Much fanfare has been made of Tuacahn's production of Disney's Aladdin this year, and understandably so, but its production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a hidden gem not to be missed.
This is Tuacahn's first attempt at including a professional small-scale, indoor musical as part of its summer offerings, and it succeeds at all levels. It is the ideal show for the venue, the intimate Hafen Theatre at Tuacahn High School for the Performing Arts. The environmental staging gives the illusion that the audience is actually in attendance at a school spelling bee.
The Tony-winning musical (music and lyrics by William Finn and book by Rachel Sheinkin) spotlights six participants and three adult presenters of a local spelling bee. The majority of the action takes place at the actual bee, while additional scenes play out in the students' memories or imaginations. These glimpses into their minds provide the audience with insight into their lives and empathy for their pre-teen predicaments. Spot-on improvisation and well-choreographed audience participation pack a punch of real hilarity, but the most welcome surprises are the moments of poignancy that arrive as the audience members realize they truly care about the characters and what is important to them-the outcome of the spelling bee.
Each cast member is perfect for his or her part and directed to perfection by Tuacahn Artistic Director Scott S. Anderson. The score gives Melissa Brandzel (Rona Lisa Peretti), Eymard Cabling (Mitch Mohoney), and Mackenzie Thomas (Olive Ostrovsky) opportunity to showcase their beautiful voices. Especially impressive in the realistic youthful joy they bring are Greg Gorenc (Leaf Coneybear) and Cailan Robinson (Chip Tolentino). Daniel Vito Siefring (William Barfée), Sheffield Chastain (Douglas Panch), Shannon Tyo (Marcy Park), and Alyssa Malgeri (Logan Schwarzandgrubenierre) also create memorable, cohesive characters.
If you're on the fence about whether to add this show to your agenda on your trip to Tuacahn this summer, don't hesitate. You will not regret it.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee runs through Aug. 11 at Tuacahn. For tickets, call the box office at 1-800-746-9882 or visit www.tuacahn.org.
Photo Credit: L-R Greg Gorenc (Leaf Coneybear) and Daniel Vito Siefring (William Barfée)