Cast members of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" get into character for a group shot. Back row (L-R) are Zach Wells and Mikko Juan; middle row, Taylor Cannal, Kimberly Davis, Sage Fairbanks, Cherish Broker, Carly Wilson, Casandra Gramstad; kneeling, Anna Mudd, Madison Pickard and Khalina Shurtz. The show runs April 26-May 4 at M-PHS Auditorium.
Featuring a cast of eleven students from Marysville-Pilchuck and Getchell high schools, and several more working backstage and in the orchestra pit, five performances of the spring musical production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" will be presented at Marysville-Pilchuck High School Auditorium beginning April 26.
"Spelling Bee," an unexpectedly interactive piece of musical theatre, was a recent comedy hit on Broadway and is starting to see productions in schools and community theatres across the country.
"I've been wanting to do this show since I was a freshman," said assistant director Madison Packard, an M-P senior. "It's funny, quirky and very relatable. Characters in the show range from the freakish nerd to the uptight overachiever, and the audience will definitely recognize the personality of someone they know in the cast."
The show revolves around six unique elementary and middle school students who are finalists in the county's local spelling bee. These outsiders use the competition to define who they are and to separate themselves from their somewhat dysfunctional families. With insightful humor and a few serious moments, the competitors struggle to grow out of childhood and into their own identities, which occasionally means bypassing the adults who oversee them.
"One of the unique features of the show is that four audience members will be encouraged to sign up and actually compete in the spelling bee on stage," said teacher and director Roy Klementson.
"The audience members will actually be on stage for a good chunk of the show," said Madison. "They even join in the song and dance numbers, with coaching from the cast."
Because of the unscripted audience involvement, there's an element of improvisation in the play.
"If one of the audience members misspells the word 'cat,' we have to completely change the reaction to that - it can change the whole show," she said.
The on-your-toes aspect of the show is part of its excitement, not only for the audience but for the cast.
"This is the best show I've ever done here," said Madison, "and it's my eighth show. It's interesting, innovative and trend-setting. We're very proud of it."
Everyone seems to be having fun with the show and its interactive concept.
"The show is presented without intermission, but free candy and other goodies will be thrown into the audience during the show," promised Klementson. "Audience members who volunteer as spellers also receive a complimentary juice box."
While many of the students are experienced actors, a few are brand-new to the experience. Freshman Khalina Shurtz, who plays the proper overachiever Marcy Park, has been learning to sing and dance "on the job."
"I get tired, but it's a good kind of tired," said Khalina.
Performances of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" are scheduled for 7 p.m. on April 26, 27, 28 and May 3 and 4, with a special 10 p.m. performance planned for Saturday, April 28. Tickets are $8 for adults and $7 for students with ASB cards and senior citizens.