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The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
a Musical
CATEGORY : MUSICAL
by William Finn and Rachel Sheinkin

COMPANY : Next Stage Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Children's Garden Theater [WEBSITE]
ID# 4268

SHOWING : March 16, 2012 - March 24, 2012

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

A hilarious tale of overachievers' angst chronicling the experience of six adolescent outsiders vying for the spelling championship of a lifetime. The show's Tony Award winning creative team has created the unlikeliest of hit musicals about the unlikeliest of heroes: a quirky yet charming cast of outsiders for whom a spelling bee is the one place where they can stand out and fit in at the same time. Directed by Rob Hardie.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Rob Hardie
Choreographer Chandler Clark
Musical Director Chris Brent Davis
lighting Designer Stephen Lee
Costume Designer Paulette Weisberg
Stage Manager Megan Wilkins
Leaf Coneybear Nicholas Crawley
William Barfee Chris Brent Davis
Olive Ostrovsky Danielle Girardeau
Mitch M. Mahoney Ali Gutierrez
Chip Tolentino Matt Jones
Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre Lindsey Marcus
Marcy Park Katie Patterson
Vice Principal Douglas Panch Zip Rampy
Rona Lisa Perettit Traci Weisberg
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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Still Casting a "Spell" Over Me
by Sweet Babboo
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
4.0
I'm quite certain the creative team behind the original production of "Spelling Bee" had their challenges in selling the concept of this show to investors. I can almost see the perplexed looks they received after announcing "We've written a quirky musical about a Middle School Spelling Bee". But what on paper seems like an unlikely subject matter for a musical comedy is actualized into one of the most delightful evenings in the theatre. William Finn and Rachel Sheinkin have created one of the funniest, entertaining musicals of the past decade.

I've made no bones that I believe the Rob Hardie is the most creative musical directors working in Atlanta. His productions never cease to impress me. And once again, Mr. Hardie does not disappoint. He has assembled a multi-talented ensemble of young performers who have captured the over-the-top yet endearing qualities of these quirky misfits.

Nicholas Crawley is the strongest of the "kids" as the intellectually-challenged Leaf Coneybear. Clad in a makeshift Superman getup, the highly-energetic Crawley brings goofy charm and true likability to the fun role. Lindsay Marcus shines as the insecure, lisping Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre. Ms. Marcus had the extra challenge of making Logainne's signature lisp both adorable and understandable, which some actresses I've seen in the role have not been able to accomplish. Wide-eyed Danielle Girardeau is delightful as the sensative Olive Ostrovsky, who would much rather have her distant and distracted parents' unconditional love than any spelling bee trophy. Katie Patterson is commanding as the driven overachiever, Marcy Park, who learns that sometimes it's cool not to win everything.

As defending champion, Chip Telntino, Matt Jones has true comic stage presence, almost reminding me of a young Topher Grace. However, if I'm sitting in the second row and have trouble hearing you sing even with a microphone in front you, you really need to work on your projection. And although his vocals were strong, I felt that Chris Brent Davis didn't quite deliver the comic goods with his portrayal of the most eccentric of the spellers, the geek extraordinaire William Barfee. Davis downplays Barfee's droll demeanor and antisocialism. I felt his portrayal of the character wasn't on the same over-the-top level as the other performers.

As the "adult" officals in charge of the bee, Next Stage hits a home run will all three. Zip Rampy is in top form as the lovestarved, semi-seedy Vice Principal Douglas Panch. His circa 1975 plaid sportscoat, polyster disco shirt and sideburns alone are worth the price of admission. The lovely Traci Weisberg is wonderful as Rona Lisa Perettit. One could quibble that Ms. Weisberg is about 10 years too young for the role. Nevertheless, she has the talent and confidence on stage as someone twice her age. With her winsome beauty and strong soprano voice, she has a very bright future ahead of her as a musical comedy performer.

What else can I say about Alejandro Gutierrez as Comfort Counselor Miguel "Mitch" Mahoney? All Mr. Gutierrez has to do is just walk on stage and I start smiling. Mr. Gutierrez is also blessed with a powerful singing voice and is quickly establishing himself as one of the best character actors in the Atlanta theatre scene.

For some reason, Mr. Hardie chose to change the original setting from a typical Middle School gynasium to "The Blackwell Theatre", a former third-rate movie theatre now operating as a strip club. The lascivious background is worthy of a small chuckle, but I felt it was a gratuitous choice. The show itself is funny alone without adding the X-Rated element to it.

I must give kudos to Paulette Weiberg who did an incredible job with the costumes. Even the lighting design by Stephen Lee is excellent. In fact, I consider that in itself a small miracle considering the venue.

It's a shame this production has already closed after a brief, two weekend run. I felt that with a little more publicity and good word-of-mouth, it could have easily run another weekend to hopefully larger houses. If you missed it, it was your loss. Rob Hardie and Next Stage Theatre present exceptional theatre that deserves sell-out crowds. Perhaps they will have better luck with their upcoming productions of "The Glass Menagerie" and "Assassins". [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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