25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, music and lyrics by William Finn, book by Rachel Sheinkin, Turtle Lane Playhouse, 4/13/12-4/29/12, http://www.turtlelane.org/showdetail.php?show=SpellingBee.
Reviewed by Becca Kidwell
(Auburndale, MA) Healthy competition is good for children!–Well, that’s what everyone says. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee tells a story that soccer and hockey parents have been learning in the past few years: kids still need to be kids. It’s hard enough to adjust to the physical, social, emotional changes without being expected to act like an adult. Turtle Lane Playhouse faithfully produces the Tony Award winning musical by William Finn. The theatre is the cafetorium where the spelling bee is being held. Before the show starts, audience members are signed up to be “replacement” spellers so that the spelling bee will have the requisite number of competitors to commence. The cast moves around the tables and onto the stage singing the title song. The audience members that are selected are called up to join their fellow spellers. The audience members unpredictable performances add to the humor of the show.
Each of the cast members present a unique version of their characters. Brad Walters is the vice-principal Douglas Panch who is a conventional administrator who has issues that keep him from being anything other than a vice-principal. Walters has a great rapport with the audience and easily convinces members of the audience to sign up to be guest spellers.
The entire ensemble works together to bring a delightful experience. Brendan Young Colcord plays the seemingly clueless Leaf Coneybear with Justin Bieber flair. Krista Dietz is the politically-active, socially-conscious Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre who recognizes the importance of fair play. William Barfee is portrayed by Kyle W. Carlson. Carlson provides the neuroses needed to embody Barfee. Adena Walker is an abandoned, yet determined Olive Ostrovsky who desperately wants to be loved. Sean Reardon, Joelle Kross, Elizabeth Pasarilla, and Tim McShea round out the cast to provide additional eccentricities to the group.
The musical shows that winning isn’t everything and that the most important thing to be is yourself. Turtle Lane offers a wonderful evening of humor and joy with the sarcastic wit of William Finn.