‘Spelling Bee’ takes black box stage

The upcoming production of The 25th Annual Puntam County Spelling Bee has promises of delivering another hilarious College Theater musical. The Tony Award-Winning Broadway Musical comedy opens this coming Wednesday, October 2 at the Williams Center for the Arts Black Box Theater.

Its premise is simple, and exactly what it says on the tin. The musical comedy is simply the story of child competitors in the fictional 25th Putnam County spelling bee. Humorously written, the script is at its heart a personal story of how much each of the children put their lives into the competition. The middle-school kids learn to accept the obstacles and failures in each of their journeys.

Nikelia Haines ‘15, playing the role of Rona (one of three adults), confronts the difficulty of balancing the mood of the musical.

“[The musical] is based on the stereotypes of these weird kids. So it’s meant to be funny, but, especially in the way we’re staging it, it also makes kind of a sad commentary on [the stereotypes]. So there are moments of the play that get really serious,” Haines said.

“The audience realizes that they’re just mixed up kids like all kids, and we have all been like one or another of them,” Director Michael O’Neill said.

“It’s a challenge because the actors do have to come across as twelve-year-olds,” Haines said.

With the help of the setting, though, hopefully the audience will feel like they are watching a realistic competition. The black box theater has been transformed into a middle-school gymnasium.

The cast taking on these unique roles promises to be special. O’Neill denied that the show had any starring roles, explaining that what attracted him to the play was that it was an ensemble performance, where nobody is a “faceless, anonymous chorus member.” Every character has standout moments, and each one promises to connect with the audience on some level.

“The students are almost always singing six-part harmony and they’re moving at the same time,” O’Neill said of the cast. “And they’re meeting these challenges.”

One unique trait of the show is that a few lucky, randomly selected audience members will have the opportunity to participate alongside the cast. They will get a chance to be in the spelling bee and feel the drama and heartache that comes with a life in the world of middle school spelling bees. Also significant is the fact that the show is in real time, and lasts for one act of eighty minutes, leaving no break for intermission.

Everything is ready to go for the cast and crew of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and all that remains is the show ahead.

The show runs from October 2-5, from 8:00-9:40 PM. Tickets are $2 for students, $6 for general admission.

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