The Forest Roberts Theatre takes you into the world of competitive spelling with “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”
The musical is about adolescent spellers from each school district fighting for a spot in the National Spelling Bee Championships in Washington, DC.
When I walked into the Forest Roberts Theatre, I was taken back to memories of my own real-life experiences as a spelling bee competitor in elementary school, where our gymnasium doubled as our auditorium.
The first moment of the show immediately drew me in when Rona Lisa Peretti, played by Susan Boyle, stepped out on stage.
It is hard to point out any single actor who really captured my attention the most and left the biggest impression on me. This was one of the strongest casts I’ve seen. Each actor really carried their own when it came to their performances. There was not one weak actor in this show.
The show had me laughing the entire time. From Aaron Sarka’s portrayal of Leaf Coneybear, a boy who placed third in his district and is just happy to participate in the spelling bee to Adam Lowe’s performance as William Barféy, a boy with a magic foot that helps him spell his words during the competition.
The adult actors really had a hard task of matching the energy of children. Each of the adults in the show did a wonderful job of tackling this challenge.
Pierce Huxtable’s dry humor as Vice Principle Panch and the creative definitions of words and their use in sentence explanations would occasionally catch me off guard. It came to the point where I would wonder if it was possible to stop laughing in time to watch the rest of the show.
There was no intermission during this show, which is usually something that irritates me, but I found myself not even worried about the lack of a break.
The show moves quickly and you’re engaged from the very first moment, so you don’t even notice. Besides, you’re too busy laughing throughout the entire show that you won’t want it to end.
A musical is nothing though without the right music. I have to give kudos to Emily Strazinski, the music director, for being a one-person orchestra for this group.
The simplicity of only a keyboard as the accompaniment gives the show a more intimate feel and really gives you the opportunity to listen to the amazing voices of the actors on stage.
The heartbreaking moment of the show was the “I Love You Song” between Erin Powley, Susan Boyle and John Sarkala.
This moment was a great take away from the hilarity of the show without completely bringing down the mood that had been created up to that point.
I found there is only one great way to experience this show: come be a part of it.
Audience members get the opportunity to participate as volunteer spellers and have the chance to join the actors on stage.
It was one of the most interesting and enjoyable experiences I have had as an audience member.
Going into the show not expecting to be a participant in it I found myself as a very nervous speller.
When the musical number “Pandemonium” began and I was still on stage, I really thought this was one of the most chaotic things I had ever experienced as an audience member and was glad that there were two other audience members joining me in the chaos of the moment.
I highly recommend that when you go see the show you sign up to volunteer to be one of the spellers; you won’t regret it.
With the variety of characters in this show, any audience member will find themselves identifying with at least one if not more characters.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee shows April 18 through 21 at the Forest Roberts Theatre.
The show starts at 7:30 p.m. with doors opening at 7 p.m. Saturday also has a matinee performance starting at 1 p.m.
Tickets are $10 for NMU students and $15 for the general public.
For more information, email the FRT Box Office at [email protected] or call (906) 227-2553.