Judge: “Please spell ENTERTAINMENT.”
Speller: “Entertainment. May I hear it used in a sentence, please?”
Judge: “The musical presented at Dunwoody High yielded an evening of enjoyable entertainment.”
And it was an enjoyable evening of entertainment as the talented students of DHS presented their fall musical, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” to a full house Oct. 20-22.
This hilarious show displayed all the trappings of a group of middle school students representing their various schools at the county spelling bee, with a full array of nerves and quirks, and adults who bring their own issues to the evening as well.
The spellers featured six main characters: Chip Tolentino (Patrick Clinch), last year’s winner who stumbles this year due to an “unfortunate distraction;” Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre (Kara Christopher), a sweet-natured, politically-aware girl with a lisp who strives hard to please both of her dads; Leaf Coneybear (Paris Ruiz), an alternate from his region who struggles with feelings of inadequacy; William Barfee “it’s pronounced Bar-FAY” (John Spalding), the ultimate nerdy kid with a peanut allergy; Marcy Park (Nina Stecker), an over-achiever from the local parochial school (Our Lady of Intermittent Sorrow); and Olive Ostrovsky (Anna Jarrell), a quiet, shy newcomer who struggles to remain focused because of problems at home. All six of these students delivered strong, sympathetic performances, allowing us to laugh with them, not at them.
The officials at the spelling bee were moderator Rona Lisa Peretti (Chloe Kahn), an extremely excited woman who was also the winner of the 3rd annual bee, judge Vice-Principal Douglas Panch (Zach Humphries), who doesn’t seem to want to be there and seems quite uncomfortable around Ms. Peretti, and Mitch Mahoney (Anna Marra), the ex-con “comfort counselor” who escorts the losers from the stage, providing them with a juice box upon their departure as part of his community service.
We also met other adults along the way: Carl Grubenierre (Daniel Wilkes) and Dan Schwartz (Alexander Torjak), the overbearing fathers of Logainne, Olive’s mom (Claire Reticker) and Olive’s Dad/Jesus (Joe Upshaw), who show us variations of the “absent parent.” All of the adult characters required wildly exaggerate portrayals of adult emotions, and this cast handled those characterizations to perfection.
Rounding out the ensemble of other spellers, siblings and parents of participants are Syd Cohen, Mary Catherine Davis, Hannah Goldberg, Elsa Joiner, Jennifer Jones, Katie Miller, Lexie Philpot, Tyler Sheridan, and Manasa Vemaraju.
The fun-filled show was directed by David Gay with music direction by Mark Lamback. Other members of the production staff included the following: Erin Lowenstein (Stage Manager), Yasmine Fox-Quinlan (Assistant Stage Manager), Sabrina Rehklau (Set Design and Construction), Nina Stecker (Choreography), David Gay (Lighting and Sound Design), Ben Spells (Sound Operator), and Austin Jenks (Graphic Artist).
Members of the stage crew included Kelly Clinch, Patrick Clinch, Mary Catherine Davis, Sia Grable, Erin Greenstein, Zack Humphries, Austin Jenks, Elsa Joiner, Jennifer Jones, Erin Lowenstein, Paris Ruiz, Tyler Sheridan, John Spalding, Aaron Stecker, Nina Stecker, Peggy Stecker, and Duncan Strott.
Musicians included Mark Lamback (keyboard), Ray Caputo (Clarinet and Alto Sax), Philip Barnard (Oboe and Flute) and Jarrod Ariola (Percussion).
Congratulations to all of the cast and crew of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” for providing audience members with a thoroughly enjoyable production, allowing us to experience an evening of true entertainment – E N T E R T A I N M E N T!