Audiences buzz with laughter during the showing of “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”
Posted on 06/05/2019
image: spelling bee contestants on bleachers behind contestant at mic with the comfort counselor, text: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a Battlefield Theatre Production

Synopsis

Battlefield High School's “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” brings the audience into the onstage and backstage happenings of a county’s annual spelling competition. The story follows an eclectic group of sixth-graders, each eager to win the spelling bee for very different reasons.

Battlefield High School chose to double cast the show for its two-weekend run. Below you will note that characters are listed with two actors beside their name, giving acting credit to both casts.

When her parents are unable to join her, quiet and innocent Olive (Mel Diaz and Emily Doppée) brings her best friend, the dictionary. William Barfee (John Novack and Daniel Melbourne), a hyperallergic speller believes that his “magic foot” will help propel him to first place. Former champion Chip (Lukas Kim and Martin Michael) struggles in the competition as he tries to wade through the confusion of his burgeoning puberty. Leaf, who is very easily distracted (Zach Walker and Camille Jefferies) is unconvinced that he (or she, depending on the night you saw the show) is smart enough to be of any real competition. Marcy (Ainsley Walker and Sam Miller) feels distraught over her consistent success and is tired of always winning. Finally, young yet politically aware Logainne (Carmen Ortiz and Taylor Mras) competes her absolute hardest to impress her gay dads.

Through several hilarious, yet still touching, songs, each speller reveals struggles at home and passion for life as they make their way through the competition.

The show is structured to allow the student actors room for improvisation and for audience participation. Each night a few spellers in the competition are actually audience members asked to join the show and test their spelling-chops. The show is held on course by the adult characters in the show.

Rona Perettie (Rachel Fulbright and Ava Beddoes) is a former Putnam County Spelling Bee Champion who has grown up to be the county’s number-one realtor and is now the 25th Annual Bee’s moderator. Douglas Panch (Kirt Boyd and Aiden Buzzard), the fictional school’s vice principal, is a judge for the Bee after a questionable five-year absence from the competition. Midge Mahoney (Lauren Buckley and Sydney Lemmon), the official “Comfort Counselor” and ex-convict, helps hold the Bee together, offering words of wisdom and juice boxes to losing spellers.

“Putnam County Spelling Bee” Standout

This show offered a rare opportunity for students to build outrageous characters and practice their improvisation skills. Any time a show offers audience participation, no one can ever really be sure what will happen. The students performed alongside their audience member “actors” with a subtle strength that kept the show progressing in the right direction. Now that is something that takes talent.

The audience participation itself also made the show stand out. Not only were select audience members extra spellers at the Bee, eliminated one by one and given a juice box by the Comfort Counselor, but the audience became a part of the Bee’s audience, clapping for the spellers when they spelled difficult words correctly.

Guest Spellers

During one performance, the cast shared the stage with two well-known spellers in the county, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Walts and School Board Chairman Babur Lateef, M.D. Students and audiences alike enjoyed the experience with Battlefield High School posting to Facebook, “Dr. Walts & Dr. Lateef made a visit to Battlefield to watch this year’s spring musical, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee! They were amazing audience volunteers and stayed well after the show to connect with families. Thank you both for being such great supporters of our school and Prince William County Public Schools.”