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‘Putnam County Spelling Bee’ was an H-I-T

May 8, 2014

 

Jamie Robinson, Aaron Anthon, Kevin Keeler, Madison Gilcrease, Rowan Johnson and Ashley Davis perform musical number during the “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” – Photos by Devin Dronett

Jamie Robinson, Aaron Anthon, Kevin Keeler, Madison Gilcrease, Rowan Johnson and Ashley Davis perform musical number during the “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” – Photos by Devin Dronett

BRENNEN LEGE    
Staff Reporter

If laughter is the perfect medicine, then there was enough of it in Howard Auditorium the evening of the first showing of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” that the entire crowd in attendance should now have a clean bill of health.

The musical, which premiered at Louisiana Tech April 30, marked the last production in the 2013-14 season for the theater department.

Cherrie Sciro, coordinator of theater, directed the musical while Greg Lyons, assistant director of band, conducted the orchestral pieces that accompanied it.

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is a musical written by Rachel Sheinkin with music and lyrics by William Finn. The play became a Broadway production in 2005 and was nominated for six Tony Awards, winning two. The plot of the musical follows six quirky middle school students as they fight tooth-and-nail to win first place at a spelling bee.

Leaf Coneybear, played Kevin Keeler, shows the audience his best friend: his puppet.

Leaf Coneybear, played Kevin Keeler, shows the audience his best friend: his puppet.



Driving the story forward were the characters’ personal song and dance pieces, which fleshed out the individual quirks that set them so far apart from one another. With each actor bringing a unique performance to the stage, choosing only a few of them as highlights simply does not give the entire cast enough credit for their excellent performances.

Actresses Ashley Elizabeth Davis, Maddison Gilcrease and Molly Page all displayed vocal prowess during the show, specifically in the duet scene between Gilcrease and Page’s characters. Page, who also designed the colorful costumes seen in the show, is a graduate student expecting her masters in theater in May. “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” will be her final performance at Tech.

The musical’s stage design for the spelling bee was clean and crisp. Emulating a middle school gymnasium, the set boasted tall emerald green walls complete with motivational posters and perfectly stained wood doors and bleachers. The colors on stage popped, matching the upbeat attitudes of the cast.

While the set stayed relatively the same, the stage lighting was ever changing throughout. Colors flowed constantly and endlessly throughout the production, creating a variety of moods. The lighting effects were at their greatest during an unorthodox scene in which the actors had to move and speak in slow motion.

In the pit in front of the stage, a small orchestra accompanied the musical. Lyons conducted a talented group of musicians who drove the musical scenes to a greater level of enjoyment for the audience, even if it seemed slightly loud at times compared to the singing on stage. The performers both on stage and in the pit stayed in rhythm throughout the entire performance.

 

Spelling Bee3

William Barfe (center), played by Aaron Anthon, shows audience his magic foot with the help of his friends.



In all, the show combined all of its elements really well. From the production of the aesthetics-bright costumes, the gymnasium set and saturated lighting to the actual songs and dances, they really nailed the perky middle school vibe while mixing in enough adult humor to reach its target audience. It was apparent that “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” was a true labor of love for the production staff, the actors and the music ensemble.

As the school year comes to a close, Tech’s theater department ended its 2013-2014 season on a high note, exiting the stage without sparing a single expense, while anticipating even more high quality work in the coming seasons.

Email comments to bsl008@latech.edu.

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