by Patricia Bradford

Old Academy Players proudly presents the extraordinarily delightful musical comedy THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE with music and lyrics by award winning American composer William Finn and book by award winning American writer Rachel Sheinkin. It is directed by Annie Hnatko and produced by Steve Hnatko. Kristin Hegel is choreographer and Terri Bateman is production assistant. Show dates are April 20, 21, 27, 28, 29, May 4, 5, and 6, 2018; Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 2 pm.

The musical was based upon “C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E”, an original improvisational play created by Rebecca Feldman and performed by The Farm, a New-York-based improvisational comedy troupe. Finn and Sheinkin worked together with Feldman to transform “C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E” into a scripted full-length musical with additional material by Jay Reiss. In 2005 the musical was nominated for multiple Tony Awards; Rachel Sheinkin won the Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical.

Synopsis: Internationally produced, this musical is the hilarious and compelling tale of socially awkward youngsters who find joy, heartache and purpose while competing at a regional spelling bee. “We are the slightest bit bizarre” may be quite an understatement when describing some of the enjoyably eccentric tweens competing in the spelling bee. With all the excitement, desperation, weirdness and fun one can expect from a spelling competition, these six young spellers have dreams of their heart’s desires coming true as they compete for a chance to be “the one” to participate in the National Spelling Bee.

The stellar cast of zany characters includes: Meg Murphy as Rona Lisa Peretti, Norm Burnosky as Vice Principal Douglas Panch, Durell Griffin as Mitch Mahoney, Amanda Ross as Olive Ostrovsky, Pat Sutton as William Morris Barfée, Ed Young as Charlito “Chip” Tolentino, Christian Conklin as Leaf Coneybear, Gina Schwoerer as Marcy Park, and Maya Chester-Ziv as Logainne “Schwarzy” SchwartzandGrubenierre.

An unusual aspect of the show is that three real audience members are invited on stage to compete in the spelling bee alongside the six young characters. During the 2005 Tony Awards, former Presidential candidate Al Sharpton competed. Another amusing aspect of the show is that the official pronouncer, usually an improv comedian, provides ridiculous usage-in-a-sentence examples when asked to use words in a sentence. At some shows, adult-only audiences (over age 16) will invited for “Parent-Teacher Conferences,” also known as “Adult Night at the Bee.” These performances are peppered with sexual references and profanity inspired by R-rated ad-libs made during rehearsals. Audience members will have the chance to participate in the (spelling) E-X-C-I-T-E-M-E-N-T! Matinée performances will be family-friendly, but evening shows are NOT recommended for children.

“William Alan Finn, a prolific composer, lyricist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He grew up in Natick, Massachusetts. While attending Natick High School, Finn competed with the Natick Speech Team. He majored in music at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. When he graduated, he received the Hutchinson Fellowship (a musical composition award). He is also Adjunct Faculty Composer/Lyricist at New York University. William Finn is a heavily autobiographical writer; he always writes his own lyrics. His topics have included the gay and Jewish experiences in contemporary America, and also family, belonging, sickness, healing, and loss. According to a 2006 article, “The Washington Post called him ‘the composer laureate of loss.’” His other works have been nominated for Drama Desk and Tony Awards. In 1992, he won two Tony Awards for his play FALSETTOS.

Old Academy Players, located at 3544 Indian Queen Lane in East Falls, has provided continuous community theater since 1923, and featured the acting debuts of both Grace Kelly and Robert Prosky. Tickets for this wonderful musical are $25 each. Friday and Saturday performances are at 8 pm; Sunday matinée performances are at 2 pm. Parking for all performances is free. Purchase tickets online at, call 215-843-1109 for reservations, or visit the theater’s website at for more information.

Theater/Organization OLD ACADEMY PLAYERS
Theater/Organization Website:

Theater/Organization Address: 3544 Indian Queen Lane Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19129 (Map It)
Theater/Organization Phone: (215) 843-1109

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