by Reina Gray, Center High School, The Cappies
Chaotic brilliance awaits at Grain Valley High School. THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE tells the story of six extremely unique children as they embark on their own enlightening journeys in pursuit to be the spelling champ.
THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE premiered on Broadway in 2008. This production was not originally a musical, but actually was based upon an improvisational play, "C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E", performed by the New York Improv Troupe, "The Farm".
Aidan Kroenke plays the unlucky, lugubrious William Barfee with utmost ease and confidence. Kroenke's portrayal is well done; he convinces you of Barfee's oddness and repellant personality while also showing vulnerability and loneliness. A perfect compliment to Kroenke's Barfee is Olivia Ash as Olive Ostrovsky. Ash's Olive is also strange and lonely in some ways but proves to be exceedingly kind and resilient in light of her unfortunate situation. Ash transforms the meek contestant at the beginning of the production into a more confident yet humble individual at the finish. In contrast to sweet Olive, Hayley Elkins' Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre is slightly abrasive, but well-meaning . Elkins fully commits to the awkward, bold Logainne. Elkins steadfastly maintains the lisp of her character throughout the production even while singing, purposefully holding her face in an appropriately slanted, slack-jawed manor. Jarrett Dietz is marvelously scatterbrained as Leaf Con
eybear. Dietz quickly transitions between the honest, sweetly simple Leaf to the entranced personality of his sock puppet who seems to know how to spell just about anything.
The other spelling bee contestants, Marcy Park (Mariah Gattenby-Snyder) and Chip Tolentino (Nathan Steinmuller), both perform impressive and specific characters. Gattenby-Snyder's Marcy Park is stern, but not all business. During her song "I Speak Six Languages", Gattenby-Snyder performs acrobatics about the stage while singing, further emphasizing the many talents of Marcy Park. Steinmuller's physicality in portraying Chip is essential and impeccably illustrates the physical woe of the raging pubescence that is his downfall. Steinmuller falls to his knees and crouches such that his discomfort is unmistakable. Ashlyn Frost is the pleasant former Spelling Bee Champ turned host, Rona Lisa Peretti. Frost boasts a beautiful, melodious voice as she recounts "Rona's Favorite Moments".
The set by Kierstin Schwirtz fully realizes a gymnasium customized to the school with impactful details like a clearly painted pig mascot, anti-bullying posters, and spelling bee sponsors fully entrenching the audience into Putnam County. The costuming by Savannah Murphy and Brianna Whitehead fully reflects the personalities of the six competitors as well as effectively incorporating the chorus in the production.
Many characters deliver their dialogue with fun voices or other unique quirks but sometimes these modifications hinder the diction. The sound of the characters were sometimes muffled or difficult to hear but the actors made up for it in projection and confidence.
Musical Theater may be pandemonium but Grain Valley High School tames it in time for Thanksgiving.