One of the more successful Broadway productions in recent years is THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE, enjoying a brief run off-Broadway before moving across town in April 2005. Since its release it has seen a renewed popularity in the community theater world. Methacton Community Theater is the latest organization to put “THE BEE” on display in their home at the Shannondell Performing Arts Theater.
Skipping a plot summary (is there anyone out there who can’t figure out what this is about?) I have to say the Methacton crew obviously is having a lot of fun putting this production on. The unfettered joy in the cast is evident from the opening to the finale. First-time director Ashley Rurode has assembled a fine cast, and they play their parts very well.
The show opens with Rona Lisa Peretti (Renee Grant) setting up for the Bee. Grant plays the perky, excited side of Peretti very well. She is soon joined by the contestants…Chip Tolentino (Matt Bookler), Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre (Katie McCool), Leaf Coneybear (Jude Adams), William Barfee (Gary Rantz), Marcy Park (Kate Szupowal), and Olive Ostrovsky (Nicolette Addice.) All of the contestants have lovely voices and blend together very well in the production numbers, and did a fine job showcasing the idiosyncrasies of their characters. Addice was particularly impressive with her performance, her voice and character very natural and a pleasure to watch. Rounding out the cast is Vice-Principal Douglas Panch (Mark Dobbins) and Comfort Counsellor Mitch Mahoney (Cliff Reese). Dobbins delivered a lot of laughs as the “official pronouncer”, giving very humorous examples of the words in a sentence, as well as a very funny melt-down when his job frustration comes to light. Reese showed the warm and fuzzy side of Mahoney very nicely.
Despite the somewhat simple plot, this is a very difficult show to produce, and MCT does a nice job. The set is sparse and functional, the lighting worked very well, and the characterizations were spot on. There were a couple occasions where individual characters went a bit over the top, but these were few and did not deter the audience’s enjoyment. The music (much more difficult than one would think) was handled very well, with the orchestra never a distraction and backing the singers up extremely well. As happens sometimes with these productions, some of the songs were a bit too high for individual performers to handle well, and they strained to hit the high notes.
Overall, there was much to like about this production. BEE is a light-hearted show with a fun message, and the cast and crew of MCT were obviously having fun and sharing it with the audience. The evening I was there the audience was somewhat sparse, perhaps some warned off by the “Don’t Bring anyone under 13” advertising, and in fact there is some adult language in the production. However, it’s very tastefully handled and should not keep anyone from enjoying this production.
THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE
Book by Rachel Sheinkin, Words and Lyrics by William Finn
Based Upon C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E, an Original Play by The Farm
Directed by Ashley Rurode
May 3 – May 12, 2013
Methacton Community Theater
Shannondell Performing Arts Theater
10000 Shannondell Blvd
Audubon, PA 19403