Triangle Arts and Entertainment – News and Reviews Theatre Dance Music Arts



Raleigh Little Theatre will kick off the mainstage portion of its 75th season with a light-and-lively production of the hit Broadway musical comedy THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE, guest directed by Rod Rich of Actors Comedy Lab, on Aug. 6-8, 12-15, 19-22, and 26-29 on RLT‘s Cantey V. Sutton Main Stage.

Front to Back: Aurelia Belfield as Marcy Park, Adirenne Morton as Logainne Schwartzandgrubeniere, Jeff Vizcaino as William Barfee and Jon Todd as Leaf Coneybear. Photo by Angie Davis

This interactive musical comedy, which invites three or four audience members (sometimes local celebrities) onstage to test their spelling skills against those of the show’s six young spellers, features music and lyrics by William Finn and a book by Rachel Sheinkin, based on an original play entitled C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E, which was conceived by Rebecca Feldman, with additional material by Jay Reiss, and created by a New York City-based improvisational comedy troupe called The Farm.

THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE made its Broadway debut, directed by James Lapine and choreographed by Dan Knechtges, on May 2, 2005 at the Circle in the Square Theatre, where it played for 1,136 performances before closing on Jan. 20, 2008. The show earned six 2005 Tony Award® nominations, including Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Book of a Musical, Best Direction, Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Dan Fogler as William Barfée), and Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Celia Keenan-Bolger as Olive Ostrovsky). Rachel Sheinkin took home the Tony for Best Book, and Dan Fogler won the Tony for Best Featured Actor. SPELLING BEE also won the 2005 Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Book of a Musical and Outstanding Director of a Musical, and Outstanding Ensemble Performance (Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Derrick BaskinDeborah S. CraigLisa Howard, Dan Fogler, Jay Reiss,Sarah Saltzberg, and Jose Llana).

According to the Raleigh Little Theatre news release:

“Some people can act, some can spell, but Raleigh Little Theatre is looking for audience-members who can do both for its upcoming presentation of the Tony Award-winning comedy THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE.

“For its Aug. 6-29 version of the musical comedy THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE, RLT will enlist the acting and spelling talents of a handful of audience members who will actually become part of the play’s troupe.

“About a half-hour prior to each show, audience-goers in RLT‘s lobby will be interviewed to determine if they possess that rare combination of acting and spelling skills necessary to play the part, small but vital, of a spelling bee contestant. If so, they will have a chance to show their combination skills during the show. Among those who portrayed bee-hopefuls during the play’s Broadway run in 2006-07 were Katharine Close, 2006 winner of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and actress Julie Andrews. Ms Close lasted 14 rounds before elimination; Ms Andrews tripped up on ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.’

“SPELLING BEE is a hilarious tale of overachievers’ angst as experienced by six adolescent spelling bee contestants vying for the silver-anniversary trophy and a $200 savings bond at the fictional Putnam County’s annual spelling competition.

“Director Rod Rich of RLT calls the comedy ‘a cross between a reality TV show and a sports competition enhanced with flashbacks from the lives of the lead contenders.'”

On its website, RLT notes:

“Today’s lesson: winning isn’t everything, and losing doesn’t necessarily make you a loser. The word for this show, direct from Broadway, is W-O-N-D-E-R-F-U-L. Six young people in the throes of puberty compete for the title of Spelling Champion of Putnam County Middle School: the painfully shy Olive Ostrovsky [Mary Reilly], whose mother has abandoned her to join an ashram in India; William Barfée [Jeffrey Vizcaino], the sinus-challenged former finalist with a most unusual spelling technique; Logainne Schwarzandgrubenierre [Adrienne Morton], a politically aware speller with two gay dads and a lisp; Leaf Coneybear [Jon Todd], the second runner-up to the bee who is constantly told by his family that he is ‘not that smart’; Chip Tolentino [Jon Karnofsky], a Boy Scout at the mercy of his unfortunately timed hormones; and Marcy Park [Aurelia Belfield], a classic Type-A personality who learns that it is ok not to be the best at everything. For each performance, four audience volunteers will be recruited to participate on-stage as guest spellers. [THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE won] two 2005 Tony Awards, including Best Book of a Musical.”

The production also stars Carly Prentis Jones as long-time spelling-bee hostess Rona Lisa Perretti, Jason Matthews as vice principal Douglas Panch, and David Adams as surly ex-con Mitch Mahoney, a school “comfort counselor” who gets drafted at the last minute to serve as word pronouncer for the competition.

In addition to director Rod Rich, the Raleigh Little Theatre creative team for 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE includes choreographer and properties manager Nancy Rich, musical director Coty Cockrell, technical director Jim Zervas, set designer Rick Young, lighting designer Cailen Waddel, costume designer Vicki Olson, sound designer Todd Houseknecht, and stage manager Anna Rains.

Raleigh Little Theatre presents THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE at 8 p.m. Aug. 6 and 7; 3 p.m. Aug. 8; 8 p.m. Aug. 12-14, 19-21, 26-28; and 3 p.m. Aug. 15, 22, and 29 on RLT‘s Cantey V. Sutton Main Stage, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.

TICKETS: $22 ($18 students and seniors 62+), except all seats $12 on Aug. 8th.


Tagged as: , , , , ,

Categorised in: Features, Theatre Feature

1 Response


  1. » THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE | Aug 6-29 | Triangle …