In “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” currently in a hilarious and touching production at Schenectady Light Opera Company, we meet some of today’s overachievers on one of the most stressful days of their young lives: the day they compete to see which of them will be representing their county at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.
’The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’
WHERE: Schenectady Light Opera Company, 427 Franklin Street, Schenectady
WHEN: Through March 29
HOW MUCH: $18-$28
MORE INFO: 1-877-350-7378, http://www.sloctheater.org/
They’re overachievers, and they’re very smart (and wise beyond their years). But the main bond they all share is, simply, that they are children, competing in a cutthroat race to be the best at what they love to do — and children (and, even, some adults) are not always prepared for that kind of pressure.
Director Grace McCarthy (currently a senior at Emma Willard school, no small feat getting a mainstage show at that age; I predict big things for McCarthy) has brought together a cast that perfectly embody their characters.
Debbie Lummis’ costumes are bright primary colors that make the students pop, and McCarthy also designed the set, which, from the minute you walk in the theater, charms you with its high school flavor — posterboard on the walls, photos of past spelling bee winners in the lobby, fliers for bake sales and anti-bullying campaigns on the set.
It’s hard to pick a standout in such a closely knit ensemble cast, but Stephen Foust, as William Barfée was an absolute joy to watch in his role. Barfee is a difficult character to make the audience love, at least at first, and Foust managed to get us all on his side almost immediately.
Emily Ladona, as Olive Ostrovsky, was also magnificent. Her trio with Elizabeth Sterling and Hollie L. Miller on “The I Love You Song” was so beautiful it brought tears to your eyes and an ache to your heart. It’s just a gorgeous song, and their harmonies were exquisite.
Kevin Huneau’s Leaf Coneybear was the spastic but lovable kid we all knew in school, and Nathan Perry, as Douglas Panch, the terrifying man behind the bell that would send the spellers home, had the best public television announcer’s voice; I can’t imagine anyone else being more perfect for the role.
This is a show for everyone — people that want a comedy, people that want a musical, people that want something with a bit of a deeper meaning to it, people who just want something beautiful to look at for a couple of hours.
It’s always pleasing when one of our local community theaters delivers something this well-rounded, from every angle. This is a show you don’t want to miss, and I highly recommend getting a ticket soon. I can’t imagine they’re not going to be selling out.
And if, before the show, you look for the man in the lobby with the colored sheets of paper in his hand and ask very nicely, You might find yourself onstage, spelling with Putnam County’s finest. What more can you ask for?