Jamestown Community Theater is back in business with its production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” their first show since the pandemic shut down the theater world in early 2020.
Directed by Richard J. Martin, “Spelling Bee” is a bright and fun show to mark the company’s return. The cast is eclectic, featuring four adults as spellers in the Bee. “Our mission includes multi-generational casting,” said Keri Boisclair, who plays the Bee’s moderator, Rona Lisa Perretti, and is the show’s assistant director.
The show’s title describes it well. Six actors play the spellers at the Bee, hosted by Perretti, who happens to have been the winner of the 3rd annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Her winning moment, spelling “syzygy,” is recreated at the top of the show. Vice Principal Douglas Panch (Chris Hauver) joins Perretti as the Bee’s pronouncer.
The spellers are joined on stage by five spellers called out of the audience. One by one, the spellers are eliminated, leaving the final two. No spoilers here – see the show to find out who they are.
There are some fine performances and moments in this production.
Jeffrey Gravdahl (one of the adults) plays William Barfee (“It’s pronounced ‘Bar-FAY,’ there’s an accent aigu.”) convincingly, so much so that you forget he’s an adult playing a teenager. He does a great job with Barfee’s signature song, “Magic Foot.”
Charlene Ellsworth-Reed gets laughs just moving around the stage as the Bee’s “comfort counselor,” Mitch Mahoney. Dressed all in black including a leather jacket and buckled boots, Ellsworth-Reed’s job is to escort the losers to the edge of the stage, hand them a juice pouch, take their Bee number from around their necks, give them a half-hearted hug and give them a little shove as they leave.
Cassondra Richards (another of the adults), playing Olive Ostrowsky, shows off her superb voice in “My Friend, the Dictionary.” In the second act, she’s joined by Boisclair and Hauver for “The I Love You Song,” a very touching song with some sweet harmonies.
Equally enchanting is Madison Donnelly (an actual teenager!) as “I’m not all business” Marcy Park, especially in “I Speak Six Languages.”
Director Martin does double duty, playing Leaf Coneybear, the second runner-up from his district. He’s at this Bee only because the winner had to attend her bat mitzvah, and the runner-up was one of her guests. Wearing clothes he “makes himself,” Coneybear flits around the stage in patched trousers and a multi-colored cape. Martin gets some good laughs singing “I’m Not That Smart.”
Morgan Capodilupo (yes, another adult) plays Logainne Shwartzandgrubenierre, the Bee’s youngest contestant. She’s hilarious complaining when the rules aren’t strictly followed, and while singing “Woe is Me.”
Hats off to Hauver’s performance as Panch. The role relies on improvisation at times, and he handled it perfectly. And a nod to the trio in the music pit. Walter Sage, Stephen Morrison and Brenda Young kept the show moving right along, never overpowering the actors.
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” runs through Sunday at the Jamestown Recreation Center across from the East Ferry Wharf. It’s a fun way to welcome community theater back to the island.
For tickets and information, visit www.jamestowncommunitytheatre.com.
The show does have some adult content. The website notes that the Saturday and Sunday matinees will be toned down, using alternative lyrics provided as part of the show’s package.