An American musical comedy is finding a new audience in Newfoundland this week, as Gonzaga High School students put on a production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”
Conceived by Rebecca Feldman, based on a book by Rachel Sheinkin, with music and lyrics by William Finn, and additional material by Jay Reiss, the local interpretation of the Broadway adapted musical is presented under the direction of Kristin Murphy, musical director Andrew Cooper and producer Trevor Menchions.
Though accolades must be given to the creators, it is the cast, crew and band that deserve a solid round of applause for their integral part in this production.
Like the teenage cast, their talent continues to grow.
Actors Angus Best, Cameron Byron Cooper, Sophie Hale, Claire Hatcher, Juan Hiedra-Primera, Adam Jewer, Caroline Keats, Alexander Carlson Lee, Megan Moret, Katie Steeves, and Adam Strong made good use of the stage, the theatre as a whole and even the audience members, bringing up a couple of parents to participate in the spelling bee.
United by their “extraordinary ability and love of language,” this rag-tag crew ends up learning a lot more than a few new words to add to their lexicon in this 95-minute show.
The kids explore societal pressures – the raging desire to win, the scary potential of failing, parental influence or lack thereof, blossoming romances, brand new feelings and the need to feel like they belong, or that their voices are being heard.
In the audience, one could mostly hear proud parents whispering about their kids, amid the plentiful laughter.
Though definitely a family-friendly show, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” applied some adult humour, with a few jokes about stamina in the bedroom, religious cracks, the low points of puberty and more, including a region-specific dig about parking downtown and the Rawlins Cross roundabout.
In one scene, a parent speller is asked to spell “lysergic acid diethylamide” – the scientific name for LSD, the hallucinogenic drug commonly known as acid.
Upon asking to hear the word used in a sentence, the spelling bee officiant provided the following example: “Steve took too much lysergic acid diethylamide, and thought he was full of rabbits.”
The adults in the audience roared, while some kids looked around, confused by their laughter. This made the joke particularly funny, as parents giggled more as they brushed off their inquisitive offspring.
With witty songs, well-executed dance scenes, believable characters and a live six-piece band performing the musical numbers onstage, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is a must-see for anyone who enjoys musical theatre, and supporting blossoming local talent.