Saturday, November 22, 2014


Whether you're a great speller or have trouble with words of one syllable, you are going to take a whole dictionary full of pleasure when you sign up for
 "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."  The Connecticut Repertory Theatre on the campus of the University of Connecticut at Storrs, at the Jorgensen Theatre, will be encouraging you to come and practice your spelling bee list for the competitions to be held until Sunday, December 7.

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  treat.  If you're already a fan, go again and take some friends or family with you.

At UCONN, they have already lined up some celebrity guests to come on stage and show off their literary stuff. If you're daring and live on the edge, you might even volunteer to be one of the extra 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 (Melvin Abston) who is there serving out his community service while on parole.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is held in Washington, D. C. over Memorial Day weekend and has been held every 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  (Kent Coleman) who wears a chestful of badges, a pig tailed angel (Gina Salvatore) who sports not one dad but two which influences her leadership of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance, an original Flower Child named Leaf Coneybear (Gavin McNicholl) who makes his own cheerful and colorful clothing, William Barfee (rhymes with parfait) who has a rare mucous membrane disorder and (thanks to Ryan Shea) a sparkly magical and moving foot that spells out the words, an over-achieving parochial student, Marcy Park (Julia Estrada) who can't help how incredibly smart she is and, lastly, a young girl who talks into her hand to spell, Olive (Whitney Andrews) who bravely stands alone, with her mom off in an Indian ashram and her dad busy at work.

Each contestant wants to win so they can proudly say they succeeded at something special.  They are each a bit of a misfit but they stand tall and are willing to risk everything to write their own ticket to destiny and pride.  Along the way, as they compete and rise to the challenge, they learn enough about themselves to earn the title of champion, whether they win the trophy or not.

Overseeing the proceedings are Vice Principal Panch (Mark Harapiak) who has a dubious past and eager-to-please Rona Lisa Perretti (Blythe Wilson) who has the double distinction of being a class A realtor and of winning the 3rd Annual Bee.  Under the direction of Paul Mullins, and choreography of Sara Andreas, 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 ($7-36), call The CT Rep at 860-486-2113  or online at  Performances are a student matinee at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, December 2, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and  8 p.m. and closing Sunday, December 7 at 2 p.m.  There are no performances the week of Thanksgiving.

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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