Review - The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Madelyn Reese
WRES 88.9
October 27, 2013
Putnam County Spelling Bee Live In Studio

It’s the end of Fall 2013’s Live Music Week, and to finish strong WERS continued to bring in more great, local talent into the studio. This time it was the local Curtain Call Theatre, with this season’s cast of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Present during the session were six of the nine cast members of this musical, and Brett Hinkel, the music director for Curtain Call.

To begin Sunday’s session, the troupe performed “Magic Foot” which features a solo by character William Barfée, played by Ricky Desisto. The song is upbeat, but reflective, expressing the self-doubt and awkwardness present in this young character. The show follows, as the title describes, Putnam County’s 25th Annual Spelling Bee, and six child contestants participation in the competition. Though considered a musical comedy, this one act show delves into the psyche of the characters, especially the children. When describing what she likes most about the show, actress Kelly Whelan, who plays Olive Ostrovsky said, “It starts off really fun and light and they you kind of realize that these kids’ lives might not be all that fun and that light-hearted, so it takes you on a journey.” Presented in competition format and flashbacks, the musical is a bit of a character study, allowing each actor to develop it as their own. “We’re all playing kids so it’s really fun to dive into something different,” says Desisto.

The next number Curtain Call performed for WERS listeners was “I’m Not That Smart,” featuring Bryan Rowell as Leaf Coneybear. Rowell made Coneybear his own, exaggerating a lisp and adding a childlike attitude to the song. As he spells the word right towards the end of song (achouchi, a type of rodent), Rowell let go a large smile – fitting for both him, and his character.

The last song was performed as a group, a number called “Pandemonium.” And pandemonium is exactly what happens: at this point in the play, the students are outraged that the opposing team (made up of audience members during live performances) keeps getting easy words. Acting like adults in this situation would be one thing, but acting as children was a whole different challenge for the actors. “Our director Toni [Ruscio],” says Desisto, “she made a valid point, she said, that you want to have fun with it but then you also can’t make it too big because then it’s not believable. So it’s finding that balance that’s really tricky and really fun.” Anthony Light, who plays Chip Tolentino, agreed with Desisto, and added “You get to be naturally innocent and blatantly obvious with things, so it’s nice to take overthinking out of the equation and try to go with your gut on exactly what would happen.”

The cast obviously had a lot of fun performing in the WERS studio, and they’re really excited for November 1, their opening night. Ticket information can be found on curtaincallbraintree.org, as well as audition information for future productions, if one is so inclined. The performance runs through November 9.

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