The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Wellington, 2011)

October 23, 2011 at 12:12 am | Posted in Musical Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I saw the New Zealand Drama School’s production of this Tony Award winning show.

I presume the cast were drawn from the School’s graduating class. Full marks for them for doing a work that required lots of singing, some dancing, as well as acting.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, not having researched the origins, but having seen 42nd Street the week before I was quite unprepared for this piece of musical theatre / musical comedy. There was a lot less dancing, and much more acting.

I found it a bit wacky, not just because it is a comedy, but the array of characters all had ‘issues’. The entrants were a combination of hot-housed over achievers to lonely under achievers – for good measure some random members of the audience were tossed in. The spelling bee officials also had ‘history’ that they were trying to get past.

What I liked about this work was that when the characters sang, they gave the audience a view of their personality, neurosis and flashbacks in a way that is all but impossible any other way in the time and space available.

I found two characters struck a real chord with me: Marcy Park (played by Alice Canton) and Leaf Coneybear (played by Andrew Paterson).

It did take me a little while to mentally cast the spelling bee entrants as children – because the drama students are adults :-). Maybe more audible cues when these characters were introduced?

This was the last night; otherwise, I would say go to it!


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