Idiosyncratic. "May I have the definition, please?" Relating to idiosyncrasy; peculiar or individual. "May I have the word used in a sentence, please?" The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a fantastic, energetic, idiosyncratic show you must see!
Remember consulting the blue back speller in preparation for the annual school spelling bee? Whether it brings back fond or bitter memories, you will be delightfully entertained by the six pre-pubescent kids attempting to earn their spot at the National Spelling Bee competition.
While the plot is simple (it is, after all, a spelling bee), the characters are well-developed and complex. The six competitors are introduced through song where we learn about the struggles middle schoolers tackle.
Ashlee Reck (Olive Ostrovsky) sings flawlessly as she shares her loneliness while she tries to understand why her mom left and her dad "takes things out on her."
Matthew Schilling (Leaf Coneybear) delivers a strong ACT debut performance when he sings about how his family thinks he is "Not that Smart" even though he loves to spell. Although quirky, he is compassionate, enthusiastic, and tries to put everyone in a good mood.
Robert Tople (William Barfée) brings comic relief, but especially in his song "Magic Foot," explaining his winning technique of spelling out the words with his foot before he ever utters a word.
Carter Hofer (Chip Tolentino) sings with confidence as he explains his unfortunate "protuberance" common among pubescent boys.
Kadee Vermeulen (Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre) masters her role as the only child of two dads who are overbearing and committed to winning at all costs. She is the youngest of the competitors and the most confident despite her lisp (which she pulls off extremely well in both dialogue and song).
Madison VanWalleghen (Marcy Park) aptly conveys her perfunctory attitude when she tells everyone that she does not enjoy winning, even though she excels in sports, academics, the arts, spelling, and can speak six languages (and say hello in at least seven more).
The bee is organized by ACT newcomer Ashley Schroeder (Rona Lisa Peretti). Her voice is beautiful, smooth and calming. As winner of the third annual Putnam County bee, she shares the children's enthusiasm and talent.
Devin Carey does not disappoint as Vice Principal Douglas Panch. His innate sense of comedic timing and expression conjure roaring laughter when asked for word definitions and word usage in a sentence.
The vocal performance of Devin Basart (Mitch Mahoney) will leave you wanting more; I certainly hope he becomes an ACT familiar face. Basart also directed the show, putting together a cast that is harmonious, energetic and a joy to watch.
Devin Carey has masterfully created a realistic gymnasium set complete with basketball hoops, stage curtains, bleachers and a judges' table. The lighting adds to the overall effect of a school spelling bee and highlights a guest performance you will have to see for yourself.
There are some adult moments that may be inappropriate for children under 13, but the show is delightful silly in its exploration of middle school angst. Idiosyncratic? Definitely. Jocular? (You may ask for the definition.)
The show by Area Community Theatre has performances Friday, May 3, and Saturday, May 4, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 5, at 4 p.m. at the Pepsi-Cola Theatre. Tickets are available online at www.mitchellact.org or call 996-9137 for more information.