Lindale Community Theater’s summer production premiered Friday, July 6, with the 2005 Broadway Tony award, and Drama Desk award winning book of a musical, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.’’
This hilarious, heart-warming musical comedy was written by playwright Rachel Sheinkin, conceived by Rebecca Feldman, with music and lyrics by William Finn,and directed by LCT Executive Director, Tim Mitchiner.
Act I takes us into a typical middle school gymnasium where we are introduced to the three officials in charge of the Bee competition.
The talented Brandi Bridges plays both the “Bee’ monitor, the warm and jovial Rona Lisa Perretti, and Olive’s mother. Rona Lisa is a former third time champion who now organizes the competition, and relishes the opportunity to relive her glory days at the Bee.
Vice Principal Douglas Panch (Greg West), the slightly snarky and comical word pronouncer who has issues of his own, seems a bit too enthusiastic about hitting the disqualifying bell, whose word pronunciations and definitions are simply priceless.
Then we have the much needed “Comfort-Counselor, Mitch Mahoney (Tim Mitchiner, who also plays Logainne’s Dad, and Jesus), an ex-convict doing community service, who not only dispenses hugs and juice boxes as he escorts the disqualified competitors offstage with a humorously slight shove is absolutely hysterical.
The six delightfully intelligent and awkward-age teens whose character idiosyncrasies are the driving force behind their ability to spell complicated words, and reveals much of their all too common struggles of their growing years, which paradoxically makes each one of them endearingly unique, yet, all the same.
Will Ross is excellent as the disheveled and arrogant William Morris Barfée (Magic Foot), who struggles with a sinus condition whose idiosyncratic way of spelling is to trace the words out with his foot, while the loveable Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere (played by the delightful Emily Rohrman), speaks with a slight speech impediment, who along with her two fathers Dan Schwartz and Carl Grubenniere (played by Tim Mitchiner and Christopher Fisher), sings about the enormous pressure on her to win.
Noel Weems flawlessly plays Marcy Park, (Lady of Sorrows), the nerdy unwilling over-achiever, who proudly reminds everyone that she speaks six languages, who appears bored with her consistent successes, while goofy Leaf Coneybear (played by the highly-talented Christopher Fisher, who also plays Logainne’s Dad),whose lack of self-esteem sings his way into your heart with his perfectly timed voice inflections and facial expressions. All the while, he dances through the stage with his cape and sock puppet and is both endearing and funny.
Chip Tolentino (played by the talented Nicholas Sheffield, (who also plays Olive’s Dad), whose shy confidence is derived from being the previous champion, is eliminated early in what is – hands down -- the funniest number in the show.
Talented Kimberlee Martin Ross plays the meek but fierce competitor Olive Ostravsky, whose best friend is her dictionary, is enamored of language and finds herself pining for her absent parents (also played by Brandi Bridges and Nicholas Sheffield), visualizes them being there with her and sings a truly heart-wrenching song of “I Love You.”
But the cast is not complete without adding a few more “mystery guests” chosen from the audience, who complete the competition and spontaneously sends the entire cast into a cabaret style of song and dance pandemonium.
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’’ is an uproarious musical comedy with a touch of cabaret that is filled with vitality and unpredictability that is absolutely hilarious, yet highlights the common struggles and passions of each of the unique young adolescents that is very endearing and is truly a must see.
The show continues this weekend with performances on Friday and Saturday, July13-14at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinee, July 15 at 2 p.m. Doors open 45 minutes prior to show time. All seats are general admission and are first come, first served.
The performance contains some adult content.
Adult tickets are $18, student tickets $15, and children 12 and under $12. Tickets will also be available at the door or may be purchased online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2718438. (A small service charge will be added to all credit/debit card purchases).
The theater is located at 109 W. Hubbard St. in downtown Lindale. For more information on these performances, please feel free to contact Tim Mitchiner with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org,or by visiting www.lindalecommunitytheater.org, or by calling 903-638-0402.