Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Larry Stark


"The 25th Annual Putnam County
Spelling Bee"

Music & Lyrics by William Finn
Book by Rachel Sheinkin
Conceived by Rebecca Feldman, Additional Material by Jay Reis
Based on "C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E" an original play by The Farm

Directed by James Lapine
Choreography by Dan Knechtges
Music Director Janet Roma

Set Design by Beowulf Boritt
Costume Design by Jennifer Caprio
Lighting Design by Natasha Katz
Sound Design by Dan Moses Schreier
Orchestrations by Michael Starobin
Vocal Arrangements by Carmel Dean
Music Supervision/Dance Arrangements by Vadim Feichtner
Production SupervisorAndrea "Spook" Testani
Associate Director Darren Katz
Press Joanne Barrett/JBPR
General Management by 321 Theatrical Management
Casting by Tara Rubin Casting
Dance Captain Caitlin Carter
Production Stage Manager Lisa Iacucci
Presented by Special Arrangement with
JON B. PLATT

Chip Tolentino...............Aaron J. Albano
Leaf Coneybear...............Stanley Bahorek
Olive Ostrovsky.................Jenni Barber
William Barfee.................Jared Gertner
Mitch Mahoney..........James Monroe Iglehart
Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre...Sara Inbar
Marcy Park.........................Greta Lee
Douglas Panch..................Daniel Pearce
Rona Lisa Peretti................Betsy Wolfe
MUSICIANS
Piano..................Janet Roma
Keyboard...............Janet Hood
Reeds.................Rod Ferland
Cello..................Cam Sawzin
Drums/Percussion...Mark Worgaftin
Conducted by...........Janet Roma

I screwed up my invitation to opening night, but even at a Sunday matinee of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" Ye Wilbur Theatre was, so far as I could see, chock full of an enthusiastic audience that thoroughly enjoyed themselves. This is the first "big barn" musical I have seen in some time, with an engaging cast (Tara Rubin Casting, take a bow!), an engaging story-line, and silliness and nuance enough to satisfy any large audience.

The many cooks credited with creating this confection were at great pains to make the six teen-age spellers both weird nerds with problems, yet to give each one a prize --- often one they least expected --- since, inevitably, only one speller wins a spelling-bee. But, win or lose, none of these very peculiar people leaves the stage empty-handed.

Of course, none of them are very realistic, either. I mean, one whiz writes out his words on the floor with his "magic foot"; another "knows" he's dumb, but keeps spewing out correct answers as though God's whispering them in his ear. There's an Oriental perfectionist and a touchy Latino, a gay-&-lesbian with two dads who signs letters as she spells, and a congenital loser whose only hope is that maybe one of her parents will make it in time to see her compete. A group of obsessive wonks after the trophy --- though glimpses of parents and home-lives, in which some of the nine-member cast double, paint some awsome reasons for personality distortions.

There are three grown-ups here, each with equally bizarre hangups, a flood of obscure words and definitions and biases, and --- as the no-intermission show winnows down, some genuine flashes of insight and self-awareness, as well as some zinging shots at local affairs. (Mayor Menino's mumbles disqualified him from giving out the words; something's "as ridiculous as Romney for President!")

And of course, there's music and lyrics by Natick's own William Finn as a cherry on top.

Then, for me the most interesting name on the program is that of John B. Platt, president of a "Wilbur Twilight Corporation" that by-passed Broadway in Boston to bring this long-run musical to Boston's smallest Big Theatre. And if that means this theatrical genius plans in future to re- and re-re-light the Theatre District's most neglected performing space, I'll be on my feet and cheering long after the standing-o crowd has left the theatre.
I have all my fingers crossed as I t4ype!

Love,
===Anon.

"The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" (4 October - ??)
THE WILBUR TWILIGHT CORPORATION
Ye Wilbur Theatre, 246 Tremont Street, BOSTON MA
1 (617)???-????

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