Come expecting to laugh out loud, but bring a hankie as well. And a pocket dictionary.
Village Theatre’s production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” reminds us that (as the song says) life is pandemonium, with all of its ups and downs. The musical continues its run this week at the Everett Performing Arts Center.
Director Brandon Ivie, who won acclaim for his work on Broadway and locally, said this is the first professional “Spelling Bee” production in the region. Plenty of great community productions of the show have been staged here — perhaps most notably the Edmonds Driftwood Players show of a few years ago. But Ivie takes this one to a new level.
The Tony award-winning “Spelling Bee” is a fast-paced, tormented and joyful look at a kids’ regional spelling bee. The winner goes on to the national competition.
In this production’s program, Ivie writes that he did “Spelling Bee” in college, but was inspired for this production by the 2002 documentary “Spellbound” about the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.
One of the funniest scripts he’s ever read, Ivie says, “Spelling Bee” also includes heartbreak and the angst of the underdog.
“This is an entire show of underdogs,” he writes. “None of these people are your typical musical theater main characters. … It’s a show about weirdos! It’s a show for real people.”
The cast is delightful, with six student competitors, three adults running the bee, along with four people pulled from the audience to compete with the “kids.”
The actors and Ivie have updated this 15-year-old Rachel Sheinkin and William Finn musical to fit today’s headlines.
At Sunday’s matinee performance, understudy Danny Kam stepped up to do a top-notch job playing the wacky vice principal.
Brian Lange, who normally plays the vice principal, took on the role of the dorky kid William Barfee (that’s pronounced Barfay, William continually insists.)
Jessica Skerritt, a favorite with Village and 5th Avenue theaters, plays Rona Lisa, a cheer-leading former bee winner and top real estate agent in Putnam County, who sets up the bee in the school gymnasium.
Nicholas JaPaul Bernard sweetly plays the official comfort counselor who hands out hugs and juice boxes to the losers.
Along with Barfee, the lovable students are the returning champ, Boy Scout Chip Tolentino, played by Justin Huertas (“Lizard Boy” author); must-be-perfect Marcy Park, by Arika Matoba (Little Red in Village’s “Into the Woods”); the daughter of two dads, Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere, by Sarah Russell (“Dreamgirls”); a lonely Olive Ostrovsky, a well-written role well-played by Taylor Niemeyer (“Newsies”); and the home-schooled hippie boy Leaf Coneybear, played by Rafael Molina.
All cast members are outstanding, but Molina has a real grasp of his character and gave a notably hilarious performance on Sunday.
When you go, take note in the program of those who choreograph the show, direct the orchestra, manage the stage, and design sets, sound, lights and costumes. Village Theatre shows would be lacking without all that behind-the-scenes talent.
Don’t miss the pandemonium and passion of Village’s “Spelling Bee.” It’s a winner.
If you go
Village Theatre’s “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is on stage through Nov. 17 at Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Ave.
For performance times, dates and tickets, call 425-257-8600 or go to www.villagetheatre.org.