The Florida Southern College Festival of Fine Arts opened their production of the hilarious musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” at the Buckner Theatre on Feb. 18.
A shocking smash on Broadway in 2005, the Tony Award winning musical follows six uniquely individual spellers and four voluntary audience members as they attempt to avoid elimination and take home the Putnam County Spelling Bee champion title.
The six spellers are former champion Chip (an excitable Kyle Kniseley); newcomer Olive (an endearing Martina Long); over-achiever Marcy (a fierce Molly Garret); goofy Leaf (an amusing Justin Baret); determined William Barfeé (a very funny Jonathon Timpanelli); and peppy Logainne (an incredibly well-cast and engaging Jewel Blakeslee). All share – well, sing – their spelling techniques and various memories throughout the course of the show. As the characters open up, the audience may discover their favorite speller and root for their success.
And what is a Spelling Bee without well-qualified supervisors? Former Putnam County Spelling Bee winner Rona Lisa Peretti (a delighful Kylie Couture) moderates the Bee, with help from the very interesting Vice Principal Douglas Panch (Joey Hedrick, quick and clever) and Mitch Mahoney, a “comfort counselor” (an intense and captivating Mister Fitzgerald) doing court-ordered community service offering eliminated contestants solace and a juice box. This production also includes a new character not featured in previous stagings of the show. The versatile Brendan Osorio soars in the role and is an appropriate, though surprising addition to the cast.
Buckner Theatre houses the show well and gives the stage a real auditorium look, necessary to the musical’s story. Bleachers, banners and podiums all authenticate the setting of the show, effectively and consistently drawing the audience into the Bee.
As previously mentioned, “Spelling Bee” literally draws the audience into the Bee as well. Prior to each performance, volunteer forms are available for participation in the show. Selected volunteers have their names announced during the first few minutes of the performance and are asked to join the group of spellers on stage. Once they get on stage, it’s up to them to spell the words correctly.
Overall, the show is great fun for everyone. Come find out who wins the Bee! You won’t want to miss it.
This week’s remaining performances will take place at the Buckner Theatre from Feb. 19 to Feb. 21, and next week’s performances will run from Feb. 25 to Feb. 28. Weekday and Saturday shows begin at 7:30 p.m. and the Sunday shows begin at 2:30 p.m. For more information or for tickets, visit the Buckner Theatre box office.