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The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

a Musical Comedy
by Music and Lyrics by William Finn

COMPANY : Act 3 Productions [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Act 3 Playhouse [WEBSITE]
ID# 3889

SHOWING : January 06, 2011 - January 09, 2011



Six young people in the throes of puberty, overseen by grown-ups who barely managed to escape childhood themselves, learn that winning isn't everything and that losing doesn't necessarily make you a loser.

THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE is 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.

Rated PG-13 for some adult content.

Mitch Mahoney Joe Arnotti
William Barfee Connor Crank
Carl Dad Brad Dickey
Rona Lisa Perretti Ansley Elizabeth Gwinn
Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere Erin Hamilton
Dan Dad Camron Hunter
Douglas Panch Davis Lee
Jesus Alex Miller
Olive's Mom Michelle Peck
Leaf Coneybear Daniel Pino
Olive's Dad Marcus Rodriguez
Olive Ostrovsky Alli Sheahan
Coneybear's Mom Jo Jo Steine
Chip Tolentino Austin Tijerina
Marcy Park Angie Zhang
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by playgoer
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Act3 Productions is putting on a hyperactive version of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee." The cast has been augmented by six performers who take on all of the double-casting in the show. This fills up the small stage, particularly during the frenetic ensemble numbers choreographed by Johnna Mitchell, and adds to the fullness of sound.

The volume is the thing I disliked most about the show. All the performers are miked, even though the theatre is not large and a standing microphone is present center stage. I was impressed by the fine projection and diction displayed in the unamplified opening speech, but when the show started the amplification went into overdrive. I don't think it was needed at all. All the singers have good, strong voices.

The performances of the six main kids were all sparkling in the performance I saw. Austin Tijerina (as Chip Tolentino) perhaps pushed a bit too much vocally, but he had lots of energy. Angie Zhang (as Marcy Park) played her role convincingly, truly shining in her big number. Connor Crank (as William Barfee) brought lots of charming individuality to his performance, and he was matched nicely by Alli Sheahan (a last-minute replacement as Olive Ostrovsky), who had a sweet, hangdog demeanor with true heart underneath. The audience favorite was Daniel Pino (Leaf Coneybear), who did a tremendous job as an insecure, socially inept optimist. Erin Hamilton (as Logainne Schwarzandgrubenniere) was my favorite, investing every look and movement with perfect stage presence and aptness.

The three main adult characters were all played well. As Mitch Mahoney, Joe Arnotti once again proved he is a powerhouse performer with great acting, dancing, and singing skills. His height and fitness were put to great comic use as the comfort counselor, physically carrying off a number of people. Ansley Gwinn, as Rona Lisa Perretti, sang beautifully and acted confidently, but did not quite break through as the focal point her character can be. Davis Lee was much too young to play Vice Principal Panch and was a bit unbalanced in his performance, but invested a lot of energy in all his moments. He unfortunately didn't take the time to learn the pronunciation of words. ("Onager," for instance, should have an accent on the first syllable and a soft "g," quite unlike the pronunciation used in the show.)

The other roles are small, fill-in ones, so the actors portraying them don't get a lot of opportunity to shine. The most impressive I saw were Alex Miller as a Yiddish-inflected Jesus and Marcus Rodriguez in two completely dissimilar roles.

The set, designed by Theresa Dean, nicely uses the space and suggests a school gymnasium without going overboard with extraneous decorations. There are a few signs, a basketball hoop, and a set of bleachers. Action occasionally spills out into the audience area, which adds to the immediacy of the show. The audience ate up the non-stop action at the performance I saw, and jumped to their feet in a standing ovation. Director Patti Mactas wisely chose to stage a group curtain call that didn't come close to outlasting the audience's applause.

This production apparently was pulled together in 2.5 weeks. It shows few signs of haste in its elements, though, and provides lots of entertainment. The production is a little overblown, but its constant activity keeps attention throughout. It's a terrific introduction to the show for anyone in the area who hasn't caught one of the many recent productions. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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