B(ee)autiful ‘Bee’ at the PW Downspace

The 25tr Anuall Puttnamn Counti Spellingh Bie, sorry, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee directed by Emily Kassie ’14 finished its four night run with a side-splitting, heartwarming and just plain f-u-n finale Monday at the PW Downspace. Spelling Bee, which revolves around the titular Bee and the six eager spellers who yearn to take home the coveted trophy, is filled with strong performances and equally dazzling musical numbers thanks to the musical direction of Diego Ramos Rosas ’12. Each speller honestly portrays a particular adolescent insecurity and an unbridled enthusiasm for life as they are skillfully guided through the competitive process by Rona Lisa Peretti and Vice Principal Douglas Panch, played by Ellora Vilkin ’14 and Will Ruehle ’13, respectively. It might not be Scripps, but it surely has songs. More on the Bee after the jump.

Round by round, the spellers step up to the microphone and attempt to spell their given word. Ruehle’s skilled improvisation and comedic timing give each attempt its own starring role in the show. Vilkin plays her role as former spelling bee champion and current spelling bee moderator delicately, and her chemistry with Ruehle is one of the highlights of the show. For every spelling bee champion there are a bevy of tearful and dejected losers who are ever-so-tenderly (or not) ushered out of the gymnasium and given a consolation juice-box. The Comfort Counselor and paroled convict Mitch Mahoney is hilariously played by Blake Beaver ’14.

The spellers themselves embody the awkwardness of blooming adolescence – they are plagued by untimely erections, assisted by helpful finger puppets and aided by rogue tactics like William Barfee’s (Harrison Chad ’14) magic foot.  Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre, played by Rebecca Lichtin ’14, is able to spit out her words through her almost debilitating lisp and with the help of her two fathers. Sami Horneff ’12 plays Olive Ostrovsky, the only speller without her parents in attendance. Her love of dictionaries as friend-substitutes and an undying hope that her father will show up to fill his reserved seat supply the strongest emotional arc of the show. This plot comes to a head in the show-stopping “The I Love You Song” where she is accompanied by Ruehle and Vilkin playing the images of her parents.

Spelling Bee is set in a cartoon-like gymnasium complete with posters on the wall supporting different spellers and local Putnam County businesses sponsoring the Bee. The set looks a lot like a Rocko’s Modern Life episode, which adds to the childlike whimsy of the entire production.  Kassie’s playful direction and choreography, with strong comedic performances across the board and plenty of energy renders this show one you definitely should not have missed. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a laugh-filled tender look at childhood and what it means to shoot for the stars, even if sometimes failing is the most f-u-n way to get there.

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