained "incident" that occurred during the Twentieth Annual Spelling Bee, Vice Principal Douglas Panch (Kennie Bass) has finally returned claiming he's now in a "better place in his life", although his infatuation with Moderator, Rona Lisa Peretti (Julie Miller - Who also plays Olive's mother) has not diminished. Rona, a former spelling bee champion and number one realtor in Putnam County, does not return the Vice Principal's feelings. Rounding out the adults is Mitch Mahoney (Cameron Buford - who also plays Dan's father and Olive's father), a comfort counselor and an ex-convict working the bee as a form of community service, tasked with handing out juice boxes to losing students.

Director Nina Denton Pasinetti explains her love for this production, "I was fortunate enough to see the original Broadway production at Circle in the Square. I had heard great comments from my Broadway friends and was equally impressed by the production. Years later I saw a national tour production in a 1,600 seat house in Charleston, WV and a smaller professional production in Savannah, Georgia." Pasinetti realized that most these shows occurred in larger theatres, and decided, "how fun it would be to present a community theatre production in an intimate location." Going on to explain how, "The improvisational style, combined with audience participants and fun music is appealing and a challenge for actors." Pasinetti mentions how the Charleston Light Opera Guild normally perform in larger venues, but also owns their own 225 seat intimate theatre, so they decided to perform the show there.

Pasinetti jokes about the struggle to perform this play in a state that actually has a Putnam County. "We actually have a Putnam County in West Virginia and I'm constantly reminding people that this is not about West Virginia's Putnam County, nor is it a children's spelling competition." Pasinetti adds that although not a real spelling competition, "Our cast member portraying the bee pronouncer, Douglas Panch (Kennie Bass), has been our Kanawha County spelling bee pronouncer for many years. I've also discovered that several of our cast members won spelling bees in younger days."

As for the cast, Pasinetti has nothing but praise, "The nine member cast has impressed me. They are very focused on characters and musical harmonies. This has been a fun production and group of actors to direct." Getting more specific, Pasinetti says, "I'm pleased that our Marcy Park (Allison Whitener) character can dance, play the piano, twirl a baton and box since that character needs to display multiple talents. Working with the young man playing William Barfee (Dewey Fletcher) with his magical foot manner of spelling has been both challenging and rewarding. The young woman playing Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre (Danae Samms) has been very creative in updating unscripted ad libs, and both the Panch and Lisa Rona Peretti (Julie Miller) characters are quick on their feet with humorous introductions of audience spellers, definitions and use of the spelling words in a sentence. Olive (Devin Elliot), Leaf Coneybear (Bob McCarty) and Chip (Gabriel Gorby) portrayers have impressed me with their growth in character. We are very lucky to have Mitch (Cameron Buford) with a powerful voice."

Pasinetti next takes time to praise her crew, "A very talented young man, David Patrick, has been accompanist for many Guild productions and for Spelling Bee has also been our musical director. He has assembled an effective group of musicians to accompany the skilled cast. The simple set fits our intimate theatre and both lighting director, Tom Pasinetti, and sound designer, Mike Ramsey, have worked to re-imagine our capabilities. Stage managers, costumers, prop mistresses and stage crews are enjoying this small cast and unique style music."

When asked what she would want to say to potential audiences, Pasinetti replied, "to just enjoy this creative and fun show and bring a crowd. Theatre is a give and take between a cast and an audience. Audience response will stimulate the actors to give a heightened and memorable performance."

In conclusion Pasinetti states, "I'm very proud that we can produce this Tony winning show. I love its history from C-R-E-P-I-S-C-U-L-E days at the Farm through development, off Broadway performances and finally Broadway. No community acting company has produced it in the Charleston, WV area. Sometimes the larger classic and new musicals take precedent. I'm so glad that the Charleston Light Opera Guild has recognized the entertainment value of Spelling Bee.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is Directed and Choreographed by Nina Denton Pasinetti. Additional crew includes Musical Director and Accompanist David Patrick and Technical Director Tom Pasinetti.

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From This Author Richard Allen

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