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25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Review by Chris McGarry

On July 15, an enthusiastic crowd gathered at the King’s Playhouse in Georgetown to watch The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a hilarious comedy production directed by Richard Haines.

The setting for the play is a nondescript small town that gives the viewer the feeling of being somewhere in the conservative American midwest. Six local kids are preparing to compete against each other to become the winner of the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The winner goes on to compete in the nationals in Washington.

The eclectic assemblage of zany contestants includes Leaf Coneybear (Jacob Hemphill) a social misfit with ADHD, Logainne Schwartzandgrunenierre or Schwartzy for short (Rebeccah Lambie), an LGBTQ activist, Marcy Park (Eden McFadden), a parochial school student who’s involved in all extracurricular activities, Chip Tolentino (Elijah Smith) a jock who isn’t a great speller, William Barfee (Alex Arsenault) a chubby kid with recurring health problems and Olive Ostrovsky (Helen Killorn) who loves her dictionary.

During the actual spelling bee, members of the audience were selected to go onstage with the contestants, which provided plenty of cheers and laughs. The judges, Rona Peretti (Samantha Elizabeth Bruce) and Douglas Panch (Adam Gauthier) who is also vice principal of the local school, read out some very complicated words to the contestants. Those who got them wrong are eliminated. Keeping order on the stage is the tough-as-nails Mitch Mahoney, played superbly by Ian Byrne. Mahoney, who wears a menacing 40-yard stare the entire time, is a convict doing his community service.

The stakes get increasingly higher as the participants from the audience and the actual contestants get eliminated one-by-one. Conflicts arise among the competitors, which enhances the overall story.

From beginning to end, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a delightfully funny crowd pleasing theatrical production. All of the stars truly shine in their roles. The acting is superlative and the audience really gets to know the characters quite well as the show goes on. Although all of the actors do an amazing job in the production, Leaf Coneybear, Logainne Schwartzandgrunenierre and Olive Ostrovsky are especially memorable. Also noteworthy is Vice Principal Douglas Panch, a stern, humourless individual whose bowtie and conservative plaid sweater makes him a throwback to another era.

The sets, which were designed by Randall Fletcher, are simple and straightforward and set the tone of the story perfectly. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is different from other live theatre comedy productions in that it emphasizes zany humor. The story is just an all-around good time with no serious undertones in it. The characters are larger-than-life if not a bit out of this world.

The humor is slightly off-colour at times but for the most part the play is for people of all ages to enjoy.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee plays until the end of August.

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