Definition: unforeseen; surprising. Used in a sentence: University of Mary Washington Theatre’s season-closer, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, is filled with UNEXPECTED and fun twists.
In a battle of spelling prowess, this musical spells out what it’s like to be kids uncomfortable in their own skin and conveys the challenges of growing up.
Be p-r-e-p-a-r-e-d! Audience volunteers are called onstage to participate. At the opening night performance yesterday, several parents of the actors became part of the show, along with Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker.
The non-actors make for some hilarious moments, as does a slow-motion scene and other surprises. In another twist, two staff members – and UMW alums – in the Department of Theatre and Dance played key (adult) roles as “guest artists”: Jon Reynolds ’07, marketing director; and Taryn Snyder ’15, assistant to the department chair, Gregg Stull.
As Vice Principal Douglas Panch, the caller of the words, Reynolds explained that he played the same part 11 years ago as a student. Stull thought it appropriate for Reynolds to reprise the role. Snyder, who as a student played the lead in Always … Patsy Cline, joined Reynolds as spelling bee organizer Rona Lisa Peretti.
The Bee story line: An eclectic group of six mid-pubescents vie for the chance to take home a mammoth trophy and participate in the National Spelling Bee. While displaying unusual assistive spelling techniques and disclosing funny and poignant stories from their home lives, the students take the mic as each word is adroitly enunciated. They pause after spelling, fearful of the dreaded ding of the bell that signals a mistake.
A heartwarming celebration of the differences among us, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is, as the promotional material proclaims, “one great big hug of a show attesting to what we know so well – winning may not be everything, but it sure does feel good!”
Performances take place tonight through April 2, April 7-9, and April 14-16, at 7:30 p.m., and April 3, 10 and 16 at 2 p.m. in Klein Theatre, duPont Hall at the University of Mary Washington. For further information, call the Klein Theatre Box Office at 540-654-1111 or visit www.FredTix.com.