By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
What happens when six young, quirky students enter “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is pure pandemonium.
From difficult words to distracting audience members to strange spelling techniques, the musical comedy tells the story of how a spelling bee can bring out the best – and weirdest – in people.
“It’s about a middle school spelling bee, and we have all adults playing the kids,” said director Tom Booth. “Each one of the six students is unique. It’s the beginning of the bee to the winner.”
The spellers include the free spirit Leaf Coneybear (John Carroll), the returning champ Chip (Alex Hargett), the politically minded Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre (Maria Geno), the sweet Olive Ostrovsky (Danielle Frerer), the strange William Barfeé (Mark Maharrey) and the overachieving Marcy Park (Anne Britt).
Geno has worked backstage at several TCT productions, but this is her first time in front of the lights. Her role has its challenges: the young and super-political Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre has a lisp, so Geno has had to learn how to speak and sing with one.
“I’ve had to research it,” she said. “You try to do it so you’re understandable, but you keep the essence of the character, too.”
It’s also the TCT debut for Jeff Houin, who plays the stern Vice Principal Panch.
“He’s not happy to be there,” Houin said of his character. “It’s a stretch for me, because I’m the most laid-back person in the world.”
Panch is the spelling bee’s moderator, which is a plus for Houin.
“I get to, for most of the show, just watch. I’ve got the best seat in the house,” he said.
The production won best overall show, best director and best ensemble cast, among other awards, at this past weekend’s Mississippi Theatre Arts Festival.
Houin and Geno promise a good time at the spelling bee.
“It’s for anyone who wants to get a good laugh and enjoy the awkwardness of adolescence,” Geno said.
Houin pointed toward the award-winning cast as a reason to see “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”
“The cast is so talented,” he said. “You will not be disappointed.”
Dim the Lights
WHAT: Tupelo Community Theatre presents “The 25th Annual Spelling Bee”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 31, Feb. 1-2, and 2 p.m. Feb. 2
WHERE: The Lyric
COST: $22/adults, $10/students
INFO: (662) 844-1935
EXTRA: Booth gives “Spelling Bee” a PG-13 rating, thanks to some limited language and adult discussions.
CAST: Anne Britt (Marcy Park, Leaf’s sister); John Carroll (Leaf Coneybear, Carl Grubenierre); Danielle Frerer (Olive Ostrovsky);
Maria Geno (Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre); Alex Hargett (Chip Tollentino, Jesus); Jeff Houin (Vice Principal Panch); Mark Maharrey (William Barfeé); Suzanne Oakley (Rona Lisa Peretti, Olive’s mother);
J.N. West (Mitch Mahoney, Dan Schwartz, Olive’s father).
JOIN THE CAST ON STAGE: Each production needs four audience
members to participate in the spelling bee. If you’re interested, contact Tom Booth in advance at (662) 844-1935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.