BADC’s “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” Review

Andie Valdez

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Kicking off the 2017- 2018 school year and its fall season, Bel Air Drama Company had its opening night for the musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee on October 26, 2017. The musical has a book companion by Rachel Sheinkin, and follows the story of six quirky kids competing in their county’s spelling bee run by three equally as quirky adults. Along with beautiful and catchy music that you won’t be able to get out of your head, the musical is a gold mine of comedy that will leave you in stitches.

One thing that sets it apart from any play I’ve ever seen was the aspect of audience participation, where you felt like you were actually in Putnam County, watching these kids spell for real. At the very beginning, “Rosa Lisa Peretti”, played by Kiley Ernest, announces that there are some competitors missing, and reads off four names of audience members who went there to watch the musical, but instead were in it! They got the chance to go on stage and sit in the “competitor’s bleachers” and take their turn on the mic, where they were given easy and hard words to spell. They also got to participate in the song Pandemonium where, as its name suggests, the actors were dancing and running all over the stage, throwing trash and silly string left and right like crazy.

But it doesn’t stop there, placed in the row behind me was a competitor “Leaf Coneybear’s” family, played by actors in the drama company who made hilarious commentary that only added to the experience. They even kept in character during intermission!

Every now and then an actor would walk off the stage and into the audience, either following one of the people chosen from the crowd as they shamefully misspelled a word and had to return to their seats, or because they were “selling candy” by throwing bags of chips into the waiting hands of those lucky few who could catch them. For a few hours I was transported to Putnam County, laughing and crying at the dilemmas these kids are going through.

“It’s a musical about growing up, facing your fears and inner conflicts, dealing with the pressure of competition and winning, and learning to love yourself and others,” said Terri Mathews, one of the three directors in the Drama Company.

True to her words, I got to witness six kids go onto that stage with problems, coming out better and with new friends, and I can’t wait to see the horror comedy, Drop Dead, the Bel Air Drama Company will put on November 16, 17, and 18, 2017. It’s sure to be just as funny as Putnam County Spelling Bee!

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