‘Spelling Bee’ coming to Opera House

By Tom Phelan
Broad Brook - posted Sun., Feb. 6, 2011
‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’ will be performed at the Broad Brook Opera House on weekends, beginning Feb. 11. Liv Gaines (center) plays contestant Logainne, seen here at a rehearsal with the actors playing her two dads – James Rhone and Josh Thompson. The one-act musical production was nominated for six Tony Awards and won two. - Contributed Photo

The Broad Brook Opera House Players are wrapping up rehearsal for their February performances of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” a one-act musical, based on a book by Rachel Sheinkin.

Set in the gym of a junior high school, “Spelling Bee” opens as the winners of local elementary and middle school spelling bees arrive and check in with former champion Rona Lisa Pereti, who hosts the event. Six spellers – Olive Ostrovsky, William Barfée, Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre, Marcy Park, Leaf Coneybear and Chip Tolentino – compete at the Putnam Valley Middle School in Putnam County, N.Y. In the course of the single act, the six youngsters learn that winning just isn’t everything.

Olive checks in without her entrance fee. She waits for her father to come, hoping he has the money. Ten-year-old Logainne has two dads who conducted her training for the event. She succeeds in spelling “strabismus” correctly, although she speaks with a significant lisp. William Barfée spells his words out by tapping his foot. A plot by one of Logainne’s dads attempts to stymie Barfée’s unorthodox method of spelling with a sticky substance that trips up his technique. The unconventional speller overcomes the plot, and discovers he can spell without the magic foot. Leaf gets a word he’s never heard of and amazes himself by finding the correct spelling within.

The characters include the spelling bee’s “comfort counselor,” Mitch Mahoney, who helps those who misspell their words with exiting gracefully.

A row erupts when one contestant is asked to spell “phylactery,” and the next speller is given the word “telephone.”

Marcy Park, who is polylingual, is cast as the perfect student, and seems sure to win the bee. She has had enough of being perfect, however, and sabotages herself, relieving herself of the pressure.

Spelling Bee” includes more than 20 musical numbers with titles such as “My Favourite Moment of the Bee,” “My Friend the Dictionary,” “Magic Foot,” and “Prayer of the Comfort Counselor.”

The cast of the Opera House Players includes veterans of community theater who studied at notable theater schools such as The Hartt School, Roger Williams and the American Music and Dramatic Academy.

Director Kristy Chambrelli describes “Spelling Bee” (PG-13) as “a fun interactive show” that “deals with a lot of current events and social issues in a joking manner.” The musical production is “interactive,” in that audience volunteers are also welcomed to the stage as spellers.

Chambrelli has mounted operatic and musical theater productions throughout the United States and Europe. She was the resident opera director for the Asolo Art Song and Aria Festival in Asolo, Italy, for two seasons. She has taught and directed at a number of universities, including New England Conservatory, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Florida State University and Clark University. Her music education includes a B.M. in vocal performance from the Boston Conservatory, as well as study in composition at Berklee College of Music and opera directing at Florida State University School of Music.

The lyrics and music for “Spelling Bee” were written by William Finn. Angela Klimaytis is the Musical Director for the Broad Brook Opera House production.

Spelling Bee” will be performed on weekends from Feb. 11-27, on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and on Sundays at 2 p.m. All seating is reserved. For tickets, call 860-292-6068.

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