Review: "Spelling Bee" a G-O-O-D time

First-year students shine in the Tony-award winning musical, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."

There was hardly an open seat on the floor of the Goldstein Auditorium as the First Year Players opened their rendition of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” The actors' vibrant performances were the strong point of the single act, two-hour play.

“The Spelling Bee” is about pre-teens, complete with stereotypical personalities, trying to win their county's top spelling competition. It's a musical sprinkled with humor and has been preformed on Broadway, as well as by theater groups all over the world.

Photo: Alyssa Stone
William Barfee, played by freshman Casey Kulik, dances one of the comedic musical numbers, "Magic Foot," with backup dancers.

Only freshmen and transfer students not majoring in drama may perform onstage in any FYP production, but any undergraduate may participate in the production. The cast for this show may be young, but they managed to hold their own with the well-known script.

A quick flip through their bios reveals that these freshmen are far from novices – most have at least several other musical productions under their belts. That experience was evident in their stage presence and enthusiasm for theater displayed while preforming. Each of the six “speller” characters required the actors to behave in ways that might embarrass the typical 18-year-old on a stage in front of his or her peers, even if playing a character. But not one actor ever showed any sign of hesitation.

Greg Boilard, who played the moderator of the spelling bee, Vice Principal Douglas Panch, gave an outstanding performance. His portrayal of a man more than twice his age was extremely believable and he didn't miss a beat when it came to comedic timing.

The costuming really helped to make plausible that the characters on stage ranged in age from twelve all the way up to a granny, despite the actors all being approximately the same age. With only one act to get to know a character, the clever costumes also helped to establish characters' stereotypes. The “weird kid” wore a helmet and cape, the “quiet girl” wore an oversized shirt, and the “nerd” wore thick glasses, had his pants pulled up way too far, and even had his hair awkwardly parted.

The dancing was another highlight of the show. The choreography was was well-executed. One of the best numbers, “Magic Foot,” featured William Barfee, played by Casey Kulik. Kulik and the other dancers hit each step perfectly, he hit his notes, and the music from the pit was strong.

But the show's weakness came in some of the other songs. The vocal performances were good, but they could not be heard over that lovely music from the pit in certain parts of the auditorium. While the sound was still pleasant, most of the words were lost, which actually made certain aspects of the play's storyline almost impossible to follow.

The audience didn't seem to mind too much since the show involved some of their own; members of the audience were pulled onstage to participate in the “spelling bee.” Among those four guests was Dean Thomas Wolfe, who inspired a series of ad-libbed  jokes. The audience took particularly well to  a few lines Maria Delaney, who plays organizer Rona Lisa Perretti, sang, “There's a Dean Wolfe in the closest.”

With the humor, talent and enthusiasm put into the show, FYP couldn't miss, even when the microphones weren't as strong as their performances.



Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.