Run – don’t walk – to CCM this weekend to catch “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” I’ll be writing a full review after I see the show on Saturday; last night was a final dress rehearsal and it’s not fair to offer critique of the show before its open (in fact, if they were equity, I wouldn’t have been invited last night).
I do want to spotlight some of the things you should look for, though.
- I love atmosphere acting and this show lends itself nicely to that. Prior to the show, the spellers come and sit in the audience with the rest of us. If you’re seated next to one of them, don’t be afraid to engage them in conversation. The characters are what make this show work. And watch Olive when she enters; if you know the show, she’ll break your heart immediately.
- I’ve never seen “Magic Foot” staged as well. It’s a big production number and director Vince DeGeorge (as well as Thomas Knapp who plays William Barfee) gets it.
- Speaking of getting it, Leaf Coneybear as played by DJ Plunkett, is as sweet as pie. The way the show is scripted, Leaf can be interpreted a couple of different ways . . . Plunkett has captured the most important part of him, his youthful sweet innocence, as well as I’ve ever seen it done and that includes Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s original.
- Raven Thomas plays Mitch Mahoney. That’s not a typo. What a brave casting choice, but then again if you have ever seen Raven perform then you know casting her in any show where she gets to belt her guts out is a logical choice.
- The entire cast has grasped character acting in a way that must happen for this show to be effective. Kudos to all of them for understanding who they are, finding their individual niches, and staying in character despite the mayhem around them.
- I want to sit next to Patti James always and forever. What a treat to experience her reactions to the show.
- The set and the lighting are – as usual – CCM-perfect. I love the way they constantly morph this Studio space into something special show after show.
- Like I said, there were some issues last night during the preview that I’m confident will be worked out and so I’ll wait til Saturday before I mention them . . . but if you want to laugh your face off and have your heart broken all in the same show, then head down to Putnam County this weekend. The show is probably sold out, but you can wait on the standby list and folks usually have good luck doing so.
- Sign up to be a speller. It looks like it would be a lot of fun . . . just please play by the rules. Otherwise, some of the best jokes don’t get told.
Break a leg, spellers (and staff) and have a great opening. I’ll be back for Saturday’s matinee with a critical eye . . . I have a feeling you won’t let me down.