‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’ at Kensington Arts Theatre

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Kensington Arts Theatre mounts a fun, funny, and intense production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. This one-act musical premiered on Broadway in 2005 with book by Rachel Sheinkin and music and lyrics by William Finn.

KAT performs at the Kensington Town Hall, which Set Designer Ian Hoch and Director Bobby Libby makes great use of in perhaps the most authentic-looking Bee yet produced. Curtains, balloons, steamers, and homemade signs blur the lines between reality and fiction, just like the five volunteers from the audience who actually participate in the show and the actors who weave in and out of the audience. The lights by John Nunemaker do an illuminating job of highlighting the many asides and flashbacks and forwards in the script.

The cast of Kensington Arts Theatre's 'The 25th Annual Putname County Spelling Bee at Kensington Arts Theatre. Photo by Ernie Achenbach.
The cast of Kensington Arts Theatre’s ‘The 25th Annual Putname County Spelling Bee’ at Kensington Arts Theatre. Photo by Ernie Achenbach.

The six spellers and three adults who mount the Bee completely commit to their roles and bring huge energy to this touching and sometimes politically incorrect script of vocabulary you never thought you needed to know.

Dylan Echter (Chip) shines in a Boy Scout uniform with a larger-than-life voice on numbers like “Chip’s Lament.” Sarah King (Logainne Schwartzandgrubennier) plays the youngest competitor with conviction and a lisp for “Woe is Me.”

Nick Carter (Leaf Coneybear) sings “I’m Not That Smart” with an infectious smile. He also choreographs the show with playful dances. Emma Lord (Olive Ostrovsky) brings a real sweetness and a beautiful voice to her story with songs like “My Friend the Dictionary” and “Second.” Emily Dey (Marcy Park) channels her inner Rachel Berry with more nuances and a great voice on “I Speak Six Languages.” Jonathan Miot (William Barfee) commands the stage on “Magic Foot” and “Second.” The details he puts into his character are impressive. His performance has lots of ‘sole.’

Carl Williams (Mitch Mahoney) has real range and is hilarious in “Prayer of the Comfort Counselor.” Teresa Danskey and Matt Baughman (Rona Lisa Peretti and Douglas Panch) steal the show as the two adults in the melee. Danskey has a soaring voice on “The Rules” and “Rona Moment.” Baughman gets all the best lines as he delivers the “definitions” for the words. One of the funniest moments came as he reacted to a volunteer from the audience who spelled a word right nobody was expecting.

The energy pouring off the stage from the whole cast is infectious on numbers like “Champion” and “Pandemonium.” Samuel Weich is the Music Director and conducts a five-person orchestra who do a great job with these big songs.

The cast of Kensington Arts Theatre's 'The 25th Annual Putname County Spelling Bee at Kensington Arts Theatre. Photo by Ernie Achenbach.
The cast of Kensington Arts Theatre’s ‘The 25th Annual Putname County Spelling Bee’ at Kensington Arts Theatre. Photo by Ernie Achenbach.

The costumes by Devin Gaither are ingenious – from the tie die to the boy scout uniform to the knee socks. Larissa Norris also deserves a shout-out for her ingenious hair creations like the 80’s side ponytail and the Pippi Longstocking braids.

Kensington Arts Theatre’s F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S-L-Y  E-N-T-E-R-T-A-I-N-I-N-G The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is oozing with energy and heart. D-O N-O-T  M-I-S-S  I-T!

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Running Time: One hour and 50 minutes, with no intermission.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee plays through March 1, 2015 at Kensington Arts Theatre performing at Kensington Town Hall – 3710 Mitchell Street, in Kensington, MD. For tickets call the box office at (206) 888-6642, or purchase them online.

LINKS

Meet the Cast of ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’ at Kensington Arts Theatre: Part 1: Dylan Echter.

Meet the Cast of ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’ at Kensington Arts Theatre: Part 2: Matt Baughman.

Meet the Cast of ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’ at Kensington Arts Theatre: Part 3: Emma Lord.