SPELLING BEE at Narberth Buzzes with Excitement!

by Lisa Panzer

The cast of Narberth Community Theatre's 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE, running in Narberth, PA through March 17.

Can you spell “S-P-E-C-T-A-C-U-L-A-R”? Congratulations to Director Brian Seaman, cast and crew of THE 25TH ANNUAL SPELLING PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE’ at Narberth Community
Theatre for a thoroughly delightful show! Even if you’ve never participated in your school’s spelling bee, you’ll be taken back into that magical yet awkward time of youth known as adolescence through musical numbers that pop, and characters in situations that will seem all too familiar in the memory.

At the beginning of each performance, four audience members will be called upon to join the spelling bee, adding another layer excitement to the show, and some interesting improvisational moments, so bring your spelling cap along just in case. Beware, the competition is sometimes stiff, these middle school spellers are out to win, and are sometimes out of control… But, don’t be afraid.

It’s just that hormones can be heck at this time, but also make for some hilarious, and also some sensitive lyrics, as well as artistic opportunities to play on words. Each speller is allowed to request the ‘bee’ moderators to give the origin of a spelling word, a definition, or use it in a sentence. For example, the sentence drily delivered by Vice Principal Panch (well done by Scott Klaum) using the word Fartlek: “Billy quickly grew tired of doing the “fartlek” with his coach.” By the way, Vice
Principal Panch has some hormonal, and other issues of his own, mostly towards fellow moderator Rona Lisa Paretti (pertly played by Stacy Mascotti). It’s a safe environment though, with Mitch Mahoney (played with panache by Robert Harris) on hand to provide comfort, sippies, AND security.

The spelling bee contestants, William Barfée (Chaz Meyers), Logainne Schwartzandgrubenneire (Jenn Welby), Marcy Park (Brittany Taylor), Leaf Coneybear (David Gilbert), Chip Tolentino (Kevin Dietzler), Olive Ostrovsky (Breanna Pursell) all excelled in the epitomization exhibited in their character portrayals. Each of the spelling bee contestants possessed their own particular peculiarities, quirks and ticks, which each actor played to the hilt! The detail put into each character’s unique idiosyncrasies indicates the amount of effort and talent put forth in this production. Well done!

The musical numbers (Chadd Hunter) were both amusing and moving. The singing voices were strong, the orchestra played excellently (Todd Engleman, Karri Giamporcaro, Chrissy Hower, Jane Roberts, Jim Dilks) and in balance with the singers. The dance numbers are perky and well choreographed (Claire Halberstadt, Robert Harris), especially given the stage space which was cleverly designed as a school gymnasium set up for a county spelling bee. Lighting (Brian Mahoney) was used to good effect, sound was a little over amplified at times but overall well done. Costumes (Phil Horrocks) were very appropriate and did much to convey the humor of the play.

For a very well orchestrated night of F-U-N and L-A-U-G-H-T-E-R, go see:

Music and Lyrics by William Finn
Book by Rachel Sheinkin
Directed by Brian Seaman
Musical Direction by Chad Hunter
March 2-17, 2012
Narberth Community Theatre
206 Price Ave.
Narberth, PA 19072

Note: According to Scripps National Spelling Bee the origins of the term spelling “bee” stem from “…A fairly old and widely-used word, it refers to a community social gathering at which friends and neighbors join together in a single activity (sewing, quilting, barn raising, etc.) usually to help one person or family.” The word’s etymology is not certain but likely derived from the Old English word bēn for prayer.


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