By Marissa Carter
THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE is a fun and quirky show designed to look exactly like an elementary school spelling bee. The cast features six young contestants, four surprise audience members (also playing contestants), and three adults who run the spelling bee.
Though the premise seems simple, the playthrough is anything but. Each character in the show brings their own spelling genius, competitive drive, and a host of internal issues that are explored in depth through song. The six child contestants come from very different backgrounds and offer a child’s perspective on some pretty big issues they are facing in their families and lives. The adults leading the Bee are compassionate towards the kids and frequently put their own issues aside (in song) to help them overcome their individual challenges. It is a well-thought-out show with a perfect mix of dramatic and comedic moments.
The script leaves a lot of room for ad-libbing, and some of the words, definitions and sentences chosen by the Faust troupe are hilariously relevant to current events. The addition of four audience members to the cast brings an element of spontaneity to the show that helps to break up some of the more serious moments and add some very real nervous tension. The cast does a great job of leading these volunteers and even puts them in some funny and precarious situations.
There are enough variable elements in this production to offer fresh viewing every night, but what audience members can count on are a lot of laughs and some stellar vocal performances. Music Director Jason Bell had a ton of raw talent to work with, and has done a spectacular job of highlighting the strengths of each vocalist on the stage. It is rare to see a cast where everyone has such beautiful control and vocal range, and the fact that they sing every note without dropping any of their character quirks is impressive. Combine this with the fun and acrobatic choreography from Mandy Morris and you have a production that delivers everything you could want in musical theater.
THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE presented by Faust Theatre is playing at The Arts Asylum through October 27, 2018. For tickets and information, visit their page on Eventbrite.