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The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee - A Review

May 05, 2016 05:57PM ● Published by Jim

Gallery: 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee [3 Images] Click any image to expand.

By: Karla R. Jensen

The resurgence of spelling bees is everywhere, possibly due to the popularity of a pleasantly surprising musical about winning and losing, confidence and insecurities, and competition against others and self. Sound deep? It might be, but BDACT’s spring show, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, is such an entertaining and thought-provoking comedy, you’ll be shocked that these lessons on life are couched in humor from start to end.  

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, with music and lyrics by William Finn, and book by Rachel Sheinkin, is directed by Jennifer Bohlig and produced by Jill Kauffman. The musical offers an interactive audience-participation platform and a glimpse behind the lives of teenagers who love to spell.  A few spellers are called up from the audience so every show is unique and will be filled with its own surprises.  This alone demands a cast that must be prepared to improvise.

Comedic actors often seek over-the-top character roles like what Putnam offers, and many within the cast, especially Mark Lefeber (plays William Barfee), Trevor Kastein (Leaf Coneybear), and Amy Patterson (Rona Lisa Perretti), stand out. Lefeber captures the nerdiness of a geek with a magic spelling foot. He never drops character and is unrecognizable from other BDACT roles he’s played. Kastein’s alter ego voice and wacky smile is endearing. However, it’s Amy Patterson’s (Rona’s) enthusiasm of a QVC hostess, Miss America and perky talk show host blended into one that’s the endearing, syrupy superglue that cements the show as memorable.

Others in the cast of spellers don’t truly emerge until the second act, (mainly due to the confines of the script) but when they do, it’s eye opening. Characters transform on stage. This cast produces a divine blend of voices with standouts in Meg Scullin, Jessica Lee, and Rick Ramirez. Ignore the flat or missed notes, mostly achieved for the sake of reaching deeper into characterization. Watch for some adult humor, quaint speller romance, and a quirky animated slow motion round.

Meg Scullin’s “I Speak Six Languages” scene is superb. Jessica Lee as Olive proves her expert timing in the emotional scene with parents. She knows how to add drama to every letter near the end. Ramirez’s role as Mitch, the comfort counselor, is accurate as is the sustained lisp by Georgia Roth as Schwarzy. Kevin Cushing perseveres with his attitude and blushing lyrics. Ron Wilke as Vice Principal Panch adds the quirkiness.

Get your spell on. Kudos to cast and director. This show is ready today for prime time. No flubbed lines. Good pace. Lots of humor, even more fun.  Show times are 7:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. for matinees with a debut this Friday, May 6, 2016 at the Beaver Dam Area Community Theatre. Tickets are on sale at Rechek’s Food Pride and online. If you’d like to be considered as a speller from the audience, email director Jennifer Bohlig at and let her know which show you’ll be attending.

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Arts+Entertainment Beaver Dam Area Community Theatre Spelling Bee

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