Spelling bees were those events in middle school that you hated to sit through but loved the fact that you got out of class for.
That wasn’t the case at the premiere of Company Carolina’s “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” This musical is a gut-busting and delightful comedy that will have you clamoring for more.
The production centers in on the story of six students competing to win the bee, in hopes of going to the national competition. They face the trials and tribulations of burgeoning puberty and real-world problems.
The show also used a few audience members as momentary spellers, which added to the laughs.
Most of the main characters’ past is told through flashback.
Leaf Coneybear is only at the competition because both the first and second place winners are at a bar mitzvah. Olive Ostrovsky is the timid, dictionary-loving girl who saves her dad a seat in the audience in hopes of his arrival. Marcy Park, played by Leah Morgan, a Rachel Berry-esque perfectionist is frustrated with always being the best.
All of the actors worked seamlessly together creating a strong ensemble cast in which the musical numbers flowed wonderfully.
Olive Ostrovsky, played by Emily Ruffin, is the unsuspecting powerhouse who belts it out in her beautiful rendition of “The I Love You Song” alongside her distant parents, played by Alex Koceja and Jessica Hoffmann.
The commentary from Vice Principal Panch and Rona Lisa Peretti, also played by Koceja and Hoffmann, is priceless. When asked to use the words in a sentence, the ones that Panch uses as examples are sarcastic, abrasive and laugh-out-loud funny.
The musical also dealt with mature themes such as sexuality.
Chip Tolentino, played by Kyle Conroy, finds puberty striking him in the worst of times and his unwary erection interferes with his chance to win in “My Unfortunate Erection.” Conroy makes this scene a riot and more than effectively displays a young boy plagued by the awkwardness of puberty.
It’s Christian Payne, however — who plays the wacky and uproariously funny Leaf Coneybear and gay father of Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre — who steals the show.
He captures the audience’s attention in every scene. From his alter-ego and subsequent “finger claw” that emerges every time he spells a word to his attempt to end William Barfee’s “Magic Foot”, he is truly unforgettable.
The audience ate up every scene with thunderous claps and there was never a dull moment.
The only glitch was in certain numbers featuring the majority of the cast; it was difficult to hear some of the words spoken.
In the end, the cast successfully proved that spelling bees can be enjoyable, hilarious and that this comedy musical is a real W-I-N-N-E-R.
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