John Szablewski Reviews

Theatre Review: ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’ at Aurora Players

The cast of “Spelling Bee” at Aurora Players.

I would never think that competitive spelling would be a draw for. . .anyone. You never really seem to hear people discuss words and how spelling properly has earned them any real fortune or fame. That being said, America’s obsession with competitions is one that never changes. We have always been determined to win or be the best at whatever competition there may be. Why should this be any less for competitive spelling? After all, they even broadcast it on ESPN every year!

. . .a fantastic night out. . . Do yourself a favor. . .go see this show!

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” tells the tale os six tweens who set out to be named the champion of the highly acclaimed Putnam County spelling bee. A right of passage, if you will, these students – all portrayed by adults – spell word after word in their mission to be crowned the best and take home the trophy. Aurora Players brings this campy tale to life and pulls out all the stops to make it one of the funniest nights out at the theatre you will have this fall.

Director Mary Moebius mounts a simple, yet effective, production where the pageantry is small, but where all the focus is on the story and the characters. This is what I love about this show, it is character and story driven. This ensemble is fantastic and each of them deserve to be up on stage singing their hearts out.

Matthew Bannister’s portrayal of Boy Scout Chip Tolentino is absolutely hysterical. Bannister brings a sense of charm and innocence to his adolescent role, where ‘puberty’ is his true enemy and where male urges prevent him from. . .winning. Bannister makes great artistic choices and has no problem getting laughs. His performance of “Chip’s Lament” is a great opening to Act Two.

Isabella Ruof’s portrayal as the dorky Logainne “Schwartzy” Schwartzandgrubenierre is funny and Ruof has no problem taking on this role and making it her own. Her choices are fun, and she instantly gets laughs each time she enters the stage. She does not disappoint.

Curtis Rose as Leaf Coneybear – the third place winner of his district’s spelling bee and fashion designer – is fantastic. Rose his absolutely hilarious in this show and his facial expressions and delivery will have you rolling in the aisles.

William J. Steffens’ performance as the the Magic Foot spelling William Barfee will have you begging for air. Steffens delivery and demeanor on stage is one that will make it hard to stop laughing. He fully understands his character and goes to town getting the audience to eat his antics up. Steffens’ performance itself is worth the price of admission.

Kelly Ann Campbell as Marcy Park and Roxanna Herreid as Olive Ostrovsky are great. Both ladies possess the comic chops to get the audience to love them instantly.

Marc Ruffino possesses comic gold as Vice Principal Douglas Panch. Ruffino’s dead pan delivery as he reads the words given to the spellers is very amusing and his sentences for the words are some of the funniest material I have heard in a musical in a long time.

The cast rounds out with Kelley Jayne Dipasquale as Roma Lisa Peretti, the host of the Bee,  and Joe Spahn as Mitch Mahoney, the grief counselor set to help those children who…lose the Bee, each of whom are hilarious in their own right and keep the zany story flowing.

Overall the show is a fantastic night out. If I was to find something to offer constructive feedback on, it would be the attend to the tempo of some of the musical numbers which seemed to lag in parts just a little, but that is easily forgiven because of the great acting and story telling that happens on stage during this production. Do yourself a favor. . .go see this show!

Running Time:  2 hours with one 15 Minute Intermission.

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” runs until October 28, 2017 and is presented at Aurora Players in East Aurora. For more information, click here.