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‘Putnam County Spelling Bee’ filled with hilarious, touching, catchy songs


The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is known for its edgy humor, effortless wit, originality, and heartfelt story. And it comes to Melody Lane Performing Arts Center for three performances only – at 3:00 and 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 9, and at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, January 10.

“Our production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is finally happening,” exclaims over-the-moon Drama Director Dana Alvarez. As happened with so many other productions, the riotous musical comedy was postponed in May because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The story revolves around this group of misfit sixth graders who are engaged in a winner-take-all competition.

  • Olive Ostrovsky: Sweet and shy, Olive brings her only friend (the dictionary) to the bee.
  • William Barfee (pronounced with an accent aigu): Bold and hyperallergic, the “insufferable genius” uses his “magic foot” to propel him to greatness.
  • Logainne Schwartz-and-Grubenierre: The youngest competitor in the spelling bee, the adorably precocious “Schwarzy” only wants to impress her gay parents.
  • Marcy Park: One of those annoying people who’s good at everything, this overachiever derives no joy from her incessant success.
  • Leaf Coneybear: Like his family and friends, this kindhearted simpleton is convinced he doesn’t deserve to be in the spelling bee at all.
  • Charlito Tolentino: The former champion, Chip, is distracted by his burgeoning puberty.

As they make their way through the competition, the spellers reveal their hopes, struggles and passions in a series of hilarious, touching, and catchy songs. With an engaging score by William Finn and a sweet, funny book by Rachel Sheinkin, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee will cause you to fall in love with the show and its “perspicacious,” “jocular,” and “effervescent” spellers. Alas, there can only be one winner. But don’t fret, the losers do get a juice box.

In addition to the competitors, the show features such memorable characters as successful real estate agent Rona Lisa Peretti, her hopeless (hapless) suitor Vice Principal Douglas Ranch and an ex-con by the name of Mitch Mahoney.

The cast “includes college kids who are in programs in NYC and Chicago,” Alvarez effuses. “Our Chip is played by Gianni Gizzi who was the High School Musical Best Performer in a musical 2019 for his role in Theory of Relativity and he goes to the Institute for American Musical Theatre in New York. Additionally, we have students from Cypress Lake Center for the Arts, Bishop Verot, Cape Coral High, Florida Virtual School, Florida Southwestern College, Florida Gulf Coast University, Chicago College of Performing Arts and the New York Conservatory of Dramatic Arts.”

“This is one of the funniest and most inventive musicals to come along in decades,” said one prominent artistic director when his company produced the show several years ago. “It is smart, irreverent, full of heart, and keeps you laughing. It is a really refreshing coming-of-age story that will take audiences back to tween years to relive the triumphs and defeats with a great score and clever characters. This will be the hottest ticket in town, so don’t miss out.”

So grab your dictionary! With only three shows and limited seating, tickets to this multiple Tony-winning show won’t last long.

December 21, 2020.

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