LANESBORO — The Commonweal Theatredoesn’t often do cute, but there may be no other way to describe "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," which opened over the weekend.
The musical comedy, directed by Alan Bailey, with its archetypal spelling bee contestants, audience participation and over-the-top presentation is, well, cute — but with a (not-too-heavy) message.
The message? "The best spellers don’t necessarily win," as we’re reminded a couple of times during the show. Sometimes life just ain’t fair, and maybe the best time to learn that is at a middle school spelling bee.
Portraying the contestants are company members Lizzy Andretta, Philip Muehe, Brandt Roberts, Abbie Cathcart and Elizabeth Dunn, joined by apprentice Brandon Cayetano, making his Commonweal debut.
Everyone will have their favorite contestant. Is it Roberts’ William Barfee, the wimpy know-it-all? How about Cathcart’s Marcy, a real smarty-pants who discovers the joy of falling short of expectations? Then there’s Andretta’s clever portrait of the always striving, always smiling Logainne. Muehe’s Leaf Coneybear is way out there somewhere. Cayetano manages keeps pace with this bunch when it comes to craziness. And finally, we come to Dunn, who really blossoms here as the brainy and kind-hearted Olive Ostrovsky.
They’re joined by Eric Lee, as an unlikely dispenser of hugs and life wisdom, Hal Cropp as the uptight assistant principal Mr. Panch, and Betti Battocletti as the oh-so-smooth hostess of the bee, Ms. Peretti.
Thomas White’s set turns the Commonweal into a school gymnasium, complete with a basketball hoop and posters for upcoming events. To top it all off, four contestants are recruited from the audience to take part in the onstage antics.
It’s not all fun and games, as the contestants deal with their insecurities and unreal expectations, not to mention the pressure of the spotlight. We can all relate in some way, whether we recall the school spelling bee, a Little League game or even a grownup job interview.
That could help make "Spelling Bee" the hit of the summer at the Commonweal.
What: "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" When: Through Sept. 24 Where: Commonweal Theatre, 208 Parkway Ave. N, Lanesboro Tickets: $35 adults, $15 students; at 800-657-7025 and
What: "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee"
When: Through Sept. 24
Where: Commonweal Theatre, 208 Parkway Ave. N, Lanesboro
Tickets: $35 adults, $15 students; at 800-657-7025 and commonwealtheatre.org