The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

The Spelling Bee is a beloved American pastime, encouraging good sportsmanship and the pleasure of taking part; however, deep down it becomes clear every contestant has a thirst for glory. Four Wheeled Theatre’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a charming and easygoing musical that follows the journey of six very different children. As we watch the competition unfold we see each character’s personal journey through some witty musical numbers.

They all posses their own unique and quirky qualities that make them all equally memorable

Ms Peretti (Bethany Marvin) takes us through the competition, addressing the rules and traditions of the Spelling Bee. We see each contestant get eliminated and hear their disappointment of losing and why winning was so important. As we learn about each contestant’s backstory and see their determination it’s difficult to choose a favourite to win.

The children are portrayed in a beautifully cartoonish way that lives up perfectly to the American Stereotypes we’ve all come to love. They all posses their own unique and quirky qualities that make them all equally memorable. Chip Tolentino (Tim Wilson) contributes greatly to the vocals of the group and gives off a cynical representation of the bitter sore loser. Leaf Coneybear (Jack Donald) is difficult not to love from start to finish, with a charmingly bright-eyed optimism. Simon Butler deserves an honourable mention for his characterisation of William Barfée which gives off a strong resemblance to Disney’s beloved Mad Hatter, Ed Wynn. As an actor he’s a pleasure to behold and a real highlight of the show. Marcy Park (Ellen Gray) and Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre (Charlotte Chambers), who conveys a very convincing speech impediment, both show perfectly their characters maturity beyond their years; meanwhile Olive Ostrovsky (Ellena Taylor) projects a doe-eyed innocence and vulnerability with ease.

Some sections of the musical drag, particularly when changing roles to represent the children’s parents. The transition of the characters aren’t always drastic enough to make these scenes stand out. With their original characters having such big personalities, their parent counterparts are at points easily forgotten when they actually should contribute greatly to the kid’s backstories.

The dynamic of the group oozes professionalism. This appears to be a seasoned company with every member being tuned into the same wavelength. The way they bounce off one another contributes greatly towards the pace and rhythm of the show even when incorporating members of the public into the choreography. As with all audience interaction the cast has to be prepared for things to go wrong at any moment and together they are bulletproof. This is an uplifting and highly enjoyable performance not to be missed, even if it does make you ashamed of your own personal spelling capabilities.

Reviews by Miss Ashleigh More

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Performances

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The Blurb

Six quirky adolescents compete to be the best speller in the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The competition is run by three unconventional adults who, with the children, have their own unique stories to tell. From the production team that brought you I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change ***** (ThePublicReviews.com), Four Wheeled Theatre presents this hilarious and heart-warming show which tackles the anxieties of being a teenager, the complexity of family, and a need to succeed. So get your thinking caps on, and remember, 'Can I have a definition please?'.

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