The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee review


Carson Lolley

Senior Kennedy Brown performs as a perfectionist in the West High Dramatics Company’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee musical. The musical was chosen for the spring show this year and was performed three separate times on the weekend of Feb. 9-11. “I feel really good about [the performance]; I think we did a really good job,” Brown said. “I still have people coming up to me and congratulating me which is a cool feeling.”

From the trials of puberty to learning to cope with an absent mother, the musical production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” by the West High Dramatics Company provided an evening of laughter and quality entertainment on Saturday, Feb. 10. The show was also put on Friday night Feb. 9 and Saturday morning Feb. 10.

The musical, starring junior Bella Meara as the bee host, was the dramatic telling of the raging emotions of a middle school county spelling bee. The musical featured many student characters: an asthmatic boy, a perfectionist, a class clown, a young political activist and a girl starving for the attention of her parents. Through the variety of characters, the musical touched on the insecurities of adolescence through the lens of being identified as a ‘nerd’ who competes in spelling bees. The message of the production spoke to audience members personally as they remembered their own humble beginnings; almost everyone I know in high school regrets the person they were in middle school and this production used those embarrassing years to connect with the high school audience.

In addition to the written characters, the musical also featured crowd participation. Four people per show were called down to the stage to participate. These fortunate–or unfortunate–audience members were then forced to compete in the bee with easier words than the cast members’, resulting in the casted characters protested that the inconsistent difficulty of words was unfair. In a comedic twist, one audience participant on the Friday night performance was junior and 2015 National Spelling Bee co-champion Gokul Venkatachalam. They got him out by asking him to spell Lysergic diethylamide. Overall, the crowd members being added to the musical made the whole production more dynamic and impressive.

The show was extremely well-casted and, because the cast was so small (a mere nine participants) all the voices in every song stood out. Almost all of the cast members had one of their own songs in which they gave their character’s background. In addition to the talented voices, the show was also accompanied by a pit orchestra that was a perfectly balanced volume with the singers from my seat. At times, the orchestra was so professional, it simply sounded like a recording in the background. The combination of strong acting and singing ability from the cast and a phenomenal pit orchestra allowed the audience to feel the crescendos and tension in the music and kept their attention throughout the two-hour show.

If I could have changed one thing about the show, I would have added an intermission: the musical was relatively short and, therefore, the West High Dramatics Company opted to forgo an intermission in the middle of the performance. It was difficult during the last 45 minutes to stay completely focused despite the talented cast as my mind began to wander and my stomach began to growl.

The most memorable part of the show for me was before the curtain call, when the actors who previously misspelled words returned, walked down the stairs surrounding the theater seating and sang the final song amongst the audience. This cemented the interactive quality of the show and gave audience members a chance to see their favorite actor up close and out from the under the harsh stage lights. In this number, the futures of the characters were told and the fans listened to how the members of the spelling bee flourished later in life. Overall, the West High Dramatics Company did an exceptional job reminding us all how terrible middle school was through spelling and performance while also teaching us that things do get better, and your strange quirks can become your greatest strengths.  

Pathfinder rating: 9/10