Remember your first spelling bee? Remember how terrifying it was? If you’re the 99 percent of people who’ve never won a spelling bee, you’re probably normal. If you’re the 1 percent of weirdos who have, then you have may a shot at winning in the Key Players rendition of the Grammy nominated musical comedy, the 25th annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
The musical tells the story of an obscure American county’s unhinged spelling bee and its zany kid contestants. Only thing is that the real life actors are adults, and wackier than you could have imagined. Each character is introduced through quirky songs and flashback skits throughout the bee. Cast members are also joined onstage by four members of the audience, chosen every show to act as spellers.
Don’t expect any help. Official word pronouncer Doug Panche’s “use of the word in a sentence” is hilariously unhelpful. Have fun trying to spell words like caterjuise, lugubrious, phylactery, or vaguely erotic sounding words like tittup and acouchi.
“It’s a lot of fun, there’s a ton of improvisation,” said actor Jacob Poelma. “I have so many favorite words that I pick new ones every night, plus I get to ding the bell … and try to keep a straight face.”
The cast of “kiddos” does everything possible to elude that dreaded “ding” of the bell. Uttering even one incorrect letter means comfort counselor Mitch Mahoney (who’s only helping out with the spelling bee as part of his court mandated community service) escorts you off.
“This is my first production with the Key Players, and this is the most outgoing of the characters that I’ve played, and totality out of my comfort zone,” said Seamus Dougherty of the role of Mahoney. “It’s probably the role that I’ve loved to play the most, because of how much its complexity has helped me grow as an actor.”
Some of the more memorable performances are Pandemonium, Magic Foot, and I’m Not That Smart. In all, the show has 22 musical numbers.
Who’s taking home the coveted trophy this year? Will be it overachieving Marcy Park? Could last year’s finalist, Willam Morris Barfée, win? Or maybe shy newcomer Olive Ostrovsky? It’s anyone’s guess. Anything can happen at the 25th annual Putnam County Spelling.
The Key Players presents: The 25th annual Putnam County Spelling is directed by Kelly Sutter, musically directed by Michele Zofchak, and produced by Jonelle Kop. Runtime is about 2 1/2 hours. Opening night is scheduled for Friday, April 6 at 7:30 p.m. at the Murray Nelson Government and Cultural Center. Shows are also set for April 7 and April 12-14 at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, April 8, will be the only matinee, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $18 at the door and online, $15 at ticket outlets: Key Largo Chocolates, Shear Paradise, and the PostNet Store.