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As a new member of the WERS Standing Room Only family, I was so excited to get involved, listening to new show tunes and some of my all time favorites. However with the huge library of songs Standing Room Only has, I was shocked to find out that one of my favorite shows — The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee — was not in the library. Written by Rachel Sheinkin and music/lyrics by William Finn, this show is one of the funniest you will ever see. As you guessed, it is about a spelling bee, but it is no ordinary spelling bee. When you think spelling bee you usually think about robotic children that have no feeling or emotion that are only programed to spell. That is not the case in the Putnam County.
In this bee, Vice Principal Douglas Panch returns after his five year absence as a judge after his “accident” during the 20th bee. Rona Lisa Peretti is the other judge. She is the number one realtor in Putnam County and is a former spelling champ. The spellers consist of: Olive Ostrovsky, a new comer whose only friend has been her dictionary; William Barfee, who is known for his “Magic Foot” technique of spelling the words out with his foot; Logainne Schwartzand Grubenierre, the bees youngest speller, who has two overbearing homosexual fathers and suffers from a lisp; Marcy Park, who is an over-achieving Asian that excels in everything from speaking six languages to being an all-american hockey player; Leaf Coneybear is homeschooled by his hippie family, he makes his own clothes and can only spell in a “trance” that over comes him when he is about to spell; “Chip” Tolentino is the winner of the 24th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, he is back to defend his title but experiences puberty at a bad time. Whenever the kids are eliminated, they are comforted by the Comfort Counselor Mitch Mahoney, an ex-convict who is doing his community service at the bee.
There are other characters in this show, like Olive’s parents or Logainne’s dads, but it is usually double casted by the spellers. For example Mitch Mahoney usually plays Olive’s dad. My favorite part of the show is the audience participants. Before the show starts audience volunteers are picked to spell on stage. They are usually given very simple words that aggravate the other spellers, wishing they could get easy words. When it is time for a guest speller to go, they are given a nearly impossible word (sometimes made up).
This is one of my favorite shows. It is a nonstop comedy. From the first word that is spelt to the last the crowd is always laughing. The songs are hilarious and very catchy–you will be singing them for hours after you hear them. This show needs to be on Standing Room Only and I can’t wait for all of our listeners to hear it!
If you liked this, check out:
Thoughts on Theater: Auditions