Thursday, May 23, 2013

Better Get to the SPELLING BEE While You Still Can!

Everybody was in a spelling bee at some time, right? We had to spell in our 5th and 6th grade classes at Woodrow Wilson School in Peoria to try to win a spot in the school-wide Bee and then the big Peoria Journal Star Spelling Bee. My sister got all the way to the big one and spelled on TV! I, sadly, did not. I'm afraid I left the C out of ACQUAINTANCE and got buzzed out back at Woodrow Wilson.

The children in the charming and wonderful The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (seen above as they appear in the Community Players production) would understand exactly the pain of leaving out that C. They are misfits, sort of, from strange William Barfée (yes, that accent is for real), who spells with his foot and suffers terrible allergies, to hapless homeschooler Leaf Coneybear, who has a decided lack of confidence; pretty Olive Ostrovsky, whose mother abandoned her for an ashram; Marcy Park, who is good at everything except acting like a live human being; Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre, trying to keep up with her overachiever dads (she has two, hence the compound last name); and last year's champ, Chip Tolentino, who finds himself suddenly smacked around by puberty.

Spelling Bee has a bright, tuneful score written by Michael Finn and a sweet book by Rachel Sheinkin. It doesn't take itself too seriously, although it has its touching moments, mostly in the neighborhood of parent/child interactions (or lack thereof). It also offers audience members a chance to spell, if they're game. I'm sure I've told everyone I know about the time I went to see The Bee in Chicago on my birthday, got chosen as one of four volunteer spellers, and lasted almost to the end, putting my ACQUAINTANCE ignominy to bed once and for all. (I went out on lysergic acid diethylamide, which you will notice is really three words, not one, but, hey, I wanted to be done so I could go back to the audience and watch the show, so I didn't complain. I still have the juice box I got as a parting gift. Just sayin'.)

The main thing to take away here is that The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a perfectly adorable show. And you need to see it. And you have four chances left while it's still playing at Community Players. F-O-U-R.

Director Brett Cottone's cast includes Brian Artman, Kallie Bundy, Aimee Kerber, Megan Masterman, Joe McDonald, Joel Shoemaker, Kelly Slater, Chris Stanford and Austin Travis. They will be appearing (and spelling) tonight, tomorrow and Saturday at 7:30 pm, with a matinee Sunday at 2:30 pm to finish off their run. You can order tickets here or check out Bee info at the Community Players website here.

Can you spell M-U-S-T  S-E-E?

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