Sunday, August 16, 2015


What happens when a half dozen middle school misfits gather to compete in "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee"? Well, it's clearly pandemonium and delightfully so.  In  2004, William Finn and Rachel Sheikin created this charming musical comedy that is now gracing the intimate stage of the newly reorganized Chestnut Street Playhouse until Sunday, August 23.

Grab your trusty dictionary and heigh thee over to the competition where you'll make the acquaintance of Leaf Coneybear (Evan Jambor) who sews his own clothes and is organically smart, Marcy Park (Victoria Noel Chiappa) who suffers from perfectionism and is multi-talented in six languages,  Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre
(Debra Slezak) who has two fathers and a good sense of self, Olive Ostrovsky (Julie Jarvis) who feels abandoned by a dad who works too hard and a mom who is off in India discovering herself, Chip Tolentino (Chase Zimmerman) who is a proud Boy Scout but is caught up in the throes of puberty and William Barfee (Justin Carroll) who has a mucous and sinus problem but compensates with his amazing Magic Foot.

Presiding over this outrageous menagerie are a prior winner of the Bee, Rona Lisa Peretti (Melissa Rostkoski), who is also an ace realtor and Douglas Panche (Derek Corriveau), an assistant principal with a questionable past and a present temper, with the help of Mitch Mahoney (Brandon Nichols) who is completing his community service while on parole by being the official comfort counselor and distributor of juice boxes.

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 this delightful potpourri of nerds and misfits, said only with love, assembled to compete in the Bee.  Members of the audience are invited to take part on stage in the competition so practice up if you want your chance to shine.

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.

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 for its unusual treatment and tribute to the spoken word.

Under the direction  of Kyle Reynolds, 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 ($25), call the Chestnut Street Playhouse, 24 Chestnut Street, Norwich at 860-886-2378,  or online at  Performances are  Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. 

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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