The six contestants in the Putnam County Spelling Bee – Olive Ostrovsky (Aubrie Bagdasarian), William Barfee (Michael Campbell), Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre (Nicole Cayer), Marcy Park (Courtney Contente), Chip Tolentino (Ryan Leverone), and Leaf Coneybear (Joe Spirito) – are a batch of quirky oddballs with their hopes and dreams of winning the spelling bee expressed in song. Highlights include “Magic Foot,” “Pandemonium,” “The I Love You Song,” and “I Speak Six Languages.”
Director Christopher Margadonna assembled a talented cast, especially Campbell, who has an endearing gawky charm as Barfee, and Lisa Ziniti Palmer as former spelling bee champion Rona Lisa Peretti. Palmer, who previously starred in Sweet Charity, is a dynamic performer with a magnificent voice. Comedian Frank O’Donnell earned some laughs as Douglas Panch, the lead pronouncer at the spelling bee.
What makes the show unique is the participation of the guest spellers. Four audience members are selected at each show to sit on stage along with the actors. Alison Bologna from WJAR was a celebrity guest speller on the night I attended. Bologna handled the high-spirited antics with grace and seemed to have a good time.
The musical accompaniment by Joseph Carvalho, Brenda Young Runner, and Ken Dibiasio, nicely accentuated the action.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee contains no deep messages or insights about the human condition. However, it is a cheerful and lighthearted entertainment for all ages to enjoy.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee runs through November 2 at Jenks Auditorium, Division St., Pawtucket. For reservations, call 401-726-6860.