MIDVALE — Take the natural awkwardness of being an adolescent combined with being put in a spotlight and spelling random words no one has ever heard of (let alone used), and then add a little mix of awkward rituals instituted by these kids to achieve perfect spelling—you can’t help but have a HILARIOUS show.
Pinnacle Acting Company’s The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a fun-filled musical that puts a comic spin on the awkwardness— and sometimes unfortunate realness— of adolescence. From an unfortunate adolescent “reaction” to the parental pressures of being an overachiever, this musical deals with the stress of adolescence in a very light and funny way, helping us all to look back at our own awkwardness and laugh.
It’s not hard to feel a part of the musical right from the start. Assistant Principal Roni Lisa Peretti begins with house lights up setting the stage for the impending introduction of the spellers to the audience, thanking us for our attendance and so forth. After each speller makes their entrance on stage, selected audience members (who graciously completed a questionnaire before the show) are asked to join the spellers on stage and take part in the spelling bee. This addition of unrehearsed actors adds to the comedy as actors interact with these new cast members. It helps to create a new and refreshing show each night with new unrehearsed moments and lines. They too have their own comical antidotes that are added as they enter the spotlight.
Most of the comedy of the show comes from the back story of each contestant. Not only is the show flogged with awkward young ones, but its fair share of awkward adults are featured as well. Miss Peretti is a former speller herself and is assistant to Principal Panch who has just recently returned from a 5 year hiatus after an “incident.” Both seem to suggest that the awkwardness of adolescence is carried into adulthood.
Now, add to the mix the Care Counselor Mitch Mahoney, played by Jared Larkin. This punked, spiked hair, tattooed, pierced school counselor offers each loser a juice box and a hug to as they are escorted off the stage by a ‘Goodbye’ song. He himself notes the irony of assuming a juice box and hug will eliminate the sting of humiliation—for some audience members it’s misspelling an easily spelled word (which apparently, happens more often than not).
Now for the cast, I can honestly say I have very few issues with this show. Despite a couple of pitchy singing moments and a need for a little more projection from a few performers, it was a very solid performance. A show like this can easily offer a forum to over act the heck out of these characters to the point of annoying, but I commend each of the actors for taking it just to the point of pure enjoyment. Great comedic timing!
A few notable players: Zach Hess wins for stealing the show. I thought his rendition of William Barfee (pronounced Bar-FAY) was hilarious, and the use of his magic foot and over confident nature only added to his role. Hess was also very nicely offset by Miss Alyssa Simmons. Kudos to her excellent portrayal of Olive: a shy, pensive girl who has what I feel is the only “real” moment when she sings about her parents. I was impressed. Of course, Chip (Ben Roeling) and his unfortunate “demonstration” was genius and very tactfully done. I also have to give a shout out to Leaf, Marcy, and Logainne with her two dads (that’s right 2 stage dads, can you even imagine). Honestly, they all did a great job.
Lastly, we can’t forget the people who made it happen. To the Director, Choreographer, Music Director, & Costumer, let me say “GREAT SHOW!” One final note for the choreographer: the dancing was cute, funny, and show appropriate which I always appreciate. All in all, in my opinion this production is a definite MUST SEE. Very funny and very entertaining and need I say again…AWKWARD!
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee plays through February 20, Thu/Fri/Sat at 7:30 PM. Performances take place at the Midvale Performing Arts Center, “The Old City Hall,” located at 695 West Center Street (7220 South), Midvale, UT. Tickets range from $13-15. For more information, call Melanie at (801) 674-7956 or visit pinnacleactingcompany.org.