‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’

The cast of the Curtain Call Theatre production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” includes contestants #10 Erica Forsythe, #2 Andy Velishek, #64 Kendra Braunge, #11 Christopher Rife, #29 Becky Daleiden, #47 Laura Velishek, and (back, from left) Tyler Bush, Billy Shouts, Denise DeVinney and John Grimm. Missing from the photo is Maxwell Chonk Thao. (Wade Young Photo)

How do you spell F-U-N? 
Obscure words become funny, teenagers struggle with life, and audience members spell in the Curtain Call Theatre’s production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”.
The fast-paced musical comedy of overachievers’ angst, takes off Friday at Hilltop Hall, where six students – and four audience volunteers each night – vie to become the winner of the competition of a lifetime.
Words, puns and one-liners fly in the summer musical filled with six quirky ambitious competitors – a multilingual overachiever, lisping activist, young dictionary-lover, distractable free spirit, stop-at-nothing challenger and defending champion. Add in a host nostalgic about her glory-days win, and an eccentric vice principal, who both barely escaped childhood, and a counselor doing community service by dispensing hugs and juice boxes, and the comedy promises to be a winner.
Audience participation
An unusual aspect of the show is that four real audience members are invited on stage to compete in the spelling bee alongside the six contestants who guide them on the spelling bee process.
“It is an ingeniously, witty combination of musical theatre and improv comedy, so no two performances will ever be alike,” said Director Lori Sanborn. “Each performance features four audience volunteers to actually participate in the bee, maybe even win it! The way that John Grimm (the eccentric principal) presents them is plain funny. He calls out the words in this deadpan, cartoonish manner. I couldn't hold back from laughing. For example, if you ask him to use the word ‘capybara’ in a sentence, he's likely to just repeat the definition and say, ‘Don't look now, Pedro, but that four and half foot, largely aquatic, tailless South American rodent swimming next to you might be a capybara.’ ”
In the end, the play’s message is clear:  winning isn’t everything and losing doesn’t necessarily make you a loser. The musical was conceived by Rebecca Feldman with snappy music and lyrics by William Finn.
Sanborn believes the show has something for everybody, younger and older. 
“There's a scene where the character Chip gets thrown out, so he rebels by giving away free junk food to about half the audience, an endearing part of the play that you have to love,” she said.
Before they chose the musical, Curtain Call had to decide on which level of the production they wanted to present. Curtain Call has chosen the “PG” version.
“You may have heard about more risqué versions. This is not one of them. But there are jokes in it that adults will find hilarious,” Sanborn said. “It's a Tony-award winning musical for a reason. The music is catchy and fresh. Our Musical Director Michael Atwood has put long hours into the sound quality, so come out for a rousing night of ‘Pandemonium’ on (and off) the stage.” 
Performances will be held at Hilltop Hall, Montgomery, on August 2, 3, 9 and 10 at 7:30 p.m. and August 11 at 2 p.m.