By, Jamila O. ’19
Welcome to The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee! The Upper School students in this year’s spring musical will be spelling their way through the championship of a lifetime in this clever comedy. The show follows an eclectic group of students competing in a pivotal spelling championship; as they navigate the competition and interpersonal relationships alike, each speller shares hilarious and moving stories from their vastly different home lives. As realtor and former spelling bee champion Rona Lisa Peretti prepares to moderate the competition, each speller is introduced through vivid flashbacks. The contenders include Chip Tolentino, an athletic boy scout and the returning champion of the previous year’s spelling bee; Olive Ostrovosky, a reserved, young newcomer whose shyness is due in part to her largely absent parents; Logainne “Schwartzy” Scwartzandgrubeniere, the youngest and most politically aware of the spellers who is driven by her desire to make her two overbearing fathers proud; Leaf Coneybear, the second runner-up in his district who finds the spelling bee utterly amusing; William Barfee, a finalist in the previous year’s spelling bee who returns to the competition for vindication after being eliminated last year, and Marcy Park, an overachiever who possesses many talents and struggles with the immense pressure of being expected to win constantly. Designated audience members chosen before the show will also be featured as additional spellers in the competition!
Director Mr. J. commented on his choice of Spelling Bee as the 2019 Spring Musical, saying, “I always try to balance the season a bit in terms of variety. We did two fairly intense fall and winter plays this year [Machinal and Milk Like Sugar, respectively] and I wanted to do something a bit funnier and lighter to give us some contrast… Spelling Bee is quirky, has a ton of heart and has a clever device to incorporate some audience members as additional spellers.” Leslie M. ’19, who is playing the role of Rona Lisa Peretti, adds, “additionally, because the spellers are in 6th grade, there are many funny innuendos that will be hilarious for the audience!” Indeed, the comedic and cheerful tone of Spelling Bee may be a change of pace from earlier shows this year; however, it maintains its own unique profundity in its important thematic messages and relevance to Winsor students’ lives. Mr. J. explained, “What I like most is that buried underneath all of the silliness is an important exploration of perfectionism and being ‘the best.’ The characters are under enormous pressure and it’s interesting to see how each one of them accepts losing… I feel like Winsor students can immediately connect to some of these pressures and feelings in a powerful way and encourage them to grapple with the question, ‘What if I come in second?’”
Directing a musical as opposed to a play presents particular challenges and additional considerations, especially in “making sure that music and choreography are given ample time to work, while also making sure that all of our separate work is grounded in telling the same story,” according to Mr. J. However, despite the challenges inherent to musical productions, cast members are looking forward to sharing the show’s music with the Winsor community. Kayla L. ’19, who will be playing Marcy Park in the show, is already “super excited” about the show. She commented, “Spelling Bee is so different from a lot of other shows I’ve done, as it relies a lot on improv, which is really exciting. I like the music a lot, and it’s a really funny show, so I hope people enjoy it!” The music of Spelling Bee certainly enhances the affecting, warm atmosphere of the show. Mr. J. reflects, “the power of music to create intense emotions in the audience is probably the most exciting thing about working on a musical. There’s a saying that when a character is feeling so much that they can no longer speak is the moment they need to sing. It’s fun to work with characters that are living that fully onstage.”
Performances of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee will be on Saturday, May 4 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 5 at 2 p.m; join the spellers for a show that promises to be both uplifting and wildly entertaining!