UNCG Campus Weekly

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‘Spelling Bee’ on Stage

011911EyeOnArts_SpellingBee“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” the Tony Award-winning musical comedy that follows six young people as they compete for the championship of a lifetime, will be presented by UNCG Theatre Jan. 28-Feb. 6.

The show centers around a fictional spelling bee set in the gym of Putnam Valley Middle School. Its quirky, yet charming, cast of characters are kids for whom a spelling bee represents a place where they can both stand out and fit in at the same time. Among the tunes they perform are “My Friend the Dictionary,” “The ‘I Love You’ Song,” “I Speak Six Languages” and “I’m Not That Smart.”

As the drama unfolds, the bee is overseen by adults who barely escaped childhood themselves. The spellers, caught in the grip of puberty, are Chip Tolentino (played by Mark Schwab), Leaf Coneybear (Philip Eggers), Olive Ostrovsky (Kimberly Weinkle), William Barfée (Currie Terrell), Logainne “Schwarzy” Schwarzandgrubenierre (Katie Vohwinkel) and Marcy Park (Katy Sink). Other main characters are head Comfort Counselor Mitch Mahoney (Skyler Brown) and moderator Rona Lisa Peretti, a local realtor who won the third spelling bee.

Directing the production is Jim Fisher, professor and head of the Department of Theatre. The production team includes Randall McMullen, scene designer; John Wolf, lighting designer; Angela Fuller, choreographer, and Matt Webb, music director.

“The show is very comic, the songs are mostly very funny, and there is an improvisatory quality to it when four audience members are invited onstage to become spellers – most people who’ve seen the show have been most amused by this aspect,” Fisher said. “The characters of the musical are very funny and very endearing. It’s basically a ‘feel good’ show in all aspects. And, in regard to our production, we have an outstanding cast, all of whom sing beautifully, can dance, and are very funny.

“I think anyone can identify with this show – both the spellers and their adult mentors – our misfits, in a way, and the bee gives them a sense of belonging to a community. The show has much comedy and irreverent humor, but it’s also a love letter to those who feel that they do not fit in. And who hasn’t felt that at some point in their life?”

The production features a small orchestra and is being staged in Brown Building Theatre, an intimate space which will permit the audience to be close to the action of the play. The setting is a miniature basketball court being used for the bee. Performance seating is limited. Curtain times are 8 p.m., Jan. 28-29 and Feb. 4-5; 2 p.m. on Jan. 30 and Feb. 6; and 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 1-3. Tickets cost $20 general, $15 seniors, $12 for UNCG alumni and groups of 10 or more, $10 for UNCG students, through the UNCG Box Office at 4-4849 or boxoffice@uncg.edu. Some content is not appropriate for audiences under 14.

The show, which ran for more than 1,100 performances on Broadway, won the Tony Award for Best Book and was the product of the creative team of Rachel Sheinkin and William Finn. Sheinkin will visit the theatre department later in the spring for a master class.