Review: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Photo courtesy Driftwood Players

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee 
Music and Lyrics by William Finn
Book by Rachel Sheinkin
Conceived by Rebecca Feldman
Additional material by Jay Reiss
Directed by Pauls Macs
Musical Direction by Mark Press
Choreographed by Carissa Meisner Smit
April 22 – May 8, 2016

Review by Doug Gochanour

It’s a Spellbinding Hit for the Edmonds Driftwood Players. This cast gives an outstanding performance that totally draws in the audience, even bringing a few audience members onto the stage to fully participate in the fun. The talented musicians, on this well designed set, perfectly compliment the diversely quirky mix of characters.

With humor designed for high school age and older, there is something to tickle everyone’s funny bone, and to bring back memories of early relationships with words. My mother was a war bride from Scotland, who lovingly helped me as I learned to spell. It turned out that the European spelling of many words was different from American spelling. It gave my early life and attitude a different “colour.”

Fortunately, or perhaps not, I have my “Dan Quayle Spell Checker.” 

Characters like William Barfee rely upon a magical spelling foot to write out words on the ground. Olive brings her best friend (the dictionary) with her to the Bee. Chip is struggling with puberty and the embarrassments which arise from it. 
Marcy is uncomfortable with her consistent success at everything, and she must decide if now is the time to fail on purpose. Leaf Coneybear lacks the conviction that he can be a winner, but acts out in jocular fashion. Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre just wants to impress her gay dads, and express her views on liberty.

This eclectic group provides an effervescent mix, especially when interacting with the three so-called adults. The official pronouncer, Douglas Panch, offers “usage-in-a-sentence examples” that are way beyond hilarious. Rona Lisa Peretti has flashbacks to her own experience winning the third annual spelling bee by correctly spelling syzygy. Mitch Mahoney is the intimidating “comfort counselor,” who is helping at the Bee as part of his court-mandated community service.

Go to this play! Do yourself a favor. Enjoy this delightful performance, and learn the touching background stories of these unusual characters. It might just trigger a flashback from your own life experience.


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