In Part 2 of a series of interviews with the cast of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Kensington Arts Theatre, meet Matt Baughman.
Joel: Please introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you in the past year on local stages?
Matt: Hey there, my name is Matt Baughman. In the past year, I’ve had a supporting role in Dominion Stage’s Urinetown: The Musical, played Charlie in Flowers For Algernon at The UpCounty Theatre, had some Fringe fun with Saving Private Pooh, and appeared in the Helen Hayes nominated musical, Prog Metal Sweeney Todd with the Landless Theatre company. It’s been a good year!
Why did you want to be part of Kensington Arts Theatre’s Spelling Bee?
Well, I have always wanted to do a show at KAT. I’ve seen several productions and they have all been so professional and entertaining. Having it “bee” (see what I did there?) one of my favorite shows? That was just a plus.
Have you appeared in or seen other productions of Spelling Bee before and who did you play and how is this production different and unique?
I was fortunate to be in one of the first productions of Spelling Bee after the rights were released. It was back in 2010 with the Maryland Ensemble Theatre in Frederick, MD. I played the part of Barfee. That was an EXCELLENT production and I had a blast doing it, so performing it again (and trying a new role) was a no-brainer. Both productions are similar in the way of staying true to the script/score, but also putting our own little spin on it and making it unique. I think the biggest difference between the two productions is that with KAT, we get to play with the audience a bit more.
What did you perform at your audition and where were you when you got the call that you had the role?
My character is basically a non-singing role, so I lucked out and didn’t have to prepare a song. I know, that’s a rarity for a musical audition. The audition process was enjoyable, actually. I did a few cold readings from the script and got to play around with some improv jokes. I found out the next day at work that I got the role.
Who do you play in the show and how do you relate to your character?
I play Vice Principal Douglas Panch, the “word pronouncer” for the competition. And honestly, I’m nothing like the character in real life. Panch is a bit of a sad-sack, has little-to-no ambition in life, kind of lonely, and has mood-swings that seem to come out of nowhere. I’m pretty much the polar opposite. Although, I’ll admit, he’s wittier than I am.
How did you prepare for your role, and what were the biggest challenges you faced and how did you resolve them?
I watched a lot of spelling bee clips and studied how the moderators would interact with the kids. A funny thing that I noticed was that the word pronouncers would always treat the kids like they were adults, and even came off somewhat agitated with them. It’s very interesting to watch. The biggest challenge for me by far is the pronunciation of the words. Thank goodness for the Merriam-Webster’s audio pronunciation tool!
What advice and suggestions did Bobby Libby and your Musical Director Sam Welch give you that helped you prepare for your role? Have you worked with Bobby and Sam before? And how would you describe their styles of directing and musical directing?
Bobby and Sam have been wonderful to work with. As a “little” singing part, I haven’t worked with Sam too much on the show but he’s done excellent work with the cast and band. This is one of the best sounding ensembles that I have ever been a part of. Bobby and I acted together in Landless’ Prog Metal Sweeney Todd but I’ve never worked with him as a director. Bobby’s style of directing is my favorite, he has a distinct vision of what he wants the show to be, but is also flexible in letting us play around with different ideas. He’s also given me the freedom to improv/write some additional material…we’ll find out soon if that was a smart decision or not.
What is your favorite scene and song in the show that you are not in and do not sing and what is your favorite scene that you are in and favorite song that you do sing and why?
The “I Love You” song wins in a landslide. For me, it’s rare to hear a song for the first time and instantly fall in love with it. And Emma, Carl and Teresa absolutely KILL IT in this song. I can’t wait for people to hear it! The favorite part of the show that *I’m involved in is the proctoring of the audience volunteers. It will be different every night and somewhat unpredictable, which is really exciting.
Which character in the show is most like you, and why?
I would say that growing up, I had traits of all three of the boys. I had the goofiness of Coneybear, the athletic prowess of Chip, and the hygiene of Barfee. I will say though, I was a TERRIBLE speller. I was in one classroom spelling bee in 3rd grade and was eliminated in the first round.
What do you admire most about your fellow castmates’ performances?
Every cast member, and I mean EVERYONE, has an amazing singing voice. I’m so lucky that I only have to sing back-up because I am WAY out of my league.
Why should audience goers bring their families to see Spelling Bee?
Easy, I can spell it out with a level one word: It’s F-U-N!
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee plays from February 13-March 1, 2015 at Kensington Arts Theatre – performing at Kensington Town Center – 3710 Mitchell Street, in Kensington, MD. For tickets, purchase them online.
Meet the Cast of ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’ at Kensington Arts Theatre: Part 1: Dylan Echter.