Like the ongoing popularity of the game show Wheel of Fortune and word games like Scrabble, the spelling bee is a popular American pastime and fun-loving competition. Set to music and lyrics by William Finn, and originally produced on Broadway, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee comes to the Morgan Wixson Theatre. With fun and games that people play, the show brings a touch of nostalgia and youthful childhood innocence to the lucky audience members. Four audience volunteers are selected and invited on stage to participate in the Bee, making each show a unique adventure.
With spelling, writing and literacy accountability a crucial issue facing schools today, it’s quite refreshing to watch a musical devoted to the written word, its spelling, origin and use in a sentence. Much like the documentary Spellbound, each character is vibrant and lively, with names to match the personality (i.e. Leaf Coneybear). The six young contestants, each in the height of puberty, burst with energy, as they use special spelling techniques/aids to prove to their parents (grown-ups who barely managed to escape childhood themselves!) that it’s not so much win or lose, but rather, how you play the game, that really matters.
One participant, Olive Ostrovsky, (Ann Villella) is busy trying to get the approval and praise of her parents (while her mom is seeking spirituality at an ashram in India and an empty seat awaits her workaholic dad); while Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre (Amy Coles), a product of two dads, takes a moment for a political sidebar — an earnest plea to President Obama, for gay rights/marriage equality.
The play extols the virtue of our very own fine newspaper, by thanking The Tolucan Times as its sponsor sporadically throughout the show.
A wholesome fun-filled show for theatergoers of all ages! The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee runs through April 9 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. The Morgan Wixson Theatre is located at 2627 Pico Blvd. in Santa Monica. For ticket information, visit www.morgan-wixson.org.