|ECT's 'Bee' Is Spelled 'Hilarious'|
|Thursday, 22 March 2012 19:47|
'Tis the season of scholastic spelldowns, so the current Elkhart Civic Theatre production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” could not be more in keeping with the time.
The six semi-finalists in the eagerly awaited theatrical match are ready for the challenge, but each comes with his/her own set of stumbling blocks and/or offbeat aids, all of which are guaranteed to make this the funniest Bee ever.
In addition to the scripted contestants, four or five older “students” are solicited from each audience and have the opportunity to test their skills. No surprise that none make it to the final two..
Representing Putnam County schools are Chip Tolentino (Douglas J. Lunn, Ph.D.) , who wears his Boy Scout uniform displaying every available badge; Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere (Maddie Williams), whose pink suit and defiant attitude fit her attraction to a long list of causes; Leaf Coneybear (Brent Graber), a superhero wannabe complete with flowing red cape and football helmet; William Barfee (Brock Butler), angered by the continued mispronunciation of his name (“It’s Bar-FAY’), he keeps everything underfoot; Marcy Park (Ann Stebelton) speaks six languages and seems supremely self-confident; and Olive Ostrovsky (Kristen Riggs), who found a friend in her dictionary and waits for her dad to arrive with the required entrance fee.
In charge of the Bee are Rona Lisa Perretti (Julia ,Castello), a former Bee champion who enjoys reliving her triumph(she correctly spelled scyzyfus), and Vice Principal Douglas Panch (Tim Yoder), returning as the official “pronouncer,” after a five year absence due to an “unfortunate incident.” As each contestant is eliminated, he/she is met by Mitch Mahoney (Joshua J. Padgett), doing his community service as the official Comfort Counselor, who gives each “loser”a hug and a juice box.
Each contestant reveals something of his/her backstory as the Bee progresses and, as interpreted by the talented ECT cast, each is not only fittingly funny but undeniably touching and especially appropriate now, when school focus is anti- bullying. All are exaggerated for emphasis, but it is impossible not to find a familiar face among the bumbling Bees.
This “Spelling Bee” began as an improvisational play before working its way up to Broadway and two Tony Awards. There is no doubt that requests from spellers for word origin, definition and especially use in a sentence often receive improved answers from the quick-witted Panch.
There is a moment in the spotlight for each character and they make the most of it, with special applause to Butler for inhabiting the show’s best known speller and making it his own,, and to Riggs, for finding just the right blend of comedy and tragedy and delivering it all in a clear, never-miss soprano. Lunn’s hilarious interpretation of “Chip’s Lament” is priceless as are the goody bags he tosses defiantly into the audience and Graber’s Coneybear is a spot on portrait of every youngster used to being less-than-first who is amazed and delighted at just “being.’ Williams’ introduction of her two dads is touching, as is her handling of their very different personas. Stebelton is right on as the officious know-it-all who secretly longs for permission to fail.
As the Bee progresses, everyone will root for their own favorite. The really good thing is that everyone — on and off stage — is a winner!
The Bee is held in the gymnasium of the Putnam County Piranhas, designed by John Shoup and lit by Randy Zonker. Mark Swendsen is music director with Kim Dooley vocal director and Joy Freude ,choreographer.
“THE 25th ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE” will be presented at 8 p.m. today and Saturday and March 30-31, and 3 p.m. Sunday in the Bristol Opera House. For reservations and information, call 848-4116 from 1 to 5:30 p.m. weekdays.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 29 March 2012 02:13|