Cast and crew of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee prepare for opening night


Katie Spillman

Honing in on the show’s coreographical precision, actors and dance captains rehearse a musical number from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Slated for a debut on Feb. 9, the production’s opening night will take place exactly three months after the third and final day of auditions. “The hardest part about being in a musical for me is learning to think about character, singing, dancing and memorization all at the same time,” freshman Arden Dickson said. “When you’re running a number and focusing on getting the steps correct, you might accidentally step out of character or miss a beat of singing. That balance is something our directors, choreographers and stage managers motivate us to achieve.”

After three months of preparation, the theater department is set to showcase The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee on Friday Feb. 9, and twice the following day.

The official Music Theatre International (MTI) website describes the ambitious musical as “a fast-paced crowd pleaser and an instant theatre patron favorite” with a plot following six quirky contestants vying for spelling glory in a bee overseen by a trio of equally quirky adult characters.

“It’s a funny, interactive musical with relevant PG-13 humor,” senior Meghan Larsen, portraying the role of competitor Leaf Coneybear, said. “The clever humor, fast pace and use of audience volunteers make the whole show extremely rewatchable.”

With acting credits ranging from Almost, Maine to Arsenic and Lace, junior Patrick Clover is working as student director in the latest theatre department production. He stresses the versatility required to bring a musical to life onstage.

“The show is coming along great. I’m excited to see the finished product,” Clover said. “Whether we’re planning out how a scene is going to look, getting the choreography figured out or singing in Mr. Parrish’s room, it’s a different rehearsal [every day].”

Demanding simultaneous prowess in all three pillars of musical theatre–dancing, singing and acting–sophomore Charlie Foy finds juggling music numbers with the development of his character, William Barfee, to be the toughest challenge.

The clever humor, fast pace and use of audience volunteers make the whole show extremely rewatchable.”

— Meghan Larsen

“You need to take into account the different styles colliding within this one performance. When you look at the big picture, you see that it has dancing, singing and acting,” Foy said. “[I] find some parts more difficult than others. It is easier for me to link the singing and dancing together in order to memorize them both, but it also can then be harder to stay in character in songs. I feel it really is a tough balance between them all.”

Katie Spillman
Senior Kennedy Brown performs a dance number at a Jan. 10 rehearsal of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

MTI lists 23 songs in the musical’s show guide and with numerous other scenes to craft, the production has wasted no time ramping up rehearsals at a fever pitch.

“So far, my favorite part of the rehearsal process has been the music rehearsals. I’ve never been in the kind of individualized music environment that the department has established,” freshman Arden Dickson said. “It’s so much different from choir as we’re given rapid, more unique feedback and we learn music much faster. I love working with everyone in the cast and they’re all so amazingly talented. I’m so elated to perform with each and every one of them.”

Courtesy of Carson Lolley
The theatre department’s show poster for the The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

The cast, which will perform the show a total of three times, features just nine actors to fill 17 parts. Tickets, $6 for students and $8 for adults, can be purchased the week of the show at lunch or at the door.

“I absolutely love getting to know the cast and crew. I think something that’s also nice is that because the cast is so small, we’re moving at a really fast pace so we get to do some pretty cool stuff,” Larsen said. “There’s a lot of pieces to put together with the acting, singing and dancing.”

As the production enters the final stretch, Clover insists there is still work to be done. He has prioritized ironing out the show’s finer details to polish the final product.

“Challenges such as how to sing certain difficult parts, the vocal parts are extremely hard, and how to make things work dance-wise always arise,” Clover said. “What this production needs is to get memorized and more confident with [the show]. Once those two things are done, I think we’re pretty much show- ready.”