Monday, June 16, 2014


You can be the star of your own parade, no matter how quirky and unusual you are, if you find your special traits and talents.  Nowhere is that more evident than in the delightful potpourri of nerds and misfits, said only with love, assembled to compete in "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."  Playhouse on Park in West Hartford is doing one heck of a great job introducing you to six of the funniest and most deliciously different adolescent contestants ever placed under one basketball hoop. The show runs until Sunday, July 20.

The late great playwright Wendy Wasserstein is credited with putting composer William Finn together with his former student Rachel Sheinkin and her co-creator Rebecca Feldman to turn this original non-musical C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E (one of the spelling words) into this Tony Award winning musical.  If you've never experienced it, what a summer treat.  If you're already a fan, go again and take some friends with you.

If you're daring and live on the edge, you might even volunteer to be one of the four hand-selected to join the bee on stage with an official entry number and everything.  You, too, can earn a juice box and a hug from the official comfort counselor Mitch (Norman Payne) who is there serving out his community service while on parole.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee was recently held in Washington, D. C. over Memorial Day weekend and has been held ever year since 1925, except during World War II, but "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" deserves kudos and accolades as well. Where else would you find a Boy Scout named Chip  (Scott Scaffidi) who wears a chestful of badges, a pig tailed angel (Hillary Ekwall) who sports not one dad but two which influences her leadership of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance, an original Flower Child named Leaf Coneybear (Kevin Barlowski) who makes his own cheerful and colorful clothing, William Barfee (rhymes with parfait) who has a rare muscous membrane disorder and (thanks to Steven Mooney) a magical and moving foot that spells out the words, an over-achieving Asian, Marcy Park (Maya Naff) who can't help how incredibly smart she is and, lastly, a young girl who talks into her hand to spell, Olive (Natalie Sannes) who bravely stands alone, with her mom off in an Indian ashram and her dad busy at work.

Overseeing the proceedings are Vice Principal Panch (Joel Newsome) who has a dubious past and eager-to-please Rona Lisa Perretti (Emily Kron) who has the double distinction of being a class A realtor and of winning the 3rd Annual Bee.  Under the direction and choreography of Susan Haefner, with a cast of top notch performers and words to spell like "weltanschauung" and "cow," you are guaranteed a lively, animated and entertaining evening.

For tickets ($32.50-42.50), call Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford at 860-523-5900, ext. 10 or online at  Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.  The cast also performs Mondays from 6-8 p.m. next door at A. C. Petersen's Restaurant while you dine.

You'll enjoy everything from the initial musical recitation of "The Rules" to the interim "Pandemonium" all the way to the crowning of "The Champion."
I p-r-o-m-i-s-e you!

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