"The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" is a delightfully funny musical comedy and the Okoboji Summer Theatre brings it to life this week with gusto.
Opening night saw a very appreciative crowd laugh continually. The music was well-written with amusing lyrics. Be sure to pay attention to the words they are singing because that is half of the fun of the play. The definitions and sentence use of the spelling words are hysterically funny at times.
Obviously the plot centers around a county-wide spelling competition. The diverse group of competitors strikes a familiar chord. To add to the flavor of the show, four people were called up from the audience to participate as well. Of the four, two were students, one leaning toward the senior citizen side of the age scale and an attractive woman who looked like she was a teacher. These four did a remarkable job considering they were "add ons." The audience appreciated their efforts and applauded loudly when they were eliminated from the contest.
Six Stephens College theatre students and three professional actors comprised the cast. Allison Bibicoff and Tom Andes, director and music director respectively, molded the musically talented class into a tight-knit ensemble. There was no one in the cast who could not sing extremely well. Each had an individual opportunity to showcase his or her talent and it was very evident.
I can't begin to single out one actor over another as they all were remarkable. I will give Melanie Bosley credit for playing the part with the longest name I have encountered in decades of writing these reviews. She played Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre. I will not try to pronounce it but I did spell it correctly.
The audience seemed to connect strongly with Aaron Choi as William Barfee. I enjoyed Emy Blake's portrayal of Olive Ostrovsky. Heidi Womelsdorf did such a fine job as Marcy Park that I wanted to slap her silly. She was arrogant to the max!
Ty Carter was hilarious as the troubled youth doing community service. His facial expressions were right on and his body language perfect. Other outstanding cast members included John Lampe, Elyse Bertani, Evan White and Eddie Andrews. This cast had no weak links and each one's performance was top-notch.
The set and costumes went well with the story line. The spotlight on the trophy was a nice touch. After all, through all the bumblings, local humor, fantastic singing and dancing, it was a spelling bee. I am an above average speller but I had never heard some of those words before that show. I found myself trying to spell each and got a few right; but certainly not all of them!
"The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" is hilarious, extremely well performed and highly entertaining. The show runs through Sunday night at the Okoboji Summer Theatre on Highway 71 in Okoboji.