Define a spectacular show? Oh of course! The one with origins in Annandale. “The 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee”, a book by Rachel Sheinkin, has music and lyrics written by William Finn. The musical premiered as a comedy in 2005 and was based on “C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E”, an improvisational play written by Rebecca Feldman. This musical follows children as they gather in the gym of Putnam Valley Middle School for a life-changing spelling bee full of personal development and emotional enlightenment.
As the lights came up, we saw Rona Lisa Peretti (Jewel Coulter) telling her story through beautiful vocals and sharing her interest in spelling bees which began when she won one when she was young. As Peretti introduced the show, Vice Principal Douglas Panch (Aiden Scarbrough) came in with a failed attempt to woo Peretti, which resulted in consistent and hilarious bickering throughout the show. These two were quick and witty with improvised responses when unsuspecting audience members made their way onto the stage to get quizzed as participants in the spelling bee. When they got disqualified, they were kindly escorted off-stage by Mitch Mahoney (Timothy Hurd) who always caught the audience’s eye with large physicality and extensive characterization, while giving insight into the life of someone who deals with crazy kids...without violating parole. When Marcy Park (Kaya Thomas) first walked in, she seemed to be an “all business” kid aiming for perfection. As the show progressed, Thomas’s character bloomed into someone the audience loved and rooted for as she learned how to claim her life back from the expectations of her parents. Olive Ostrovsky (Amanda Weaver) showcased her wonderful, sweet vocals in “The I Love You Song” when she talked about her broken household. Every moment of this song was heartfelt and picture-perfect with lights that highlighted Weaver while silhouetting Olive’s mom and dad (David Miller and Kayla Osipchak).
Playful, unique, and childish in all the right ways, the costume and make-up department deserved a trophy of their own for their work. A memorable look was Leaf Coneybear’s cape, made completely out of candy wrappers, which had colorful makeup to match and butterfly clips to top it all off. Each actor’s look was personalized perfectly to match and enhance their character. The props team helped to immerse the audience in the show with 3D comedy like their own foam capybara to help the audience get a visual to go with the word that was being spelled. Other things like a giant light bulb to simulate an idea, a third-place medal, and a campaign sticker for Schwartzy gave the feeling of watching a fun, comforting childhood cartoon. The choreography by Layan Masri and Amanda Weaver for “Magic Foot” included a tap solo from William Barfee (Jasson Rodriguez-Regalado) that ended with a kickline and included all main spellers and ensemble alike to celebrate his winning technique of spelling words on the floor with his foot.
From the second these six children sat down to begin this spelling bee, to the end where new friendships, life outlooks, and spelling habits developed, the fond feelings toward the characters and experience of Annandale’s show would be difficult to put into an example sentence.