The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee – RSE Theatre

Directed by Amber Docherty

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Happy Sad Productions presents a fun-filled rendition of the musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee with a self-proclaimed bizarre cast of characters portrayed by talented performers.

The audience of this production finds themselves transported to a spelling bee competition, which is the last chance for a group of middle school-aged champion spellers to get to the finals in Washington, bringing out the competitive nature in all of the characters. Several members of the audience are drawn into the production to participate in the bee, leading to an element of unpredictability and improvisation for the cast.

Portraying Rona, a former spelling champion and overenthusiastic host of the bee, Kathleen Davie introduces the concept of the show and her regular reprise “My Favourite Moment of the Bee” links the show together into a cohesive story with her vocal talent on full display. Assisting Rona in running the bee is Mark Buckingham’s Panch, who regularly uses his comedic skills to deliver hilarious definitions and applications of the various words the students must spell.

The earnest, dictionary-loving Olive, portrayed by Kayleigh MacDonald, brings an emotional depth of characterisation to an otherwise light-hearted comical production in “The I Love You Song” which showcases her character’s desperation for her parents’ love.

Capturing the arrogance and social awkwardness of the character Barfee, Aaron Clason’s physicality shines in this production, especially in his rendition of the song “Magic Foot”. The previous champion Chip’s fall from grace due to the unfortunate nature of puberty is delivered in a crowd-pleasing rendition of “My Unfortunate Erection” by Rory Bayliss-Chalmers.

Orla Bayne’s Logainne expertly captures the impact of parental pressure to be perfect in their song “Woe Is Me” and shows the inner conflict of the character when they are put in an uncomfortable position. Whereas Heather Richardson’s portrayal of the classic overachiever Marcy maintains her stony-faced character throughout with an impressive rendition of “I Speak Six Languages” displaying Richardson’s range of talents.

The only character that is not exactly a champion speller (placing only second runner up in the qualifying competition and progressing due to a technicality), Joe Gill’s Leaf quickly wins over the audience with his eager attitude and song “I’m Not That Smart”.

With excellent characterisation, live music and an entertaining storyline, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is an engaging production with real heart.

‘Fun-filled recreation’

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee runs at the RSE Theatre until August 28th

Tickets for which may be obtained here.

By Mhairi Sime


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